This is an important article! Most of my clients fishing with me on The MTC set the hook wrong when fishing the flats. What is required is something different from the norm, and this article will help you hook many more fish.
Website Created by Keith Kalbfleisch
Setting the Hook
By Captain Keith Kalbfleisch
We’ve all seen it on TV—the fisherman hauls back on his rod in a lightning-quick upper sweep, slamming the hook home with all his might, and uttering those obligatory words “There he is!”. This lip-ripping technique may be just the ticket for winching a bass out of heavy cover, but if you try it on the flats, you will marvel at how those fish manage to get away!
Hooking a fish on the flats is a totally different situation, and must be treated as such. I find that if I take two anglers, one experienced and one not (typically the wife, girlfriend, or youth), that the hook-up ratio on the inexperienced angler is much better. Why? Because that person will listen to me, and set the hook properly. The experienced angler will do it their own way, and lose fish in the process. Usually the angler is not being obstinate or pig-headed, but just has some ingrained habits to overcome.
Here are some of the differences you are dealing with on the saltwater flats versus a freshwater situation. First, you are using much lighter line. I typically use 6-8 lb test line, and most bass anglers would not consider anything that was at least twice that heavy. Second, a freshwater fish often hits near the boat, while we are often reaching out 50 to 100 feet in order to catch fish. Third, Freshwater fishing is usually more sheltered from the wind, while you are out there in the open on the flats, Fourth, we are dealing with fish that can put up some serious resistance, while having a mouth that is not as tough as a bass.
These considerations come together to provide a situation that requires a different way to set the hook. Here’s how to do it properly. Upon FEELING the indications of a bite (don’t get fooled with a splash or swirl), usually a “thunk” or weight on the line, do the following:
1. With your pole pointed in the general direction of the fish, start to reel quickly until the line comes tight enough to bend the pole or the drag starts to slip.
2. Set the hook with three short, sharp strokes in the direction away from the fish. These strokes should be parallel to the water, not straight up, and you should hear the drag.
Step one removes the belly from the line that might have developed from wind, boat movement, and fish movement—it sets you up for a proper hook set. Why three short strokes instead of one big one? Remember, you have light line and a big jerk might snap your line. Also, you get a better hook set. Why? The same reason you don’t drive a nail with one smack of the hammer. A series of smaller impacts drives it in straighter and deeper.
I’ve noticed that if I take a piece of line with a hook tied to it, put the hook over a board, then have a volunteer try to set the hook into the board by hand, i.e. with the line wrapped around their hand, then they instinctively give a couple of short pulls, rather than one giant yank. The physics on the hook end of the line is the same, whether you are using a pole or not.
So, if you want to up your percentage of hookups on the flats, remember: tighten the line, then give three short hooksets (and you can leave out the "There he is!").