Hook-sets: The moment of truth
Too often today's anglers, whether it's walleye and perch fishermen, or even panfish chasers, feel fish bite lightly so they deliver a light hook-set.
With crappies and bluegills especially, they think a hard hookset will tear the hook right through the "paper mouth" of these fish. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Anglers need to get in the habit of stronger hooksets. A hook-set does two things: One, it aligns the hook in position to pierce the mouth of a fish, and two, it drives that hook into that tissue.
I see guys all the time not setting the hook firmly, so it immediately misdirects that hook alignment underwater. The round portion of the hook just bounces off the mouth of the fish. Last week I saw two guys sunfishing merely raise their rod tips in feeble hooksets. They repeatedly missed fish because they were violating a simple rule of fishing we learn when we are kids!
New, soft-tipped, fast-taper rods are awesome pieces of technology for detecting bites. Those tips (plus spring bobbers); however, consume extra hooking energy, so you have to compensate with stronger hook-sets.
I see this phenomenon with light-biting walleyes – a species that demands a stiff hookset under all conditions.
As you might expect, here's a great reason to keep your hooks sharp! If you're still missing fish, take a pair of pliers and widen the hook gap. Another possibility is that you're using too big of a hook, so consider downsizing. And though that's our natural inclination (to downsize), plenty of times I've seen guys fail to hook larger fish because their hook is too small.
Your electronics should help you determine the size of fish and whether your hook size is appropriate.