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Staying Hooked Up

By Mark Romanack

Smiles like this can only occur when fish bite and stay hooked up. A little
hooking knowledge has helped the angler land countless fish like this over
the years and avoid that “kicked in the guts” feeling that happens
when a quality fish escapes!!
Anyone who fishes will understand the disappointment that comes when a big fish is hooked, but lost before it comes to net. Worse yet is when a fish is hooked and lost before the angler even lays eyes on the fish. Losing fish is part of fishing, but I can tell you that after 40 years of witnessing this event the sting isn’t any less!

Even the most devoted “catch and release” angler needs to lay hands on the fish to be happy. Fortunately there are things an angler can do to mitigate losing fish and suffering that “kicked in the guts” feeling that follows.

Lots of fish like trout and salmon love to roll when they get hooked. Twisting and rolling up in the line leverages pressure on the hook and literally rips them free. This phenomenon is most commonly associated with lures that have treble hooks on them like crankbaits and in-line spinners.

This Mag Lip plug has been modified to include two siwash hooks mounted
onto crane swivels. This simple step allows the hook to swivel and
prevents powerful fish like this brown trout from leveraging the hooks
free and escaping.
Replacing the factory supplied treble hooks with single open eye siwash style hooks is a good way to keep the fish that bite hooked up. This is most commonly accomplished by removing the treble hook from the factory supplied split ring and adding a small crane swivel in its place. Next the siwash hook eye is opened up and crimped down over the opposite end of the split ring.

This simple process takes about two or three minutes and works best when both treble hooks are removed and replaced with siwash hooks. A few crankbait manufacturers offer their lures factory rigged with single hooks. A good example is the Yakima Flatfish and Hog Nose which can be ordered with traditional treble hooks or single hooks. Yakima also offers many of their in-line spinners like the popular Flash Glo in single hook versions as well.

The best way to insure that hooks penetrate deep enough that they stick and stay stuck is to sharpen those hooks to what I call “sticky” sharpness. The best way to sharpen any hook is a small file. File both edges of the hook to create a knife edge. A flat file works well, but my favorite is a double rattail file. This consists of two round rattail style files mounted together onto a flat file. This allows me the option of using the flat part of the file or the double rattail portion depending on the hook type.

Treble hooks for example are easier to file with a double rattail. Single hooks sharpen best with a flat file.

Now that more and more anglers are fishing with super braid lines, it’s abundantly obvious that low stretch lines can often allow fish to tear free and escape. To reduce the chances of a powerful fish ripping and tearing the hook free, try fishing a “shock leader” made out of high grade fluorocarbon line.

Fluorocarbon line is very tough and has a modest degree of stretch that nicely compensates for super braids which have zero give in them. A short leader of fluorocarbon line (24 to 72 inches) depending on the presentation can make a huge difference in how many fish that bite are ultimately landed.

Staying “hooked up” can be as simple as understanding how to properly
file a factory supplied treble hook to “sticky” sharp status.
For trolling applications I tie in a six foot leader of Maxima premium fluorocarbon line to my braid main line. The best knot for attaching braid main line to fluorocarbon leader is the double uni knot. To learn to tie this knot go to for a simple to follow animated illustration.

For casting and jigging applications a 24 to 36 inch fluorocarbon leader is ideal.

It would be great if every fish that bites ended up flopping in the bottom of a landing net. Unfortunately, some fish are going to escape as part of the process we call “fishing”. With the tips above it is possible to hook and land a higher percentage of those precious “bites” and insure that fishing creates more smiles than frowns.