There is nothing more frustrating than getting a bite, setting the hook, and losing the fish as you reel it in. Once is definitely frustrating, twice is aggravating, and anything more than that is a clue that something isn’t right with your setup. The problem then becomes how to figure out what the issue is.
Here are five common issues that anglers face when losing fish.
1. Dull/Bent Hooks: The first thing any angler should check when losing fish is their hooks. Are your hooks dull or bent in an odd direction? If they are bent, try gently bending them back into shape. If they are dull, you can try to sharpen them (if you know how) but replacing them is usually the best option.
2. Fall Rate/Lure Speed: If using a jig, is the jig falling too fast for the fish to strike it properly? Try using a lighter jig head to keep it up in the water column longer. This principle can also be used for jerkbaits, swimbaits, spoons, etc. If you are reeling the bait too fast for the fish to strike it properly, then try slowing down your retrieve or even stopping the entire bait from time to time. Often times this slight pause or even full stop will help the fish key in on the bait and strike it properly, getting a much better hookup.
3. Drag Settings: Is your drag set too tight or too loose? If your drag is set too tight, this can cause the fighting fish to pull the hook out of its mouth as you reel/”horse” it in. If your drag is too loose, then you won’t be able to get proper tension on the fish, and it could cause the hook to come out.
4. Setting The Hook: Some anglers struggle with setting the hook, and that’s ok! If setting the hook is something you struggle with, then be sure to use hooks that don’t require a Bassmaster Classic level hookset. Hooks like Trokars are designed to be set using the pressure set method. When you set the hook, all you need to do is pull back on your rod and start reeling. This technique drives the hook point into the fish while the hook penetrates and securely holds the fish. Conversely, if you are prone to heavy hooksets, hook points like a Trokar may not be the right tool for you because they can slice bigger holes into the fish with a heavy hookset, and the larger hole may cause you to lose the fish as you reel lit in.
5. Oversized Baits: Some days, you may be getting bite after bite but not hooking up or losing them as you reel in, and this can be an issue with your bait size. You may have the color spot on, but fish like trout can be finicky and want a smaller bait presentation. Try pairing down the size of your bait but sticking with the same color pattern if possible. Having similar colors but different-sized (and weighted) baits in your tackle box is a must.
We highly recommend going through your tackle as we all prepare for the upcoming ice season. Check your hooks. Do they need to be replaced? Are you using the proper hooks for your hookset style? Do you have multiple weights and bait sizes in your tackle box? All of these small tweaks can take your next fishing adventure from frustrating to outstanding!