LAKE HARTWELL, S.C. — With $300,000 first place prize on the line, 51 anglers in the Geico Bassmaster Classic presented by Dick’s Sporting Goods will be using many different lures to catch a limit of bass. And each angler will be praying and hoping not a single bass will get away. However, there are always a few that escape.
Landing a fish after it’s hooked is not always a done deal. Anglers, whether pro or novice, lose fish. But why?
After losing a good fish, have you ever considered what may have caused it? Even with a set of treble hooks, fish find a way to escape. In some cases, it may be the angler’s fault, or it just happens.
Let’s look at some reasons why anglers lose fish and how to fix it.
One of the keys to prevent losing a fish is to get a good hook-set. Deep penetration of the hook will help prevent the fish from throwing the lure. Quality tackle designed for the lure and fishing conditions are also important.
For most anglers, the days of using only one or two rods are behind them. Today, it seems there is a rod action for almost every lure made. However, anglers do not need to break the bank to have a hundred rods on the front deck of their boat.
“Using the right type of rod for the lure you are fishing is critical for a good hook up with a fish,” said, B.A.S.S. Elite pro and Classic angler Steve Kennedy of Auburn. “A softer rod for lures with treble hooks and a heavy rod for jigs.”
Kennedy expands on the thought that a softer rod is less likely to rip the hooks out of the fish’s jaw. And when fishing with bass jigs, you need a heavy rod to drive home the thick shanked hook.
Fishing line is also another factor that can affect landing a fish. Monofilament line has some stretch, and this can be a plus and a minus. The line stretch can be up to around 20 percent depending on brand and pound-test. With the line stretching, there may not be enough energy at the lure end to get sufficient hook penetration.
On the other hand, the line stretch can soften the amount of force applied during an over powered hook-set by an angler. Also, the line can stretch during a strong run by a fish and act like the reel drag. This can help prevent the hook from ripping out of the fish’s mouth.
Fluorocarbons line has minimal stretch and is tougher than mono. Fluro does provide better feel for strikes. These factors are something to consider when fishing certain lures like soft-plastic baits with a single hook.
Braided line too has almost zero stretch and power hook sets can pull the lure away from the fish. But, then again, the zero stretch transfers a lot of force to the hook.
The hook or hooks themselves can also be a factor in keep a fish from coming unbuttoned. Many pro anglers make certain their hooks are razor sharp. Some anglers replace the factory hooks on lures like crankbaits. The replacement trebles are generally a larger size.
“I will change out the hook on my crankbaits to Gamakatsu hooks,” Kennedy said. “On the back of the lure I’ll go to a larger hook size than the original.”
Kennedy said sometimes swapping out hooks and changing upping the size can be a tradeoff. The hooks can tangle during casting, resulting in a wasted cast. Also, the larger hooks can affect the action of the lure from the original design performance.
Anglers will want to experiment with different hook brands, styles and sizes on their favorite lures too determine which performs the best.
In many situations in which a fish escapes, fault can be put on the angler. As we mentioned above, too heavy or too soft of a hook-set can hurt as well. Some balance and consideration of conditions with lure type and size should be applied. Fish species is another factor to consider. Bass required a little more power in setting the hook than a crappie or bream.
A side-swing type of hook-set when using a crankbait can result in better connection with the fish and hook. A short hesitation can result in the fish getting the lure deeper inside its mouth. A power-stroke hook-set can pull the lure out of the fish’s mouth or rip the hooks through the jaw.
Another reason anglers lose fish is allowing slack to come into the line after connecting with the fish. Line stretch, too soft of a rod action and slow gear ratio reels can contribute to putting slack in the line.
“Always keep steady pressure on the line. Never give the fish any slack,” said Kennedy. “Don’t put too much pressure on the line and pull the hooks.”
Sometimes fish will jump, and this will allow slack in the line. One method bass angles use is to put the rod in the water to try to force the fish down and prevent jumps. A jumping bass with a strong head shake has freed many lure and broken many angler’s heart.
Kennedy also says anglers can sometimes get excited and, in a hurry, to land a fish. This amplifies many factors and works in the fish’s favor in escaping. Slack line, extra pressure and laws of physics can come into play. Excitement is a natural reaction, especially when a big one is hooked. But, that’s why we fish for the excitement of the catch.
With any large fish the odds of landing that is fish is greater if an angler takes time during the fight. Kennedy stated he learned a lot from pro angler Davis Fritts of North Carolina, by watching him walk a fish around the boat a couple of times before trying to land it.
There are other factors that result in anglers losing fish — improperly tied knots, failure to re-tie a lure after catching a fish and trying land a fish to soon. Grabbing the line instead of the fish can result in a broken line or pulling the hooks from the fish’s jaw.
Many pro anglers will re-tie their bait after catching a fish. The stress on the knot and line can cause both to weaken. If a fish is hooked deep, the small sandpaper teeth in the top of the fish’s mouth can fray the line above the knot. The exception would be if braided line is being used.
One way to minimize losing fish near the boat is to use a landing net. The person with the net should place the opening of the net in front of or under the fighting fish. However, a landing net is not a 100 percent guarantee of preventing a lost fish.
Even if anglers take every precaution in playing the fish, using quality hooks and the proper tackle, fish can still escape. And the one that got away, always makes for an interesting fish tale.
Charles Johnson is the Star’s outdoor editor. You can reach Charles at firstname.lastname@example.org.