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Sunday, July 13, 2008

The Hook Setting


circle hook


Getting a Good Hook Set is a Key to Catching Fish

With the possible exception of sheepshead, setting the hook on a fish is at once both the easiest and the most misunderstood action that anglers can take. I watch anglers all the time, and I find that different anglers have different techniques even when fishing for the same fish.

Hook Types

If a fish was caught, the hook had to be set; that’s simple enough. But who set the hook? Some anglers are simply lucky enough to catch a fish because the fish itself set the hook running away from the pull of the line. In the case of circle hooks, the fish sets the hook by design. But, on standard hooks, it takes a conscious effort to set the hook on a fish that bites. More important than anything else is probably the condition of your hook. Most anglers fish with the same hook – sometimes on multiple trips. Just how sharp is that hook? It should hang on your fingernail when the point is placed there. Get a good hook sharpener and use it!

Fish Species

All fish differ in at least one aspect. Important to us here is the shape, size and relative strength of their mouths. Seatrout have a very tender mouth, and hooks can easily be pulled if too much pressure is applied. At the other end of the spectrum is the tarpon, whose boney mouth is more often than not unable to be penetrated by a hook. Flounder and fluke present yet another type of hook set. They tend to hold the bait for a short while before getting it all the way into their mouth. Hence, a delayed hook set is necessary. Billfish present an entirely different set of rules because of the way they strike a bait with their bill and then circle around to eat the bait. In between all these we have a whole variety of fish that fall into a general category I call bottom fish.

Bait Types

There is a difference in the way a fish takes, as an example, a cut bait versus a live bait. They can usually inhale a cut bait and the bite that you feel needs a quick hook set. Live bait with a single hook, on the other hand, needs to be eaten; so, the hook set needs to be delayed to enable the fish to get the entire bait into its mouth. Artificial lures need a quick hook set to prevent the fish from spitting the lure when it realizes it has been fooled.

Water Depth, Line Length and Rod Size

Most anglers fish with monofilament line. That line has a stretching quality that can be significant in deep water. If you are fishing relatively deep water (fifty feet or more), you need a longer rod with more backbone. That hook set needs to be hard and long to overcome the stretch in the line, and the longer, beefier rod can help. Braided line can help the stretch problem, but can still be affected by currents that put a bow in the line. Either way, you have to overcome the depth to set that hook.

Basic Rules

So, here are some basics you can follow and questions you can ask yourself to help you set that hook and bring a good fish to the boat or pier.

* Know the fish you are pursuing - does it have a soft mouth or a hard mouth?
* How deep are you fishing?
* What kind of line are you using?
* How about that hook - Circle or standard?
* What kind of bait are you using – can the fish get it all in one bite?

Simple rules make hook setting an easy task. These basics can help if you pay attention and react accordingly. Tight lines!


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