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Dock Talk: Hook, line, no sinker are keys to success

Circle hooks are designed to find their way into the corner of a fishes mouth, despite its odd-shaped point. However, the angler should gradually tighten their line, instead of jerking hard, once a fish bites. (Jason Durham / For the Enterprise)

"Set the hook!" Most anglers can recall someone emphatically shouting these words as a bite from one species or another bounces, shakes or bends a rod tip.

Personally I like to set the hook hard, as if I'm swinging a baseball bat in reverse. Yet not everyone yanks the fishing rod with the same fervor.

I've noticed that some people simply don't jerk once a fish bites. Maybe it's because they've never been taught to do so, their reaction is delayed or more likely that in many situations you really can catch fish without "crossing their eyes".

I've accompanied many anglers on excursions in which I never saw a firm hook-set. And I've watched in awe as the fish that should've gotten away - didn't.

In reality, once a fish takes that bait and the angler begins to rapidly spin the reel handle, the hook often buries itself into a holding position. I think about all the times a hook point has stuck into my fingers while carefully digging into my tackle box. It really doesn't take much.

And in some cases, setting the hook can actually decrease the number of fish you catch.

I often receive questions pertaining to braided line, one of the hottest innovations in the fishing scene in the past ten years. Think about it; the line has a smaller diameter compared to the same strength of monofilament and it's extremely sensitive due to minimal stretching, taking the guesswork out of feeling bites.

However, because of its low-stretch feature, moving the rod tip three feet during a hook-set also moves the hook three feet. If a large fish has just engulfed your hook, you might move the fish three feet. That is, if something doesn't break first. Even high quality hooks can fracture under that level of strain, not to mention fishing poles themselves.

Now I'm definitely not saying braided line is bad because it does have some positive attributes. But you might need to use a rod with slightly more flexibility or set the hook with a quick snap of the wrist versus a walloping roundhouse.

Yet I know some bass anglers who love braided line, even though they use stiff rods and hard hook-sets to haul big bass through thick vegetation.

Another small, yet influential item on a hook-set is the use of circle hooks.

Originally designed for saltwater use, circle hooks look much like a normal livebait hook, but the point angles sharply back toward the shank. At first glance, it appears as if it couldn't hook anything, especially a fish.

In reality, circle hooks reduce the number of deeply hooked fish. The philosophy is that the hook finds its way into the corner of the fish's mouth almost every time. However, this is accomplished my gently tightening the line after a bite.

So my advice to you is this; do what works. If you have a certain technique for setting the hook, or not, and the fish find their way into the net, stick with it.