Whenever you take time out to fish you expect your day to be enjoyable and most days spent fishing are fun. Granted, the slowest day of fishing always beats the best day at work (with “work” defined as what some people do for a living that they don’t particularily enjoy). Even so, nobody wants to go out there and get a nice hit and end up losing that fish. After all, it’s always more fun doing SHOW and tell than just telling about the big one that got away!
Learning where and how to fish is important in order to be successful, but that’s just part of the equation. Once you get a fish on, it’s no fun losing it. There are many ways to lose a fish, and here are some of the ways:
1. Trying to “horse” it in.
2. Drag set too tight or drag not working at all.
3. Improper weight line for the fish.
4. Knot failure.
5. Terminal tackle failure.
6. Landing (netting) mistakes.
7. Getting Tangled in other equipment.
8. Poor hook-set
9. For larger fish while trolling – Failure to reduce boat speed or follow the fish.
10. Not enough line on the reel.
11. Mechanical Equipment failure, (Rod, reel, net etc…)
I’ll have to admit that I have experienced (and witnessed) them all plus a lot more.
I’ll cover some of these in future articles, but here I want to cover “poor hook-set” and more specifically, the hooks that you use.
Most stock lures come with a pretty heavy duty treble hook that will last for a long time and will not straighten even when a large fish is “horsed” in. These are great for durability, but they are not the best for setting the hook, especially on the hard-mouthed fish like King Salmon. Sure, you’ll catch fish with them, but you can lower your loss rate by changing them to a lighter weight, thinner hook like the chemically sharpened Mustad hooks, or something similar.
These replacement hooks have a thinner and sharper point that more easily penetrates the fish’s mouth. To understand this, imagine how much easier it is to push a thin needle though tough material than a larger one. When fishing with a thinner hook, you will get a good hook-set with much less force than is required with the heavier hooks that are sold with most lures.
The hook manufacturing process is quite complex nowadays with tempering to increase strength, design to match the fishing method and finish coatings to prolong the life and give the right look. Some claim that red hooks are invisible to fish, but I’m not concerned about the color. I don’t give the fish enough credit… I like to believe they are not capable of thinking like us humans, so even if they see the hook, they will still bite it. For most trolling, a stainless steel hook is the most common among fishermen. For my purposes, I want a hook that has good tempering and is light & thin and for a better hook-set. To learn more about the anatomy of hooks see: Hook Anatomy.
Hook maintenance is equally important. Keep them sharp with a good hook sharpener and always check them to be sure they are not bent out of shape. A good sharp hook will not slide at all on your fingernail when rubbed lightly on it. You should be able to hang a spoon on your nail while holding it at a sharp angle. If it slips off easily, it needs a sharpening. Keep a good sharpener handy at all times when fishing. Here is a good sharpener.
Another advantage to changing to a lighter hook (especially if using spoons) is your lures will have more action because the tail end of the lure does not get dragged down by a heavy hook and the lure is allowed to wag more effectively.
As in any sport, the more you learn about it the more enjoyable it becomes. At some point you might just get hooked on fishing when you boat more fish. Of course this is assuming you are not reeled in already!