I grew up pounding the lakes and ponds of New Jersey for largemouth. By watching Bill Dance on T.V. and passing a ton of time on water, I learned a thing or two about bass fishing, but there’s no comparison to spending a few days on a boat with a pro. And on a trip to Mississippi with Cabela’s last fall, that’s exactly what I got to do. We fished Pickwick Lake with legendary angler and guide Roger Stegall. Few people know Pickwick better than Stegall does. He taught me about the lake and the fishery, and I picked up a few bass-fishing tricks from him, too.
We didn’t catch the giants Pickwick is famous for, but every day we put up sizes and numbers that would’ve been unheard of back home. On two of the three days we fished, the bass were only lightly hitting, forcing us to use finesse tactics and Texas-rigged worms. Fortunately, Roger gave me pointers on getting better hooksets. Here are four of his strategies that’ll help you do the same.
1. Don’t Slack
One of the biggest mistakes when setting hooks on bass is not picking up the extra line. When you detect a hit or see your line moving, be sure to reel down, eliminate the slack, and feel the weight of the fish before you swing. Early hooksets can cost you.
2. Stay Sharp
Even the sharpest hooks can benefit from a few swipes from a quality file. Sharpening your hooks becomes even more important after freeing a snag or when fishing around rocks and structure. A needle-sharp hook will stick in a fish’s mouth with the lightest pressure, giving you more time and a better chance to firmly plant it.
3. Line Up
Thanks to constantly improving technology in super-lines and fluorocarbon, anglers have an extra advantage for increasing their hook-up ratios. These lines have considerably less stretch than regular monofilament does, and many have no stretch at all. Without the extra give in the line, less power is lost from your rod to the hook you’re trying to stick.
4. Leave the Lead at Home
Lead weights are as old as fishing itself, but switching to tungsten weights for Texas-rigging has clear advantages. Lead is soft and bass can grip it with their mouths, preventing solid hooksets. Tungsten is much harder than lead is, causing it to slip through fishes’ teeth, upping the odds that your hook will find a home. (See the above video for more on that.)