Setting The Hook: Gettin' The Steel Into Fish

Setting The Hook: Gettin' The Steel Into Fish

So much is written about fishing techniques, the latest rods and lures, and of course seasonal patterns. But one aspect of our sport is always overlooked, and it may be the most important one—getting that little steel point into a fish's mouth—setting the hook.

How many times have you felt the tell-tale tap on the end of your Texas-rigged bait, reeled down, then hauled back with enough force to move a Peterbuilt, only to realize the bass was swimming toward you? Where did the rod tip end up? If you applied any force at all, it probably wasn't enough to bury the barb. You know the result: a jump, a splash, and slack line.

There's an alternative to the standard hook-set that we all know and hate. It's called the "reel set." When learning to fish, most anglers are taught that when a fish bites, you should jerk the rod hard to pull the hook through the fish's mouth. For youngsters fishing with bait, this works fine. Most of the time, a fish picks up the offering and starts to swallow, allowing for a solid set, even if there's slack line.

But when you start bass fishing, things change. In this art, weedless and semi-weedless rigs are the norm. For this reason, hooking fish becomes more difficult. Only with additional force are we able to bring the hook point through the softbait or bend down the weedguard to expose the hook point, then drive it home.


The Standard Method


The standard method of setting the hook with a worm or jig is to reel down toward the water, wait for a bit of pressure, then rear back with the rod. If a bass is swimming away with the bait, slack is removed and you generally hook the fish. But if a fish swims toward the boat or at some angle other than away from the boat, you're in trouble.

Setting the hook on this kind of bite normally results in the rod going overhead. You have no alternative but to lower the rod, reel, and try to keep pressure on the fish. If slack is available at any point in that process, the fish is generally missed.

The Reel Set Method

A reel set is the solution. After sensing a bite, lower the rod tip to the water where the line enters. Then start reeling as fast as you can. Once you feel the rod starting to bend, set the hook with a short, fast stroke. With this method, your rod is never out of position and you're in constant contact with the fish as you set. It's that simple.


Why does it work? Most reels of today can take up more than 20 inches of line with each turn of the handle, with an average around 24 inches. Some fast-retrieve models surpass 30 inches. Assuming you get only 5 handle turns, you have moved 120 inches (10 feet) of line through the water before even setting the hook.

Compare that to a 90-degree swing with a 7-foot rod, which moves 11 feet of line. Yes, the swing set moves one more foot of line. But the rod ends up overhead, so you have to reel down while trying to keep tension with the rod to avoid giving slack line. Because you're not exerting much pressure on the fish, it has more opportunity to dive into cover and get free.

With a reel set, you're always in control, with your rod in front of you, exerting maximum pressure. Often, you don't even have to set the hook in the classical sense when using a reel set. Speedily turning the handle drives it home, especially with today's super-sharp spears.


Anglers lament losing fish on big swimbaits and frogs more than other lure types. The reel set is by far the best approach when fishing them because you must move the lure in the fish's mouth to sink hooks. Although this hook-set may require a trip or two on the water to master, your hook-up ratio rises dramatically once you do.

Terry Battisti, Idaho Falls, Idaho, is an avid bass angler and freelance outdoor writer. He has written several features for In-Fisherman and Bass Guide.

Get Your Fish On.

Plan your next fishing and boating adventure here.

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Recommended Articles

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

Minus System Crankbaits for Largemouths

Minus System Crankbaits for Largemouths

In-Fisherman Editor-In-Chief, Doug Stange demonstrates the use of DT Fat Minus crankbaits for largemouth bass.

Humminbird CoastMaster - A Closer Look

Humminbird CoastMaster - A Closer Look

Patterned after Humminbird's LakeMaster charts for freshwater anglers, CoastMaster charts bring the same features for salt anglers. CoastMaster delivers unrivaled nearshore and offshore fishing performance.

Secrets to Busting Big Fish

Secrets to Busting Big Fish

The In-Fisherman staff tackles super-tough customers, trolling up 50-inch muskies!

See More Popular Videos

Trending Articles

Everything you need to know about popular catfish species and how to catch them on proven riggings. Catfish

All About Catfish

Rob Neumann

Everything you need to know about popular catfish species and how to catch them on proven...

Here's a look at some of the new spinning reels coming your way later this year. ICAST

ICAST 2020: New Spinning Reels

In-Fisherman Staff - July 16, 2020

Here's a look at some of the new spinning reels coming your way later this year.

High-quality components that offer high-end performance seemed to be the theme for freshwater spinning rods this year. ICAST

ICAST 2020: New Freshwater Spinning Rods

In-Fisherman Staff - July 16, 2020

High-quality components that offer high-end performance seemed to be the theme for freshwater...

Catfish are simple creatures that can be caught using the best catfish rigs. Catching them is simply a matter of putting a good bait in the right in front of them. Catfish

8 Best Catfish Rigs - When, Where and How to Use Them

In-Fisherman

Catfish are simple creatures that can be caught using the best catfish rigs. Catching them is...

See More Trending Articles

More Bass

Lunar followers often check moon phases as well as timing of minors and majors. Bass

The Effects of Solunar Forces on Bass Fishing

Steve Quinn - June 22, 2020

Lunar followers often check moon phases as well as timing of minors and majors.

Dr. Todd goes in depth about search baits in this episode of Beyond the Bait Powered by Streamlight.

How to Find More Bass With Search Baits

Game & Fish Digital Staff

Dr. Todd goes in depth about search baits in this episode of Beyond the Bait Powered by...

While Florida is without a doubt “shiner central” for bass, similar tactics can work on other waterways as well. Bass

Fishing Shiners for Big Bass

Steve Quinn - March 17, 2020

While Florida is without a doubt “shiner central” for bass, similar tactics can work on other...

Learn why and when to use each in this episode of Beyond the Bait Powered by Streamlight.

Baitcasting vs. Spinning: Choosing the Right Bass Combo

Game & Fish Digital Staff

Learn why and when to use each in this episode of Beyond the Bait Powered by Streamlight.

See More Bass

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Digital Now Included!

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Get Digital Access.

All In-Fisherman subscribers now have digital access to their magazine content. This means you have the option to read your magazine on most popular phones and tablets.

To get started, click the link below to visit mymagnow.com and learn how to access your digital magazine.

Get Digital Access

Not a Subscriber?
Subscribe Now