Make Fish Stories Reality
By Dustin Taylor
Fish stories are famous for telling the tale of the one that got away. That's about all losing a fish is good for. Sure your buddies will get a laugh, your friend in the boat might rib you the rest of the day. You on the other hand, have to bear the harassment. When fishing a tournament, the fish story could be deemed as an excuse.
Fishermen are full of excuses. As avid anglers, we should do everything in our ability to eliminate the excuse factor.
Crankbaits, jerkbaits, and some top waters are famous for losing fish. These baits have gotten this reputation because of treble hooks. First thing you should do with these baits is make sure the hooks are attached to the bait itself with a split ring. Yes, there are still a few baits on the market that do not have free-floating hooks. If your hooks do not swing freely, they will lodge, and it will become easier for the fish to throw your bait.
Change your treble hooks. You don't have to change your hooks out on all baits. Some companies put high quality trebles on from the factory and more and more have started everyday. If you choose to replace the trebles use the same size that came on the bait. Going to oversized or smaller trebles can cause the bait to be out of balance.
Spinnerbaits can have their problems too. The first thing I look at on spinnerbaits is length of the blade arm. On some spinnerbaits out of the package, the blade arm is too long. What I mean by too long is that the end of the arm when compressed down will hit the point of the hook. When the arm is too long, a fish can collapse the wire and cause it to interfere with the hook.
You can correct this by cutting the top arm right behind the loop that holds the blade. After cutting the arm, put a new loop in. Now you won't be able to get it perfect, but, you can take the end and overlap the shaft. Cut off the excess after locking the loop into place.
Be sure the hook is sharp. Sometimes in the molding process the hook can get a little nicked up.
Using a trailer hook when fishing open water or sparse cover will increase your landing ratio as well. The trailer hook should be attached with surgical tubing, a Carolina Keeper, insulation off an electrical wire, or even crimped on with a pair of pliers.
One last thing when fishing spinnerbaits, make sure the lure is tuned properly. When retrieved the blades should be parallel with the hook. If the bait is lying sideways the hook will be laying at the wrong angle.
Jigs and soft plastics have the best hook-to-land ratio, but there are a few things you can do that can make it even better. Trimming the weed guard on your jigs will help you hook more fish. Trim them at a 45-degree angle to the point of the hook. The last strand should be even with the tip of the hook when compressed. After trimming the end of the weed guard, trim the front strands down about 1/4 of an inch further, this will stiffen the bristles.
Another thing to do to jigs is make sure your trailer is not balled up near the end of the hook. This can cause interference with the hook.
Fishing with plastics is usually all about how you rig them. When using the Texas rig make sure to pull the hook all the way through the worm. With the hook pulled through the worm, lay the hook flat on top of the bait so everything is flush. With the hook flush and the bait straight, pull forward on the worm and slide it back over the hook point. This will keep the bait weedless and streamlined, plus leave less plastic for the hook to travel through on hook set.
When using a Texas rig, do not peg the weight directly to the bait. This will not allow the weight to slide up the line and get out of the way on the hook set. Instead of pegging the weight directly above the bait, tie a rubber band about an inch above the weight. This will allow the weight some freedom to move.
Playing a fish is just as critical as the components you are fishing with. Never get your hands above your shoulders. This means on the hook set too. When your hands get above your shoulders, you lose leverage, and that's the main advantage you have over a fish.
Try to keep your rod tip low and at an angle to the fish when using crankbaits and spinnerbaits. Keeping the rod tip low will decrease the likelihood of the fish jumping and throwing your bait.
If you point the rod tip right at the fish it will likely gain slack on you and throw the bait. Giving a fish slack is the worst thing you can do with any lure.
When flipping and pitching it is important to get a good hook set to move the fish away from the cover as fast as possible. When doing this you still shouldn't get the hands above your shoulders. It is also a bad idea to jerk the fish completely out of the water. This will put slack in the line and the fish has a better chance of throwing your bait.
Using a Carolina rig requires a different kind of hook set. You should set the hook sideways; this allows you to pull the bait, rather then lifting the weight then the bait.
Breaking off a fish is going to happen but it can be avoided. Keep an eye on your line. Make sure there aren't any nicks or rough spots. If you find some, retie. It costs you nothing to retie.
Another thing to check is the eyelets on your rod. You can do this by running a cotton swab through the eyelets to make sure there are no rough edges. If you find a rough edge, take it to your local tackle shop and have it replaced.
The next time you're on the water, don't have a fish story about the one that got away. Show them the one that didn't get away.