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Lake LBJ

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Dock Talk -- Set the Hook or Not

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A new bass fishing angler asks the age-old question when fishing a plastic worm; should he set the hook immediately when he feels a bump or wait a second before setting the hook.

My learning curve in fishing plastic worms was distinguishing a nibbling bass from a grabby piece of underwater structure. Fishing cover calls for different reactions. In moderate to heavy cover, which is where Texas rigged plastics do some of their best work, there can be occasions where having a bass take a bait can 'feel' similar to having the bait slightly hung up in cover, especially if there's not that discernible Tap-Tap.

However, our new angler has been able to distinguish between structure and a bass.

“If I feel a bump, or what I detect as a bite, I take the time to calmly reel down and set the hook.” He’s watched fishing shows where the pro angler takes a second or two before setting the hook. “I’m trying to understand why such a long time from detection to hook set. What are they feeling for in that period of time; is there no concern about the bass spitting the bait? This is my second year taking bass fishing seriously, and I am starting to detect bites and catch fish that I realized I missed last year. So, this has me thinking, what am I not doing/feeling for that these pros are?”

Shaw Grigsby, a well-known fishing professional, explains his Three Tap Theory. “The first tap the bass has inhaled your lure. The second tap the bass has expelled your lure. The third tap is me tapping you on the shoulder asking way you didn't set hook!”

Some other angler theories are regarding when and when not to set the hook.

“I tend to wait and feel for a second tug, or see if my line moves before setting the hook. That pause lets me feel the fish out. If I feel one tap the fish could have picked it up and dropped it real quick, in which case I want to be able to impart more action to the bait and try to get them to bite again. If I set the hook after that initial tap, but the bait is already out of the fish’s mouth, then I've lost a fish and likely spooked it from biting again.”

The two-or-three seconds rule: I think a lot of the missed fish are when they hit the tail of the worm. We feel that and set the hook. Would they have stopped and engulfed the entire worm, who knows?”
That’s too long a wait: “I'm a firm believer that often times the second thump you feel is the fish spitting it out. If I set the hook and miss, I still work it and often the bass comes and takes it again.”

Costs sometime come into play: “Setting hooks in brush are not free with a two-dollar tungsten weight, one-dollar hook and a fifty cent-worm,” adds another angler. “If I am in heavy brush and feel a tap, at times I will weigh the line momentarily too see if there is something there, or if I’m playing tug of war with underwater brush limb. They will usually hit again if not spooked. A more sensitive, rod can make a world of difference in having a better idea of what you're feeling.”

What about if you feel the strike and the fish swims away. “It probably isn't going directly away from you, but the fish is probably putting a bend in the line that you have to overcome to get a hookset. I'll usually just lower my rod and try to get the slack out, then set it. But on a C-rig (Carolina), you yank the line through the sinker. So, there's some weight for you to set the hook against.”

Like every other phase of bass fishing, there's really no fixed answer regarding ideal hook-set timing. When I feel a bump, I raise my rod tip to see if something pulls back. It takes me about one full-second to prepare for a hookset. How long do you wait to set the hook; please share your comments.

 




Tom Behrens has over 50 years experience in fishing and hunting across the United States. Much of this time was spent in Oklahoma and Texas where he became very familiar with the outdoor opportunities in these states. You may contact him by email at: tbehrcomm@gmail.com


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Lake LBJ Fishing Report from TPWD (Aug. 5)

GOOD. Water clear; 86 degrees; 0.77 low. Black bass are slow on with plastic worms, swimbaits, and chatter baits. Crappie are good on minnows around brush piles, timber, and docks. White bass are good over main lake points and humps in 20-35’ with slabs and rooster tails. Catfish are good on cut bait and prepared bait in 10-25’.