I love when a fish hits so hard that it almost jars the rod out of your hands. But more often, a strike is tricky to detect. Even “power fishing” tournament pros, reeling in a wobbling crank bait, seem to have difficulty knowing if a fish is on or not. As the temperature cools, fish tend to slow down and the bite becomes more leisurely. Miss that subtle, hint of a line twitch, and you may miss the fish.
A successful hook set relies on a trigger of one or more senses. Anglers often feel a bite. Line type and rod composition can help detect a thump from below as well. Many anglers keep a finger on the line for gathering additional data.
Some bites can be heard. Catfish and carp anglers wait with a baited hook on the bottom so many set the rod between a forked stick with the reel drag set noisily light, or even a bell. I’ve also seen gar anglers use electronic devices that beep when the line begins to head out.
And a visual occurrence provides a valuable bit of information regarding bait status. Thin line in the glare of the sun can be difficult to see; traditionally, the bobber has been the solution. Another technique can be used this time of year when the leaves begin to fall and float on the water surface: gently drape a line over a floating leaf and you’ve got a stealthy, organic bobber.
Many fly anglers also use bobbers, except they may consist of a piece of foam or yarn and they call them “strike indicators.” Fly fishing editor at MidCurrent, Alex Cerveniak shared, “game fish can inhale and spit out a fly insanely fast. Even if you are 100% focused on what your line/indicator is doing, you’ll still miss a majority of hits.”
I’d rather not have to base the decision to set the hook on an implied strike, based on circumstantial evidence (“Was that a hit?” “Is that a fish?” “Are you sure?”), but sometimes that’s all there is. Use your senses, guess correctly, and you will be answered with a solid responding tug.
Andy Whitcomb is a columnist, outdoor humorist, and stressed-out Dad living in Oklahoma. Visit him at www.justkeepreeling.com.