The Art of Setting the Hook
If you ask to average anglers about the most important aspects of bass fishing, you’d get a myriad of answers from lure selection, electronics, equipment, or fishing out of the right kind of boat. I bet, no one will tell about the hook set, while it would rank as very important to many of the aspects.
When I was a fledgling bass angler, I had taken today’s top Pro anglers under the wing. I’ve tried to emulate the way he sets the hook, and get that same “whoosh” you’d hear when he set the hook with a jig. While I’ve learned enough to become a proficient hook-setter, I still don’t think that I’ll ever perfect the technique. I don’t think that anyone ever can really perfect the hook set. There are simply too many variables that go into it.
Some of these variables are controllable, but many are not. The intelligent angler will figure out which variables he CANNOT control, and which variables he CAN control, and work on the ones that are within his power to influence. Those that the angler cannot control will have to be accepted as part of the challenge of bass fishing.
Among the variables that can be somewhat controlled are equipment, and technique. Those that are out of the anglers control are the way the fish are biting, distance from the fish and the angle of the hook set, and other individual circumstances.
Principles of Setting the Hook:
Lets take a look at some of the things we can control. The rod has to be the single most important part of the hook set. There are two factors within your rod that influence whether you’ll have a good hook set or a miss, or worse yet- lose a good one halfway to the boat. Those factors are speed of the rod tip, and the stiffness of the rod itself.
Simply stated, a longer rod will pull the line farther and faster with the same amount of effort as a shorter rod. By the same token, a stiffer rod will direct more energy to the hook than a wimpy rod with the same effort expended. Somewhere in the equation, there will be a point of diminishing returns, but suffice it to say that the longer and stiffer rod that you can use, the better chance you’ll have of getting a good hook set.
Rod material makes no difference in the hook set. While it may make a tremendous difference in feeling the bite or in other factors, there will be little difference in the amount of power or energy delivered to the hook whether you use fiberglass, boron, graphite or a composite. Rods made of any material with the same relative stiffness will deliver the same hook-setting energy.
How long has it been since you’ve seen a pistol-gripped rod in a pro anglers boat? Long handled rods have become the rule because of their hook-setting and feel advantages. Sticking that long handle in your belly gives the rod a pivot point with a base that benefits your hook-setting action.
So many advances have been made in the fishing line industry in the last few years that its hard to keep up with the changes. Co-polymer and braided lines have been developed which have virtually no line stretch, and this in itself has improved the hook setting capabilities to the average angler. There are still many applications for monofilament lines, especially when fishing crankbaits and some lures where a jaw-jerking hook set is not required or desired. There are as many arguments about lines as there are about favorite boats, but suffice it to say that when you need a quick, sharp hook set, go with one of the new low-stretch lines.
You could write a book on the importance of sharp hooks to the bass fishermen, and it’s been beat to death in every bass fishing magazine for the last three decades. Just make sure that the hooks on your lures are as sharp as you can get them, and lets leave it at that. Today’s laser-sharpened hook points are light years ahead of old hooks, and there’s not a lot the average angler can do to improve them right out of the package.
- Technique is by far the most important aspect of setting the hook. The one thing that separates the pros from Joe Angler is that they are always prepared to set the hook, and they are very consistent in their hook-setting form. Rarely will you catch a pro angler off balance, with his rod out of position to set the hook. The pro knows that every bite can mean the difference between making a living or going back to his day job, and he never lets his guard down or drinks a coke while his line is in the water.
- Basically, the strongest hook sets will occur when the angler has his body square to the fish, with his elbows tight to his body. It’s speed, not power, that is the secret to hook-setting.
- There has been a perpetual argument over whether you need to set the hook with a slack line or reel in the slack and set it with a taut line. It’s an argument that will never be settled, but in my personal experience, if you’ll hit the fish as quickly as you can when you detect a strike, no matter what kind of lure you’re using, you’ll get less misses.
- We won’t spend much time on those factors that we can’t influence, but its important to think about these variables. The mood of the fish can play a huge part in whether or not you get a good hook-up. Aggressive fish will take the bait in farther, giving the fisherman a much, much better chance of getting a hook in the fish’s mouth. The angle at which the fish is facing is also an important factor over which the angler has little control. While the angler can try to position his boat for the most effective presentation, especially when fishing current, you never can tell which way the fish will be facing. If the fish is facing the angler, the hook set will be much less effective than if a fish is perpendicular to the angler.
- Distance from the fish is another important factor. Your hook-setting energy and your hook penetration will diminish with farther distances from the fish to the angler. Water conditions usually dictate how close we can get to the fish, lets summarize by saying that the closer we can get to the fish, the better chance you have of hooking him.
The next time you get on the water, give your hook set some thought. Concentrate on these variables and give yourself the best chance at being successful by thinking about these variables. You can also give yourself the best chance at being successful by checking out mcflyfishers.org before your next fishing trip and get tips from the pros on your favorite body of water. We are adding lakes in your state every week. Until next week, good fishing