Once you have hooked a bass all the questions are answered, all the thought process that went into finding a bass catching pattern have paid off. You feel like you are on top of the world as you are fighting that bass. All of the sudden your line breaks or your knot comes undone; maybe that bass jumps and throws the hook back at you. Now you are back to the drawing board, trying to come up with a game plan to hook that next bass.
Why let all that work and excitement end in disappointment. Once you figure out how to get a bass to strike, there are still many things that can go wrong. Of all the things in bass fishing, there is one thing you have complete control over, that is your tackle. You can’t control the weather or the current flow from the dam; you can’t control other fisherman or water conditions, but you can control your tackle. You can make sure your tackle is in top, working order!
There are many things you can do to make sure that a hooked bass ends up in your weigh in-bag, or posing for a photo. I have learned quite a few things in my bass fishing years that will help make sure once I’ve convinced a bass to strike, I’m confident that bass will end up in the boat.
First is my hooks. It doesn’t matter if it is a crank bait, top water, jig or worm hook check them often for sharpness. Through use hooks get dull; beating them off of objects, getting them hung up, or even after catching a few bass your hooks will dull. This will equal less or no penetration when you set the hook; in turn the first time that bass jumps and shakes its head your bait is going to go flying. After every snag, after every fish, and periodically throughout the day check the sharpness of your hooks. I like to drag the hook point over the surface of my fingernail if it sticks then I am good, but if it drags across and only leaves a scratch without sticking then I like to hit it with a sharpener. You can use the battery operated ones from your local tackle store, or like me, use a pen file that I keep in the top of my tackle box; just a few seconds and I am back in business.
The next thing you have complete control over is your rods. Check them every trip make sure that the reel seat is still tight, and check the eyelets for burs. I have seen way to often someone lose a good fish because there was a burr or crack in one of the eyelets of their rod. This will break your line faster than you can set the hook.
Talking about line? Periodically check your line for nicks and fraying. I like to check the first couple feet from the bait; after every encounter with a bush or rock pile and again after every fish I catch. No matter how big or small I always check my line after I catch a fish. Even a small bass has teeth, and they are very hard on fishing line. As you fight a bass, it is jumping around, your line can be damaged by the fins. So no matter how big the fish is always check your line, the next fish may be a trophy of a lifetime and you don’t want to lose her because of a nick!
Your Knot. Always start the day with a fresh knot. I like to sit in the boat the night before I go fishing and retie all my baits, this is a very relaxed time and I am not in a hurry so I can make sure every knot is perfect. If you wait until you get on the water, you will likely rush because of the excitement of fishing and settle for a knot that didn’t quite tightened up right. Always take your time when retying. If everything is perfect, your knot will always be the weakest of all links, which is just the nature of the beast. Fishing line will cut into its self when you cinch the knot down and create a weak spot. I like to add a little saliva to my line before I cinch the knot tight. This gives it some lubrication and prevents damage as you pull it tight. If after you pull your knot tight, you see twisting above the knot, you need to cut it off and retie. That twist means there was excessive friction when you pulled it tight, and your line will be very weak at this point.
Terminal Tackle. Take a few minutes before each trip and make sure your terminal tackle is working properly. Check split rings and make sure they are not sprung and loose, check bullet weights (especially lead) for nicks or burs in the openings. You also should check your baits for cracks or chipping paint and repair as needed.
Finally, make sure you take care of your reels. There is nothing that will ruin a great fishing trip faster than a reel that malfunctions, especially when it happens during a fight with a large bass. Before each trip, make sure the drag is working properly and set correctly for your line weight. Check the line guide for any damage that might hurt your line. Make sure your reel handle and reel seat are tight and working properly. I highly recommend that you have your reels cleaned at least twice a year, whether you clean them or pay to have someone do it. If you have never cleaned your own reel, you can save a lot of money by first investing in the reel cleaning video that Connie Kilpatrick put together. Check out the Ultimate Bass Forum for more information and to read what others have had to say about this video. Http://ultimatebass.com/lbf/index.php/board,244.0.html
Don’t let a malfunction or a condition that you have control over ruin your bass fishing trip; with just a few minutes before every trip you can make sure that if you come home empty handed you can blame it on uncontrollable conditions. Don’t lose the fish of a lifetime because of something you could have prevented. After reading this article, I am sure you can think of a few more things that you can control, take the time to stay on top of it and you can be confident that when you set the hook, that bass is getting in the boat!
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