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.
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Andy is an outdoor writer (http://www.justkeepreeling.com/) and stressed-out Dad has contributed over 380 blogs to takemefishing.org since 2011. Born in Florida, but raised on banks of Oklahoma farm ponds, he now chases pike, smallmouth bass, and steelhead in Pennsylvania. After earning a B.S. in Zoology from OSU, he worked in fish hatcheries and as a fisheries research technician at OSU, Iowa State, and Michigan State.