Today's tip is one that is designed to increased your percentage of bass landed after the hook set. If you are a tournament angler or trophy bass hunter this tip is important because landed bass or missed bass can make the difference between a tournament win or trophy catch of a lifetime.
Wherever you live more than likely, you have been taught to keep the rod down especially for anglers that predominantly fish for smallmouth bass to keep them from jumping. Unfortunately, what has been passed down from generation to generation has been inaccurate with no ability to prove that it works. Like most of my tips I will emphasize the understanding of physics and the use of our senses to help determine the correct choice for the best outcome.
From my observations of clients there is a strong belief that keeping the rod tip down can prevent a bass from jumping, but the reality is nothing can keep a bass from coming to the surface. Bass use the path of least resistance to determine what response is best once they have been hooked so you don't have to have a physics degree to know that if we are pulling down, the easiest path for them is up. This is true whether you are in deep water or shallow water but shallow water fish have less of a choice so they are more inclined to seek the surface. Smallmouth bass are nomadic type bass that leads to them being a stronger fish with more endurance than a largemouth meaning surface jumping to attempt to shake a hook is always a possibility.
So, if pulling down isn't the best option, what is? First, lets start at the hook set and what you can do immediately after. Once you set the hook the most important thing you can do is hold there for a second and feel what direction the fish is headed, the size of the fish and consider any obstacles that might be in the way. I would call this assessing the situation and it allows time to slow things down and make correct decisions and adjustments to what the bass is doing. The other benefit to taking that second is calming yourself down and in turn not begin to reel too fast or horse the fish into the boat. I can't begin to tell you how many clients I have shown that when you stop yanking the fish to the boat they actually calm down and will swim towards the boat rather than fight for their lives. It's why clients sometimes call me the "Fish Whisperer".
How I found out that a fish will follow like a dog on a leash was while I was fishing a lake here at home in about 16 feet of water. I had pulled up some line during a cast and felt it would be a good idea to get it out of the lake. As I pulled on the line I felt a slight tug and new there was a fish on. As I slowly pulled up the line I could see it was a big bass. It swam almost all the way to the surface only trying to swim away at the last minute as I began to lip it. From that moment on I knew bringing fish to the boat became more of a process of staying in the moment and not getting carried away.
Now, as I said earlier bass will attempt to surface regardless of what angle you pull. The benefit of keeping the rod up is having the ability to see the line and as it begins to go horizontal, you can bring the rod down and pull the fish back into the water forcing it to swim. Then bring the rod tip back up to once again have visibility on the line. This is the action/response that should happen between the angler and fish once hooked. The fish will make a choice and it is up to us to respond accordingly. Just remember there is always more than one option to the action.
One last thought. It is always good to consider what we lose by keeping the rod tip down and what is gained from keeping it up. The first thing we lose when holding the rod tip down is our ability to see the line and one of our senses, vision. If you are setting the hook upward, by going down with the rod, you immediately take away line sight. Being able to see the line tells us what direction the fish is going and allows the opportunity to make adjustments to what they are doing.
Getting a bass to bite your lure in my opinion is the hardest part of catching them. After learning that once on the hook my response and actions to what the fish is doing will be the ultimate factor in whether or not I end up holding them has meant more catching and less fishing. Give it a try and hopefully you will too.
Thanks for reading,
Owner - Florida Bass Adventures Guide Service