Fishing Tips

Fishing Tips: How to Set the Hook

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You have to know how to set a hook in order to catch fish. Although different fish require different methods, we’ll take a look at the basics.

When to Set the Hook

A good rule of thumb when learning how to set the hook, is to wait and feel the weight of the fish before setting it. If the fish is cautious and just tapping your fishing line and bait lightly, and not biting it, it's best to wait. Let the fish take the bait, and then set the hook after you feel its weight.

How to Set the Hook in Two Steps

  1. To help you better know how to set the hook, look for common signs a fish is biting such us: your bobber is pulled under water, you feel a “thump” on your fishing line or your fishing line starts moving.
  2. Reel in slack and keep your line tight with the bait or lure. This helps increase sensitivity so you can feel the fish bite and be in a better position to set the hook.

The motion of setting the hook is relatively simple. But it can sometimes be difficult to tell if you have a bite or if you're just feeling the current or a fish bumping into the bait. The more you know about the fish species you’re after, and the more time you spend on the water practicing, the better you’ll get.

Now that you know how to set the hook when you feel the fish, the next task is reeling it in!

Patience Is a Virtue

By Nichole Delio

Just like most things worth practicing, fishing requires a lot of patience. You might not think about it on the days when you cast into the water and the bite happens non-stop, but fishing is unpredictable enough to give you a range of experiences.

Think about the other kinds of days. You know the ones I mean - they're the character building ones, the days that test the limits of your patience. Days like that, you might cast for hours and not even get a single bite. The pattern might be this: Breathe in and cast and exhale as the lure flies through the air toward its landing spot in the water. Crank it back in with a motion you've done thousands of times...over and over without the slightest indication that a fish is on the other end.

The key to enjoying all of fishing is patience. You could say that fishing helps you build that quality of character, but it also takes a certain amount to get started in the sport in the first place.

Fishing should be enjoyed. Don't take it so seriously that it ever transforms a good day into a bad one. There's a saying you might have heard: "A bad day of fishing beats a great day at work, any day." There's truth behind that. Think about how fishing helps us step out of the everyday boxes that we live in. Your box might contain a 9-5 job, family obligations, an office, long hours in a car, or stress from deadlines.

Fishing is a release from all that.

Fishing is also connection. It's time we can spend with people we love. Think of a father and son sharing that special first-catch moment - there's a special twinkle in the eyes of the boy and a big, beautiful smile on his face. Fishing can also bring a couple closer together; a husband and wife might spend hours together on the water, enjoying one another's company. Maybe they're talking, or maybe there's only the sound of their fishing and the nature around them. 

Something happens to you when you're fishing. You can't help but take notice of your surroundings. Mother Nature surrounds you until she's cascading through your awareness. The sun shines bright on your face, the birds sing and chirp and fly overhead, and there's a fresh breeze that passes through your hair. Life passes by so fast - fishing is a way to slow it all down. It's a way to appreciate what's right in front of you, right now.

If you ever lose a fish, learn to accept that. Maybe you'll be frustrated, and maybe you'll get upset, but let that feeling pass. Then pick up your rod and make another cast. And another one. As long as we take good care of our environment, there will always be more fish to catch. 

Try not to hurry, even if you think you should. It rarely helps, and usually makes matters worse. Hurrying is how I ended up with a hook through a finger. I hadn't been catching anything all day long, and then, out of the blue, I had a carp on the line. When I got the fish to shore, I realized that my net was on the other side of the pond. My panicked thinking was that I'd lose the fish if I waited for someone to bring me the net, so I reached down to grab the carp out of the water. BAD IDEA. The carp flailed and flopped (as I should have expected it would) and I got a hook all the way through my finger.

 Where the hook went through my finger.

Where the hook went through my finger.

What should have I done? Secured the fish with the net before trying to pull it out of the water.

Fishing is a wonderful sport and hobby, and for some of us it's a passion. Just remember to take the time to enjoy everything it has to offer. Have patience with it. You're not going to go out there and catch a trophy bass in five minutes of fishing. (Well, you might get lucky and do so, but generally, you are not.) So have fun with it. Get dirty, get your hands wet, be a kid again. Enjoy that sunshine, take in that fresh air, and soak up all that Mother Nature has to offer. But most of all, be patient. After all, it is fishing, and unpredictable is the name of the game.


Inside Tips from an Outsider: Jigging Tips for Panfish Anglers

by Austyn Butler

For most fishermen, the bait of choice is usually minnows and various types of worms while targeting pan fish. For those of us who do not have a bait shop in the area, or the patience to dig our own worms, we are forced to use whatever lures and tackle we have on hand.  For me, I like to use jigs nearly every time I go pan fishing. Over the last 25 years I have noticed that, if presented correctly, you can have just as much success catching fish on artificial baits as on live bait. Many anglers, including myself, feel that jigs are the most versatile and productive of all artificial lures.

Today, I would like to share a few tips that I have learned over the years. I have found these tactics to be very effective when I am out hunting for crappies, bluegill, and perch. Moreover, I will give you my personal guidelines for selecting the right jig color to match the color of the water. Lastly, I will explain the importance of watching your line instead of relying on feel while jig fishing.

Jigs for Success

Don’t be afraid to try different color combinations! Fishing is all about reading what the fish tell you, then your giving them what they want. Yes, I confess - I am formerly guilty of using only two or three colors throughout the year and usually only one style of tube jig and one type of jig head. Basically, if it wasn’t black, white, chartreuse, or a combination of the three, I wanted nothing to do with it. One specific tube and three colors were what I was most confident with when live bait wasn’t available. So, like the old saying goes, I stuck to the “If it isn’t broke, don’t fix it” motto.

Well, that abruptly came to an end when I moved to Northern Illinois. I was quickly introduced to a wide variety of jig heads and jig styles that I would have never thought to use back in the past. Naturally, I was hesitant to explore outside of my normal jig and plastic color spectrum. However, I quickly realized that I was holding myself back from a whole new level of fishing. By broadening my use of different jig sizes, styles, weights, and colors, then matching them to the conditions I was fishing in, I ultimately increased my odds of finding what the fish wanted to eat. I have learned over the past several years just how important it is to have variety in your jig selection, especially when it comes to fishing an unfamiliar body of water.

Whether it is slab crappies, big perch, or bull bluegills that I am targeting, I always bring a variety of colorful grubs, tubes, and minnow relics. As far as sizes go, I prefer using a Lindy 1/32oz Micro Slick Jig tipped with Gulp Waxies for bluegill and perch. You can find them just about anywhere that sells tackle. They are very affordable and come in many different colors.

When it comes to crappie, I like to use a 2 inch, or 2.5 inch (3 inch when fishing deeper, darker water) Mister Twister or similar style curly tail grub. I often experiment with different colors, but nine times out of ten I will catch them on chartreuse and another color, usually pearl with silver flake, red, orange, or white. I also like black/green, solid pink, pink/white, yellow/white, and red/white tube jigs. I use different sized jig heads, usually 1/32oz, 1/16oz, or 1/8oz depending on fishing depth, water current, and weather conditions. You can also experiment with jig head styles and colors, though I usually use round or fish head style in white, green, orange, or pink.

Last but not least, one of my new favorite baits to use in murky or muddy water is The Pro Series Road Runner with gold willow leaf blade and red hook. It is a very versatile lure, as it can be casted, trolled, and jigged. More importantly, the blade is easily seen in muddy water and puts off a vibration that fish can’t resist!

Keep in mind, the lighter the jig you choose, the slower it falls in the water. Using a smaller, lighter jig earlier in the year seems to work a little better for me as it matches the mood of the fish. Once the water warms up, a faster jig presentation should produce more fish.



Recommendations for Selecting Colors

1. Clear water- red, orange, white, green, blue
2. Murky water- pink, yellow, chartreuse, light blue, and black
3. Muddy water- darker color combos and/or Underspin head

Eyes on Your Line

If you are casting or vertical jigging, it is imperative to watch your line the entire time your jig is descending to the bottom. A lot of times the fish will hit the jig as it is falling, so if you aren’t paying attention you could easily lose a fish. You have no idea how many times I’ve had a fish bite my jig without even feeling it hit. In fact, some of the bigger crappies I have caught earlier this year were caught by closely watching my line. You’ll know you have a strike when your slack line has a twitching or jolting action at the surface.

By adding these three simple tactics to your arsenal (jig variety / color matching to water conditions / watching your line), you will easily improve your pan fishing game, improve your confidence in jig selection, and improve the chances of making your next fishing adventure a successful one!

How to Catch More Fish in Over-Pressured Ponds

by Willie Luker

In my entire fishing career, spanning a measly year and a half, I have caught around 200 fish. When I tell people this, they immediately conjure up images of zooming across vast reservoirs in a tracker boat loaded to the gills with the latest technology. However, only one of those fish was caught in a large body of water!

I feel most at home sitting on the shore of public neighborhood lakes, often times the most pressured bodies of water available for miles. Fishing these ponds can be extremely frustrating to beginners and veterans alike, as hours can be spent without a single hint of action. Due to the often minuscule amount of space they have to roam, fish are likely to have seen countless techniques and lures, and are therefore more prone to spook and clam up than their non-stocked brethren holed up in massive impoundments. However, with a bit of luck and a lot of practice, you too can fill the stringer without emptying your gas tank! 

Tip #1: Use the Ned Rig

My first tip is a quite plain, yet often overlooked rig that shines in these heavily fished ponds – the Ned rig. What is a Ned rig? It's when you thread a two to three inch chunk of a worm onto a 1/16th-1/8th oz jig head, similar to how you rig up a grub. Deceptively simple, this combination is deadly effective with easily spooked fish. You can bounce it through the water like a jig, retrieve it like a swim bait, or dead stick it by cover or in shade. Its small profile and slow fall rate are irresistibly similar to the natural movements of minnows that the bass are already used to feeding on. But don't let the bass part fool you; the Ned rig is effective on many species, ranging from sunfish and crappie to striped bass and everything in between. The traditional worm to use is a senko, though I prefer a finesse worm for a thinner silhouette. If you aren't throwing this rig yet, give it a go!

Tip #2: Location, Location, Location...

My next tip has to do with location. With many of these neighborhood ponds, the largest structure the fish have to hide among is the shore of the lake itself, maybe complimented by a pier if you are lucky. If you are used to fishing offshore, this can prove incredibly difficult due to the lack of textbook “fishy” spots to target. Therefore, many people choose to simply chunk their bait as deep as possible and hope. Personally, I have had very limited success doing that, so I've been forced to adapt. Finding where the fish are is actually much easier than it may seem, as the lack of space can play into your favor. For instance, I almost universally start by working a worm through the area closest to where the pond is fed from. The increased oxygen levels in the water cause algal blooms, which provide much needed cover and sustenance for the bait fish. This, in turn, draws the bass in as they search for an easy meal. These inlets can be extremely shallow, but don't be afraid to work them anyway. You might be pleasantly surprised! The next spot I examine is the shadiest spot I can find. I often fish midday due to other obligations, and the Alabama sun can definitely turn the bite off. Bass aren't that different from humans, in that they search for comfort, and will often be found shallow and in the shade. An overhanging tree, the shadow of a building, and even the thin shadow of a support beam provide slightly cooler water, which the bass crave. Thoroughly fishing these areas with a slow, Texas-rigged worm can prove fruitful on even the most scorching of summer days.

Tip #3: Downsize Your Bait

My third tip is one gleaned from watching semi-pro fisherman attempt to score at my home lakes during the off season. In a local pond, the smaller the bait, the better. Sure, throwing a 10 inch ribbon worm or a frog may prove productive some days, but most of the time it's more of a hassle than it's worth. In these tiny pools, bass rarely get the sustenance needed to grow to trophy levels, and rarely get the opportunity for a large meal. They're more used to chasing yearling bluegill than bullfrogs, and are more likely to attack a finesse worm than a senko. You might not catch the largest lunker in the lake, but you're definitely going to catch more than you would should you ignore this crucial information.

The Wrap

All in all, fishing these often overlooked ponds can be a fun way to waste an afternoon or hone a new technique. Don't pass these opportunities up, especially during the off season when making the trek to a larger lake might be uncalled for, or a waste of time and money. Experimentation is key with these types of pools, so don't be fraid to tweak how you do things until the action picks up. You might just hook a big one! 

Good luck, and tight lines!


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Ten Tips for Better Catch & Release

by Joe Mahler

  Illustration copyright   Joe   Mahler 2016

Illustration copyright Joe Mahler 2016

Certainly there is nothing wrong with keeping a few fish for dinner, maybe even putting a few away in the freezer for later. But if you are a skilled angler, you will most always catch more fish than you can use. Practicing good catch-and-release skills is more than just a good idea - it is a responsibility.

Living in Southwest Florida and frequently driving along the causeway and the beach, I see all sorts of mishandling of fish - not that it is intentional, but it represents a lack of understanding of just how fragile even the heartiest of fish really are.

There are a few things that you can do to greatly increase the chances that the fish you just landed will swim away to fight another day.

#1 Fish barbless 

This serves two purposes. First, a barbless hook comes free much easier than a barbed hook, allowing you to get the fish back in the water more quickly. Second, the barbless hook does much less damage to the delicate inside of the fish’s mouth and gills.

While many think that you will lose more fish in a battle using a barbless hook, in most cases, the opposite is true. Studies show that the barbless hook actually penetrates deeper for a solid hook-set. To de-barb your hook, simply take a pair of fishing pliers and gently smash the barb so that it lays flush with the hook wire. Some hooks can be purchased in a barbless model.

#2 Have the camera ready

I know it is an old superstition to not bring out the camera until the fish is in the boat (I was even yelled at by a Keys guide for grabbing the camera bag), but if you plan to take a photo, have the camera ready and turned on while the fish is on the line. Besides, action shots are often more interesting than “Grip and Grins.”   

#3 Practice the “No-Touch” release

This offers the highest level of protection for the fish and is the most effective technique. Leave the fish in the water. Grab the leader and guide the fish to your pliers and pop the hook.


Another tip: If possible, get out of the boat and land the fish while in the water.

The “no-touch” method causes the least amount of stress on the fish and gets him back on his way in no time.

#4 Wet your hands before touching the fish and NEVER use a towel

Most fish (especially seatrout and bonefish) have a delicate protective mucus coating that when removed by dry hands, or even worse a towel, invites infection and signals predators. Dip your hands fully into the water and be sure to remove your sun gloves. Never lay a fish in the sand or concrete.

#5 Land your fish quickly

Once you hook a fish, apply enough pressure to land the fish as soon as possible. During the fight, a fish will experience a lactic acid build-up, and the longer she fights, the more serious it becomes - especially in the warmer months. Once a fished is released, it can take up to 24 hours(!) to recover. During that time, it can become easy prey for sharks, birds, and other predators. Land it fast to give it a fighting chance after you release it.

#6 Use a rubber net bag

Rubber net bags are widely available and much more fish-friendly that the nylon versions. Freshwater trout anglers were quick to champion rubber net bags, and more and more saltwater fishermen are following suit. 

#7 Always have pliers on you

Wear them on your belt, around your neck, in your pocket, or attach them to your boat. Having a pair of pliers or hemostats makes hook removal easier on both the fish and the angler.

#8 Don’t keep the fish out of water any longer than you can hold your breath

Try it, and it will give you a better appreciation of what our finned friends are feeling.

#9 Never lift by the jaw

Some may disagree with me on this, but I never hold a fish by the jaw, and it breaks my heart when I see photos of pro bass anglers hefting a seven-pounder by the jaw. Fish spend their lives in a near zero-gravity condition and simply weren’t intended to be held vertically with undue strain put upon the delicate muscles of the underside.

In the case of large snook, tarpon, and others, lifting a fish by the jaw can PERMANENTLY damage those parts and, even though the fish may swim away, it may no longer be able to eat.

Lift your fish from the water horizontally by holding the jaw and cradling the underbelly.

#10 Revive your fish

It is your responsibility to make sure that the fish you just enjoyed fighting swims away healthy and happy. Hold the fish in the water and gently move her back and forth until she's strong enough to take off on her own.

Follow these tips and you will keep your trophy catches alive and fighting for years to come.