Land More Fish
If you’ve spent any amount of time fishing you’ve experienced a lost fish. You set the hook and instantly the fight begins. The excitement and adrenalin takes over and the rest of the world seems to stand still. However, at some point during the fight, your line breaks or the fish spits the hook. The only thing worse is one of those things happens right at the net and all you can do is watch the fish swim away. It’s a heartbreaking feeling that we’ve all felt at one time or another. However, there are some basic and simple ways that will help eliminate that dreaded feeling of a slack fishing line.
Stinger Hooks – If you only use one of these six tips this is the one that will help you land 90-percent of the fish that bite your jig. A stinger hook is a secondary or trailer hook that you tie onto your jig. They can be a single hook or my favorite is the treble hook style. Some jigs are designed for a stinger hook and have a second eyelet for the stinger hook to be tied to. However, you can use a stinger hook on a standard jig-head by simply tying it to the same eyelet that your fishing line is tied too. I rarely fish a jig without a stinger hook. When I’m fishing a minnow, nightcrawler, or a plastic bait, I run the main jig-hook through the head of the bait and allow the bait to hang naturally before placing the singer hook through the body of the bait. The stinger hangs about an inch below the main hook and is hooked into the body of the bait and increases your hookups on short biting fish. Walleye are known for their short or soft bites, and it’s not uncommon to miss the subtle bite of a walleye. However, a stinger hook embedded in the body of the bait will hook those finicky or short biting fish increasing the number of fish you land.
Sharp Hooks – Dull or bent hooks miss fish. You would be surprised how quickly you can dull a hook. Hooks take a real beating bouncing around our tacklebox, being retrieved through weeds, rocks, wood, and even sandy bottom lakes dull a hook. Not to mention, setting the hook into a fish’s mouth. All these obstacles dull our hooks and even cause the very tip of the hook to slightly bending making our hook more of a blunt piece of metal rather than a sharp fish-catching hook.
Several years ago when my son was learning to cast, we were casting to a shallow rock pile for northern pike. We would cast to the top of the rocks and slowly retrieve our Len Thompson spoons back to the boat. However, as I would help my son retrieve his spoon, mine would fall amongst the rocks and often get snagged. My son landed several pike while I would get strikes but no hookups.
I grew frustrated with how many fish I was missing and was in the process of changing my spoon when I noticed how bent the points on the treble hooks were. I realised that each time my spoon fell and wedged in-between the submerged rocks, I would jerk and snap my line until the lure freed itself. But each time I did that, I did more damage to the points of the hook. I put another spoon on the same size and colour and landed pike on my next three casts.
Dull hooks are quick and easy to fix. I keep a small file in my tackle bag and sharpen my hooks every time they feel a little dull. With a fine-toothed file make one or two light passes towards the (point) end of the hook. The hardest thing about sharpening hooks is being aware that they can become dull.
Set Your Drag – Anyone that spends any amount of time fishing has lost a fish because of an improperly set drag. I know I have. As simple as it sounds, an improperly set drag on a reel probably accounts for more lost fish throughout a season in the western provinces than anything else. Like most of us, I learned the hard way about setting my drag. Now my drag is the first thing I check when I pick up any fishing rod.
The drag should be set so the fish has to work at swimming away. A drag that is set to tight, the fish may break the line under the pressure. Too loose and the fish swims away and often spits the hook. Another problem with too loose of a drag, is you don’t get a good hook set. The drag needs to be set snug enough that as the fish tries to swim away it will have to exert its energy but loose enough that the drag can be pulled. The drag is what plays a fish out. Depending on the size and species of fish you’re fishing for, will determine how your drag is set.
Line & Guide Care – Another big reason why our fishing line breaks is that it’s damaged. Our fishing line often gets nicks and microscopic cuts in it without us even knowing it. Damaging your fishing line can be as simple as setting your rod down and your rod pinching the line between the rod and the edge of the boat. It’s also not uncommon to damage your line during transport to or from your fishing location. Before you make your first cast, softly pinch the fishing line that isn’t protected by the reel between your thumb and pointer-finger and feel the full length of the exposed line. If you feel any rough spots or nicks, cut the line past that point eliminating the damaged area and retie your hook.
Also, check your eyelets. Modern no-stretch and breaded line can be very corrosive on eyelets, and over time can cause nicks and cuts in your rods eyelets which will cause your line to break at the worst possible time.
I check my eyelets on all my rods at least twice a year by running a small piece of cotton through each eyelet. If any cotton embeds itself and stays behind after the cotton is pulled through, I repair or replace the eyelet. This simple check takes less than a minute and may save you from losing a fish of a lifetime.
Get them in the net – Now that your hooks are sharp, your line is in good shape, and your drag is set, you need to get your fish into the net. There’s nothing worse than fighting a fish all the way to the boat or shoreline and it comes off while you’re trying to net it. There are a couple of ways to make netting a fish much easier. First and foremost, enjoy the fight. Anglers often get excited once they hook a fish and are in a panic to get the fish out of the water. In doing so, they often rush and lose the fish. If your drag is set properly trust your equipment and enjoy the fight. It’s what you’ve been waiting for.
Once the fish is at the net, don’t rush or “horse” the fish into the net. Take your time and keep the fish’s head pointed towards the net and bring it in slow and easy. The person doing the netting or if you’re doing your own netting, don’t stab the net at the fish. Have the net partially submerged in the water so the fish can swim into the net. Once the fish is in the net lift it straight up and your fish will be concealed within your net.
Take the time and invest in these basic tips and I promise you will land more fish.