Successful Surface Hooksets
This article is about getting back to basics with topwater
baits...how to improve yout hooksetting ratio with topwaters. So,
without further ado, here's a good one by Ronnie....
by Ronnie Pettit
WHAM! There he is! Did you see
that?! BLAM! There he is again! Rats! He missed it! What are you
going to do? KERSPLASH! Whoa! He's not on yet! The raw excitement
of that moment will make even the most seasoned fishermen a
nervous wreck if he is not prepared for it.
Unquestionably, the top water strike is the most intense
adrenaline surge in fishing. To anglers, that top water surface
explosion equals skydiving, drag racing, and crocodile wrestling
- all compressed into a split second.
It's an intense moment. The angler
who can confidently pop or walk his favorite topwater lure can
fully expect to see mad bass suddenly explode on his bait with
malice. As the moments go by, the angler's anticipation builds.
He watches his lure intensely as it splash through choice
cover...anticipating it...and then, KA-BLAM! It still comes as a
surprise. The adrenaline pumps through his veins as a thousand
thoughts collide in his mind. In an instant, he overreacts the
only way his startled mind and body can. He drills a lightning
fast hookset followed by a lure sailing through the air back at
the angler without a fish attached. This is the way anglers react
- and the poor results they get so many times. They simply react
so fast that the fish never gets to grab the bait, and if they do
it is likely to be ripped out. But that's not what necessarily
needs to happen...
I'd like to tell you about successful surface hooksetting
techiques that I have discovered through my own passion for top
water fishing. Ways in which I consistently hook and land
topwater bass. My views on this may not fit with the current
school of thought - but it's what my personal experiences with
topwaters have taught me. I'd like to teach you about it too. But
first, I would like to change your mind. Please read on...
First, change your mental picture.
I know some anglers that rarely ever connect on a top water.
Their problem is the mental image they have of topwater fishing.
Their thinking is "Blast back when a bass blasts you."
It's not their fault. It's the way they've been taught. It's the
current school of thought.
Therefore, I believe the major barrier to successful top water
hooksets is mental. If you can change the mental images and
thoughts you currently have about topwater fishing, then you will
start to hook and land more fish.
I can change your mental image and improve your topwater
success with just one word. CRANKBAIT. That's it. Change your
mental image of that top water lure to a crankbait - it will
improve your hooksets. I promise.
Stay with me, I’ll explain. Many anglers have come to
believe that when fish blow up on a top water lure the only
proper thing to do is to respond with a hookset of equal
violence. Some of us just can’t help ourselves. That lightning
fast jerk is just the natural thing to do. Some are caught by
surprise by the explosion, while others feel as though they must
set that hook fast before the fish spits out the bait.
I say to resist the impulse of making that reflex hookset.
Think about that crankbait. With crankbaits, we now use rods that
have softer actions that actually cushions the hookset. Think
about that. We use a rod that, among other things, is designed to
prevent the angler from tearing the lure away from the fish by
pulling too hard. This takes place how many feet under the
surface under how many gallons of water? With today’s ultra
sharp treble hooks all that is really needed to hook a fish on an
exposed treble is steady pressure. Save the superman hookset for
worm or jig fishing. In your mind, treat that top water lure much
the way you would a crankbait you will improve your hookups.
Second, change your technique.
Plan ahead. Know in your mind how you are going to respond to
that BA-BAM! Convince yourself that the violent splashing on top
of your lure is your starting cue to begin. The fish trying to
eat your offering is saying “hello” not “goodbye.”
Wait. Wait. Wait. It has to be the
hardest thing in fishing to do but learn it. Get beyond the
impulse to jerk that rod. Fishing at night is a good way to help
improve your waiting and force yourself to wait to feel that fish
before you set the hook. In fact, even at times during daylight
hours I will fish several casts with my eyes closed. It teaches
me to learn the feel of my bait working through the water. I do
not have to see it to know if it is working properly. It also
forces me to feel a fish before I can set the hook. A fish could
be all over the bait but until he grabs it I keep it working.
Learning to work your top waters with your eyes closed will also
make you much more comfortable the next time you are night
Wait until you feel the pull of that fish or at least until
you see your line moving to set the hook. Seeing the bait knocked
under is not enough. If your bait is bashed under the surface,
but you still do not feel that fish, do not set the hook - just
pull enough to determine if he is there. In this way, you can
continue working the bait and have a good chance of hooking up.
But if you made a full-blown hookset, all you've accomplished is
to move the bait far away from the fish and your chances of
casting back in and catching that fish go way down. Just last
week I had a fish pull my bait about two feet under the surface.
I was amazed that he was not hooked. Without panic, knowing the
fish was there, I began “walking the dog” under water! Not
only did I catch a fish but a bigger fish than the one that
When you feel that fish, your response should be methodical
and controlled, not wild and crazy. I believe that the best
hookset movement is to the side at about waist to chest high.
Science tells us that a rod held in a high position is at its
weakest point of leverage. Another reason for a low hookset is
the ability to control the fish. Many times a largemouth hooked
on a top water lure will jump almost instantly. By setting the
hook to the side and at a low to medium height it is much easier
to keep that fish down. Fishing heavy cover may change that
scenario, however always try to maintain constant pressure on the
fish. With the amazingly sharp hooks we have available today,
constant pressure is all that is needed. In most every case, when
a fish grabs your lure he is hooked. All we have to do is get him
to the boat. When that fish hits and you feel him simply bring
your rod slightly up and to the side almost as you would with a
carolina rig or crankbait and meet him half way. If that fish has
your lure in his mouth he has turned and headed back for the
dinning room. Plan ahead. Know in advance that when you feel him
you are methodically going to bring your rod up and to the side
and apply hard, steady pressure while reeling. Practice until it
becomes instinct. Then the only thing you'll have to worry about
is where the net is.
- Change your mindset. Treat your top water lures like you do
your crankbaits - Set your hooks gentle but firm.
- Don't blast back. Resist the natural reflex action to set the
hook based on the visual stimuli- BLAM!
- It will still be a surprise but stay in control. Wait until
you feel the fish - if you don't feel him, just keep working the
bait - expect to get blasted again.
- Rod to one side - bring it up slightly to meet him halfway
while reeling to apply pressure - like you do with your
- Know in advance how you will react - set the hook in a
controlled manner - put yourself in a position to control the
fish - expect it to jump immediately
Take some of these techniques that I have discovered, practice
them, and combine them with your own experience and develop your
own style. There is not just one correct way.