Ever try to push a nail into a board with a hammer? It’s a lot easier to swing the hammer, and let momentum do the work for you. Same with setting the hook into the jaw of a fish.
Unless you’re using one of those confounded circle hooks, what sets a hook the easiest is hook point speed.
So called “sweep sets” are not nearly as effective. A slow hook set motion is the equivalent of trying to push a nail into a board. Hook point speed — directly equatable to rod tip speed — needs to have some power backing it up, but brute force without the speed to ‘snap’ the hook through cartilage, doesn’t get the job done nearly as reliably.
Here’s my simple, effective ‘powersnap’ method for setting the hook with jigs, plastic worms, soft stickbaits, and any presentation that the fish usually hit on a slack line or while the lure is either sitting or falling.
- Immediately upon sensing a hit, I start to move the rod into what I consider hookset position — arms extended in front of me, rod tip pointed about 20 degrees off a straight line to the fish. The key is to do this without changing the amount of tension on the line. If I sensed the hit with a little tension on the line, I try to maintain that same amount of tension by reeling at just the right pace as as I drop the rod tip and extend my arms toward the fish. On the other hand, if the line was slack when I sensed the bite, I leave it slack, reeling only fast enough to take up any additional slack I’m creating by dropping the rod tip.
- As soon as my arms are extended, and just before the line comes taut if I”m reeling up the slack, I do the following, in one fluid motion:
- Snap my wrists upward.
- Pull my arms toward my chest
The rod tip speed comes from the wrist snap. You can move your wrists a lot faster than your arms (or in the case of old-time, brute force style hook setters, your back). The power comes from pulling your forearms arms into your chest. When executed properly, you should end up with your forearms against your chest and the rod fully loaded, extended upward above your ‘off’ shoulder (right shoulder if the rod’s in your left hand, left shoulder if the rod’s in your right hand)
I use basically the same motion with a flipping stick and heavy braid as I do with a light spinning rod and 6 pound fluoro. With 10# test or less, I keep the drag set to grudgingly give a hair if I set into an immovable object. With heavier line, I keep it tight.
It should be noted that my drag settings are predicated on my use of back-reeling or freelining to allow a fish to take line when it needs to. See my tip on fighting a fish by keeping control in your hands for details.
With a soft stick bait (EG, Slug-Go®, Fin-S Fish® or Super FLuke) I work the lure with the rod tip held down and off to the side, so I’m actually ‘raising’ it to get into the intermediate position (arms extended, rod tip pointed toward fish) rather than dropping it, but everything else is precisely the same.
With some modification, I use the same motion for setting a spinnerbait hook. The difference here, is that I usually fish a spinnerbait with the rod almost in that intermediate position, and I’m most often actually reeling when the fish hits the bait. So it’s just an almost immediate ‘powersnap’ move, as described in step 2, above. With a buzzbait or other single hook topwater like a Salad SpoonTM, I’m generally fishing with the rod tip up, and when I get a hit, I keep reeling as I let the fish pull the rod-tip down and extend my arms into the ‘intermediate’ position, then “powersnap” ’em.