One of the stickiest questions faced by anglers is how to set the hook on a fish. Now I realize no two fish hits are exactly the same, nor do two different species of fish strike in the same fashion. Regardless, there are little things you can to increase your chances of hooking more fish.
Like most young boys, I loved to catch fish, and I still do. In fact, I enjoyed reeling in fish so much I used to occasionally land a fish, give it a chance to rest, rehook it and land it again! While that may seem a little extreme, it was, but I learned something from it. Most fish have incredibly hard mouths. It was difficult enough to push the hook into the fish’s jaw with my hand let alone doing it with a flexible rod and several feet of stretchy line!
Let’s take the northern pike and muskie for examples. These big brutes are perhaps the most difficult to hook because their mouths are made up of hard boney parts with patches of tender flesh and skin between the bones. This means the hook either hits hard bone or easy to tear flesh. No wonder so many big northern pikes and muskies are the “ones that get away.”
Without a doubt, the best way to handle these big fish is with a good stiff rod. It takes real power to drive the hooks home. Many times I’ve hooked a big northern pike while fishing bass with a light rod and I’ll set the hook as hard as the rod can stand without breaking, but generally not one hook will sink home. The proper gear is a major thing to consider.
Secondly, it is important to always keep a tight line on the fish. Many times, when a big northern pike or muskie chomps down on your lure (primarily speaking of wood baits) their teeth will sink right into the lure and there is no way you can slide the lure through their jaws to set the hook. The hooks usually find a hold during the fight sometime when the fish relaxes its jaws enough for the lure to slide. If you don’t keep a tight line, you may miss the only instant you’ll have to set the hook.
Finally, one of the most important things you can do is something I’ll bet many folks have never done. That is to sharpen your hooks. More big fish owe their lives to dull hooks than to any other reason.
A simple test for sharpness is to drag the point of the hook across your thumbnail. A sharp hook will scribe a fine white line across the nail, while a dull hook will just slide.
To sharpen your hooks, use a jeweler’s file or small sharpening stone. Make the strokes toward the point of the hook, being careful you don’t exert too much pressure and bend the point. Then just use the previously mentioned test to see if the hook is ready.
If you take all the precautions and get prepared for the time when that one big monster finally hits, chances are it’ll be yours, rather than just another “one that got away.”
Posted by Jeff Howard on July 8, 2011
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