Light Tackle Hooksets

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Posted by: Captain Woody - Comments Off on Light Tackle Hooksets

Every angler’s watched in amazement as bass professionals set the hook. Well it’s a matter of experience that’s taught them just how hard to pull and when to ease off. It has a lot to do with getting used to the feel and knowing when the line reaches its maximum stretch potential. Maximum stretch is primarily a characteristic of monofilament lines as opposed to the new super braids having little or no stretch and virtually no memory. Many of today’s anglers switching to super braid line seldom if ever return to monofilament.

So what’s this got to do with a hook-set? With braid you need less effort to set a hook. Because there’s no stretch, when the fish pulls away it almost hooks itself. Saltwater anglers targeting snook, redfish, trout and other inshore species also favor the other characteristics of braid… casting distance, resistance to the suns ultra violet rays, less water drag for a few. But enough about super braid lines.

How hard to pull when setting a hook depends on other factors more than brute strength? Species of fish, fishing line, rod and reel combination, depth of water, type of bait and most important the hook are determining factors in when and how hard.

An important thing to remember is control your power. Whenever force is applied something must give or break.  Therefore, to hook and land any fish things like line stretch, rods action and flex, fishes size and weight and physical uniqueness their mouth are determining factors in the amount of force.

With so much emphasis being placed on catch and release today’s environmentally conscious anglers are turning to circle hooks. Proven fish friendly, at least in the aspect of throat and gut hooking more fish are released without the high mortality rates often associated with the more conventional J-hook.

Circle hooks are practically fool proof and work whenever a fish takes your bait and swims away. The moment you sense a moving fish immediately start reeling to take up any slack line. Then as the fish applies pressure increase your speed, keep a taught line, and a bent fishing rod. By its inherent design the hook to pulls forward in the mouth and away from the throat. As the point finds the outside of the jaw it turns in and penetrates. No hook set is required! As previously indicated and providing you’re paying attention the hooks always find a way to the outside of the mouth. Fall asleep at the wheel and the fish will still swallow the bait and hook.

Conventional J-hooks are a mainstay in the fishing industry and there is nothing wrong with using them. When use properly especially by seasoned anglers there is an excellent hook-up percentage. However, novice or persons who lack the attention span to quickly detect a strike inevitably allow fish to swallow the bait thereby becoming hooked in the throat or worse. For this reason anglers using circle hooks agree that they do prevent swallowed bait and gut-hooked fish.  They have decreased the catch and release mortality rate significantly which is another sure reason to use circle hooks.

Big fish coupled with big hook sets can inevitably equal lost fish. Not so much because they’re older and smarter as many would believe… it has more to do with physics, like their weight verses rod action, line and the power exerted during a strike. When large fish strike they completely take the bait into their mouth in one quick move. The natural reaction is to jerk back on the rod. Depending on the distance, amount of line between and the fish, and the power of your rod a hard fast snatch could literally snap the rod or break the line. A quick backward swoosh is usually sufficient to force the hook point home.

Large fish also absorb less shock. Whereas smaller ones move or turn in the water during a hook set larger one do not. Due to weight and water resistance big fish move very little during the initial hook set. Consequently if they do not give there’s only one other thing that can… their fleshy tissue and bone.

If you think about how the fish’s mouth looked the last time you removed a hook after a heavy or hard set you’ll most likely remember seeing a large hole torn in the tissue surrounding its mouth. This and any slack line gives them an excellent opportunity to escape by throwing the hook. Remember, hooks work best when they puncture small holes allowing the barb to hold it in place.

In addition to circle hooks you’ll often find responsible anglers using barb-less hooks or bending the barbs down on existing hooks. If for no other reason this facilitates easy removal. But it also requires a softer hook set. A softer set will normally create a smaller hole and forces you to keep the hook in place by keeping a tight line. Obviously, not tearing large holes in their mouths is better for the fish.

Good hook setting techniques is a matter of trial and error as it relates to each fish you catch. During the critical moments after a fish grabs your bait or the bobber goes under think to yourself about the force required.  Learning to use more controlled pressure should help get more fish to the boat.

The most important part of boating any fish is making sure you release it with as little damage as possible. Practice responsible catch and release.

This article is owned by Capt. Woody Gore and is copyright protected. Permission to republish this article in print or online must be granted by Capt. Gore. wgore@ix.netcom.com