Fishing with Capt. Gus Improving bite-to-catch ratio isn't hard

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 6, 2006

Many fish tales begin with, “This is no lie!” Much to the disappointment of the angler and the listener, the end of the story is usually that the big fish got away.

This can sometimes be prevented by practicing a few simple suggestions that will increase your bite-to-catch ratio.

Line: Broken line is the No. 1 reason that fish are lost. Inspect the line on the reel before each trip. Look for nicks, rough spots and abrasions. Cut off any damaged line. The terminal end of the line should be checked after each fish is unhooked. Cut off any questionable sections and retie after every catch. If the line appears to be opaque or breaks easily when a knot is tied, replace it. Use the appropriate line strength for conditions. Ten-pound test might be fine in open water, while 20-pound test will work best in heavy cover. Use wire leader if the fish you are after have teeth.

Knots: Carefully tie a hook or lure to your line. Popular knots are the clinch, improved clinch, Palomar and loop. When properly tied, each will withstand the strain of a lunker fish. To prevent unraveling, cinch the line tightly when tying the knot.

Hooks: For a solid set, the hook must be sharp. Today’s premium hooks are laser sharpened and do not need to be honed before use. Hooks should be small enough for a fish to inhale, but have a wide enough gap (distance between the point and shank) to encompass the jawbone of the intended prey. The size of the hook should match the size of the bait. A bait too large will not appear natural, and one too small is difficult with a hook up. When fishing for big fish, use baits large enough to look natural attached to a larger hook. Small laser sharp hooks should be used with ultra-light tackle.

Drag: A reel’s drag allows line to be pulled from the spool before it stretches to its breaking point. The drag should be tested and set before use, and then reset during the course of a fishing trip. As a rule of thumb, set the drag at 30 to 50 percent of the line’s breaking strength. Line drag can be tested with a pull scale, but most anglers pull line off the reel and adjust to the desired drag tension. When in doubt, it is better to begin with a light drag and tighten if necessary.

Hook set: A lot of bites are missed because the angler hasn’t developed hook set techniques. Knowing when and how hard to set the hook comes with time and practice. Circle hooks are becoming more and more popular with anglers using live and cut bait. The circle hook does not require a hook set. Crank, don’t yank circle hooks.

The timing and right amount of force for a good hook set with artificial baits varies with the type of lure and the conditions. One thing for certain, most of the “power” hook sets as seen on TV fishing programs are only for show. If you try to jerk the lips off a fish, something is going to break or somebody might get hurt.

Don’t tighten the drag when a fish is near the boat. The shorter the length of line between the rod and fish the, less stretch the line will have.

Hot spot: Between Hagers Creek Access and the mouth of Mountain Creek. Stripers are suspending along the edge of the river and creek channels. Live baits work best.

Visit or call Gus Gustafson at 704-489-0763, or e-mail him at