3 Tips For A Better Hook Set

Spencer Jones putting it all together to land another Wolf River smallmouth.
     You've made the perfect cast, worked the lure through the water column, then suddenly you feel the bump.  Swinging back on the rod you feel the weight of what's sure to be the next state record.  Then after a quick struggle...it's gone.  It's a crushing blow, I know because it's happened to me.  I have nightmares about fish I've lost.  Honestly though sooner or later it happens to everybody that wets a line.  However you can do a few things to help stack the odds in your favor the next time a fish finds himself on the end of your line.
     The mechanics of a hook set are actually very simple.  Just apply pressure, bury the hooks, and don't lose tension.  See simple, but then why do so many fish still get away.  It doesn't matter if you're casting frogs, trolling, lure fishing, or ice fishing.  If you don't set the hook properly, you are going to lose fish.  With this in mind I thought I'd offer up 3 tips that will help improve your hook set and land you more fish.
     First up you've got to sharpen the hooks!  This is probably hands down the biggest thing people miss.  I learned this lesson the hard way chasing muskies.  Even brand new lures straight out of the box need have their hooks sharpened.  We all know it, but we don't all do it.  If your hooks are dull then it requires a lot more pressure to drive them home.  An expensive hook file or sharpener can make a big difference.  So quit making excuses and keep those hooks in top shape.
     Second, stay tight to the lure at all times.  The reason we joke about the swing and the miss is because of line slack.  Don't set the hook until you're tight to the fish.  It doesn't matter if you're hopping a jig, swimming a crankbait, or wiggling a worm.  If the line isn't tight then you're gonna miss fish.  So give the reel a couple cranks until the rod loads slightly or you feel the weight of the fish, then set the hook.  SBH Tip: When trolling from a kayak accelerate a few boat lengths by paddle or pedal before setting the hook.  This will take up any slack in the line allowing for a stronger hook set.
     Third is sweep the body (not the leg).  Sweeping the rod across your body allows you to put all the rotational forces of your torso behind the hooks.  That's a lot of force and will help guarantee the fish stays pinned.  Lifting up on the rod is just not enough to keep those hooks buried.  So do what the pros do in all those Berkley Trilene commercials and sweep the rod across your body.
     Putting these tips into practice will make a big difference in your fishing.  Especially the first tip about sharpening the hooks.  These are simple things that we all know how to do  As a guide I'm shocked at how often a client loses a nice fish because they didn't get those hooks buried well enough.  A good hook set is something that took me a while to master, but now it's second nature.  
A beautiful Lake Monona largemouth from the kayak.
     Tight Lines.

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