Barbs and Backlashes

Little things make a huge difference by Nebraska Game and Parks Commission
November 17, 2009, 5:29 pm
Filed under: Fishing | Tags: ,

Attention to details can make a difference in just about anything a person does.  I know fishing is something we do for rest and relaxation, but if you are serious about catching fish, and I am, you will learn that little things make a huge difference.  Let me mention a couple of examples.

Stop and think for a minute, after you have figured out where the fish are, after you have figured out how to get them to bite, two of the most important things to “close the deal” and dry those fish off are hooks and knots.

Hooks. Let me make a point (pardon the pun)  in a negative fashion–if you are using hooks whether they are plain hooks or hooks on artificial baits, without giving any thought to the quality of those hooks and their sharpness, you are losing fish.  When it comes to hook quality, you very much get what you pay for.  There are a ton of hook options on the market today and some of them cost more than others, but the extra expense usually means those are better quality and sharper hooks.

Regardless of how much money I spent or the reputation of the hooks or lures that I buy, I am checking every hook as soon as I take it out of the package.  In today’s market you will be able to purchase some artificial baits and hooks that are ready to go as soon as you take them out of their packaging.  They might cost more, but they are worth it.  But, many other hooks will need sharpening and I prefer to initially sharpen those hooks before they ever go into my tackle box.

Yes, I even sharpen treble hooks, and yes, it takes some time to sharpen every single hook on a lure that has 3 sets of treble hooks.  When it comes to treble hooks I make a judgment call; if they are quality hooks and only need some touching-up, I will go ahead and sharpen them.  If the treble hooks need upgrading, then I replace them.  Yes, I have taken brand new artificial lures right out of the box and replaced every treble hook.

Sharp hooks are probably most critical when the hooks are large.  It takes more force to “set” a large hook.  Also, it seems counter-intuitive, but it is probably most critical to have sharp hooks on crankbaits and top-water baits with multiple sets of treble hooks.  Think about it, if you are using a jig or rubber worm or just a single bait hook you have a direct connection between you, your line and the hook.  When you are using a crankbait or top-water bait those treble hooks are swinging around on split rings on the body of the artificial lure which is in turn attached to your line.

OK, enough of my sermon on sharp hooks.  You will need some tools to sharpen hooks.  There are hook files or other small files that work well.

And I love the small diamond sharpeners for touching up hooks or for sharpening smaller hooks.

Lastly you have to go to this website, .  It makes “the point” a lot better than I have, it shows some other useful hook-sharpening products, and it demonstrates how to sharpen hooks.

I check my hooks periodically while fishing, especially if I am fishing areas where rocky substrates or some other cover object can dull hooks.  And if I lose a fish, the first thing I do is check the hook or hooks!  Many times you will find a dull or bent hook point, and once that is remedied the next fish gets dried off!

Knots. The weakest link between angler and a fish is the knot or knots.  Every angler absolutely needs to learn to tie good knots.  Now which knots you tie will be largely a matter of personal preference and there are literally dozens of knots you can learn to tie.  To some extent you can learn a variety of knots for different jobs; splicing lines together, tying leaders to main lines, tying droppers to main lines, terminal knots, etc., etc.  You may need to learn several different knots for the fishing that you do, but let me tell you that I like to follow the K.I.S.S. principle (Keep It Simple, Stupid).  I use 2 knots for all the fishing that I do.  I use a Uni-Knot (i.e. Universal Knot) and I love that knot because it is a versatile knot that works well with a variety of lines and once you learn the basic Uni-Knot you can use it for a variety of “jobs”.  About the only other knot that I ever tie is a Surgeon’s End Loop knot (and most of the time I use that knot to make a loop in the end of my line so I can loop the line around my reel handle when I am done fishing).  I can see where a Palomar knot would be another good one for some fishing situations (e.g. drop-shotting), and I can tie a Palomar; I just do not use it very often.  Regardless, learn to tie an Improved Clinch knot, a Trilene knot, Nail knot, whatever you prefer, for whatever job, just learn to tie it well.

Here are some of the best websites I have found for learning how to tie knots:

That last website has all the knots in the world that you could think of, not just fishing knots, so take a minute to look around.  The animation of those sites makes it easy to learn to tie any knot.

Like my hooks, I check my knots often and that is especially true if fishing with light lines.  If you have any doubt, re-tie!  If I have left a hook or lure tied on after a day’s fishing, I ALWAYS cut and re-tie that knot before starting the next day (lost a nice pike once because of that mistake, will not make it again!).  Friction kills knot strength.  Lubricate your knots with spit or water or your favorite fish attractant product, whatever, just make sure to lubricate them before cinching them tight.

Pay attention to details and you will end up with more hero shots of big fish and have a lot less sad tales about “the one that got away”.

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