My previous Pro Tip “Flipping and Pitching A lesson learned part 1”; I discussed the need for quality equipment and maintaining contact with your bait 100% of the time. This Pro Tip will address the critical step of setting the hook.
As our sport has developed, I believe the fish have developed as well. I can remember fishing 30+ years ago with a jelly worm, seeing the line “pop” and opening my bail, letting the fish swim off with the bait for what now seemed like a couple minutes and finally pulling a tight line to catch the unsuspecting bass. Today, given the pressure on the fish I believe they mouth and drop the bait sometimes faster than we can recognize. With that I believe we need to set the hook as soon as we recognize the bite and in most cases before.
That might sound a little crazy, how can I set the hook before I feel the bite? What I am describing is the initial movement of the bait. The initial intake of the bait, better known as the soft bite, pressure bite, the “Just felt heavy” bite and on and on. When a bass opens his mouth in a quick feeding action, it can suck a crawfish two feet off the bottom of the lake. A little slack in the line or an other type of distraction keeps us from detecting the pick up or initial contact with the bait. Not until the bass turns it head or swims off do we recognize the bite. Now the bass has had the bait long enough to distinguish real bait from artificial and I terrorize we are quickly running out of time, hence the need for a quick hook set.
I have fished many Pro-Am tournaments where I am catching most of the flip fish and my Am’s are missing them on the set or half way back to the boat. A few tournaments back, this very situation was happening and as you can imagine it’s not a comfortable situation for either of us (Pro or Am). I was thinking I just lost an opportunity to go back and get that fish and loosing the fish frustrated my Am. We talked about it and fortunately my Am was honest enough to describe what he was doing or not doing as the scenario developed. First he had an all-purpose rod that was not long or heavy enough to leverage the set. We changed that as I let him use one of my Flipping sticks. (I understand the tough position Armatures are in, not wanting to see the frown of the Pro as they carry 15 rods to the boat but if you are told before you will be flipping bring your stick! Just quick side notes if you’re Pro is not upfront with you on what you will be doing, bring the 15 rods!) After using my rod, and paying very close attention, my Am told me he saw another difference. I was flying two pound fish out of the water on the hook set and he never got them to the surface on the set. He was waiting for the line to get tight, setting the hook from the center of the back deck (creating more of an angle thus more distance) and his hook set went up over his head. Your strength in a hook set is to your chest; this was demonstrated to me by and old mentor of mine years ago. He had me take a plastic six-pack holder, fold it to one circle and try to pull it apart over my head. That was a disaster as I was not capable of breaking the plastic, then he told me to pull it apart against my chest and obviously it broke. From that day on my hook sets are quick and to the chest.
To summarize, insure you have quality equipment, maintain contact 100% of the time and as soon as you feel something (something different or the loss of contact with the bait) set the hook! Set the hook in a quick motion to your chest. This will insure you have penetrated the mouth and moved the bass in the direction of the boat.
Thanks for logging on, keep those hooks sharp and those eyes even sharper.