John Rankin

The Basics: How to Set the Hook to Land More Bass

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DSC_0025While this might appear elementary to an experienced fishermen, those just beginning their adventure as a smallmouth enthusiast will need to learn how to set the hook before any fish appear with a lure in their mouth. Yes, sometimes game fish, and smallies in particular, will go after the lure so aggressively a hooked fish is not going to be a problem. But on those days when smallmouth bass are feeding in a mush mouth way, picking up the strike along with knowing when it is time to set the hook are going to spell “fish on” or a miss.

Be Ready

Depending on if you are sitting or standing in the boat, it is important to be stable as you learn how to set the hook on a smallmouth bass. Even young smallies put up a good fight, and if you happen to hook into a four plus pounder the stability of your body can mean the difference between landing the fish or losing it. So always use a stable platform, seat, etc., when casting and setting the hook.

The motion

The actual motion for setting a hook on a fish is basic for most all species of freshwater fish. Over the shoulder or using a side motion from the waist are best. Avoid an extremely exaggerated dipping forward then back motion as this often allows slack in the line and you will lose the fish. Remember to take up any slack in the line first before the motion to set the hook and keep the tip of the rod pointed at where the strike occurs.

A few good rules to follow include the following: before going to a hook setting motion quickly reel in any slack and see if you feel any weight on the line. Many fishermen make the mistake of seeing their  top water bait, or line suddenly move and go right for the hook set. This will usually result in missing a hook set. Once you actually feel the weight of a fish it is time to set the hook.

Great basic description of the hookset

Don’t Rip A Hole on Their Lip

When setting the hook, especially if you are using braid, remember you don’t need to set the hook as hard as you sometimes see on tv. Many fish are lost because of too strong of a hookset, ripping a hole in a lip and creating a gap so that when a bronzeback shakes its head, the hook flies right out. One day I tried to get a good picture of this but I dropped my phone in the river. Not good!

Live Bait Considerations

Even though I never use live bait, I know some of our readers do.

If you are using live bait set the hook as soon as you see indications of a strike. This sounds like it contradicts what I have said above and I suppose in a way it does. You need to understand fishing with live bait is different from fishing with artificial baits. Smallies will inhale live bait, and if you wait too long you are going to have a gut hooked fish. With artificial baits the smallmouth can tell what he is chewing on is artificial and will attempt to spit it out, so the set must be performed much faster.

There are other factors involved in learning how to set the hook on smallmouth bass but these are the basic ones to get you started. There is nothing better than feeling the strike and setting the hook into a monster bronzeback.

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