Thursday, August 1, 2013

Thursday Tips: Match Hookset to Situations

"You must be a bass fisherman."

I've heard the same comment many times after someone set a hook too hard. Usually it has come from a guide who mostly targets trout, crappie or walleyes, and occasionally the words have been directed at me. I wouldn't characterize myself as a "bass fisherman," although I certainly do enjoy fishing for bass. I'm an everything-that-swims fisherman. More likely than not, on trips when I've gotten overzealous with my hooksets, I'd just finished trips where I'd been pitching soft-plastic lures for largemouths or maybe fishing for big catfish with J hooks.

Without question, the hookset is a critical part of most kinds of fishing, and figuring out the best timing and type of motion for a given situation will help you catch more fish most days. The "given situation" part is the key, and it's also the tough part. The best hookset varies enormously based on the species you're after, the size of the bait, the type of line, the size and diameter of the hooks you are using and the way fish are taking baits, among other things.

With so many variables, there's no magic answer. A big soft-plastic offering rigged weedless for largemouths calls for a bit of pause to let the fish fully get the bait in its mouth followed by a hard, hookset with the rod moved a long distance. At the opposite end of the spectrum, when a trout takes a micro jig that has a tiny hook, the hookset must be immediate and should be nothing more than a snap of the rod. A walleye taking live bait, meanwhile, sometimes requires a long delay -- as in several seconds -- followed by a slow sweep.

Consider the variables and how the fish are taking the bait and to be intentional about how you set the hook. Experiment and pay attention to what works, both for you and for others who are fishing near you.

Of course, at times the toughest hookset to get right is the one you're not supposed to make. Circle hooks usually get pulled out of fish's mouths if you set the hook, but they do a great job of hooking fish if you simply tighten the line and let them turn into place. When a catfish rattles a rod in it's holder or a bass smashes a soft-plastic lure, NOT setting the hook can be mighty tough to do, but if you want to catch the fish you have to learn the right response for the situation at hand.

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