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How to Set the Hook

Learning to properly set the hook is an important skill that every angler should learn. With the proper technique, you will dramatically increase your odds of getting the fish to the boat.

The more line you have out the more power it will require to drive the hook into the fish’s mouth.

5 Steps to a Proper Hook Set

  1. Eliminate Slack Line
    • Slackline is loose line between the rod tip and the fishing lure. Slackline lowers the amount of power you can produce and it can cause the bait to pop out of fish’s mouth. To get a consistent hookup you need to eliminate the slackline before setting the hook. Do this by reeling in line until it is tight before setting the hook. Less slack = better hookset.
  2. Square Your Body to the Fish
    • Before setting the hook you want your body and rod tip to point toward the fish. This position allows you to produce the maximum amount of power for the hookset. If you get a bite while you are not in the correct position, quickly adjust to the proper position while you reel up the slack.
  3. Transfer Your Weight
    • Once your body is square to the fish and you have eliminated any slack line you can begin transferring your weight from your front foot to your back foot. Your back foot should match the side of your body that you are setting the hook on. If you a setting the hook on the right side then your right foot should be your back foot. This weight transfer away from the fish will help generate a lot more power.
  4. Turn Hips and Shoulders
    • As you transfer your weight to your back foot you also want to turn your hips and open your shoulders. By the end of your hookset your weight will be on your back foot and your shoulders and hips will be pointing away from the fish. This weight transfer and body turn will generate the majority of your power. This turn is very similar to a golf or tennis swing.
  5. Keep Elbows Tight
    • The final step is keeping your elbows tight to your body. Many beginners make this mistake by using mostly their arms to set the hook. Your arms generate very little power. Your biceps and elbows should have very little movement and should be locked to your side. Your forearms should start low out in front of you and end high up against your chest. Again this is very similar to a golf swing where your arms give very little power compared to your weight transfer from your hip and should turn.

Practicing these 5 key steps will greatly improve your hooksets and allow you to get a lot more fish in the boat. Over time you will become much better at doing each step in sync.

When to Set the Hook

Learning when to set the hook and how long should you wait before setting the hook is a vital skill you develop over time. Most anglers set the hook way too soon. It is one of the most common mistakes anglers make. The key to knowing when to set the hook is being prepared for the strike. You have to have the disipline to stay focused every cast and be ready for a bite.

If you arent expecting a strike you will always be surprised by it and try to set the hook instantly. This will lead to many missed fish.

When to Set the Hook on Topwater

When fishing topwater lures you need to wait 1-2 seconds after the strike before setting the hook. This will allow the fish enough time to get the entire bait in their mouth and start to move with it. You will have a much better oppertunity to get a solid hookup in this senerio.

When to Set the Hook on Moving Baits

The biggest mistake anglers make when fishing crankbaits, jerkbaits, spinnerbaits and other moving baits is setting the too hard. You have to resist the urge to aggressivly set the hook when you get a bite. Instead start your hookset as soon as you feel a bite by continuing to reel and slowly pull the rod back. This will allow you to apply even pressure while driving the hook into their mouths.

When to Set the Hook on Slow Bottom Contact Baits

When fishing jigs, texas rigs, carolina rigs, or any bottom contact bait it is important to slow down your hookset. On bottom contact baits allow the fish to move 1-2ft with the bait in their mouths before setting the hook. This will ensure the fish has had time to get the whole bait in their mouth and allow you to get a solid hookset. This extra time also gives you time to get your rod in proper hook setting postion.

How Much Power to Use When Setting the Hook

Now that you have the mechanics down let’s talk about how to adjust power based on each situation. When fishing there are a few things to consider when determining how much force you need to set the hook:

  1. Amount of line out – The amount of line you have out plays a role in how much power is required to set the hook. The further away your bait is the more power you will need.
  2.  Type of line – The type of line you are using also matters. Lines like monofilament and fluorocarbon that stretch will absorb some of your power as it stretches. On the other hand, braided line has almost no stretch so it transfers power much more effectively and won’t require as much.
  3. Type of hook and its thickness – Stought jig hooks will require more force to penetrate a fish’s mouth than a light wire treble hook.
  4. Rod length and power – The longer and heavier action a rod is the more power it will transfer when setting the hook.

Setting the Hook on Treble Hook Baits

The key to setting the hook on treble hook baits is not to use as much force. Treble hooks are often thinner wire which makes them easier to bend out. Because of this, you cant use as much force when setting the hook as you would on a thicker single hook bait. Setting the hook too hard on the thinner wire can also tear a hole in the fish’s mouth which makes it much easier for the hook to slip out if the fish jumps.

This is also why experienced anglers use specialized rods when fishing treble hooked baits. Rods designed for treble hook baits have more bend in them so the rod can absorb some of the power when you set the hook as well as keep the hook pinned while fighting the fish in.

Setting the Hook on Jig

When fishing a jig you want to set the hook as soon as you detect a bite. To set a jig hook start by reeling in any slack line. Once the line is tight begin to transfer your weight from your front foot to your back foot and turn your body away from the bite. The thicker the hook or further away your baits is the more force you will need to drive the hook in the fish’s mouth.

Common Mistakes Beginners Make When Setting the Hook

A lot of new anglers will lower their rod tip before quickly transferring their weight and turning their body. They see pros and experienced anglers do this but they are missing a very vital step that they don’t notice pros do. When experienced anglers drop their rod tip they are also reeling in the slackline as they move to the proper positioning. By not reeling in any slack line beginners lose most of their power which results in a poor hook set.

You want to set the hook as soon as you feel a bite. If you struggle to feel the difference between a bite and the lure hitting cover or getting hung up then check out our in-depth guide on how to detect bites.

Once you get a good hookset it’s time to reel in, read our guide on fighting in fish to learn more.

Published: 2-23-2021

Last Updated: 9-18-2021