By Darl Black
If you’re making these mistakes, you’re depending
on luck to fill your livewell.
I’ve been wetting lines since I was old enough to hold a fishin’ pole. At about age seven I caught my first big bass. While fishing for bluegills with a dried-up piece of nightcrawler on a rusty hook tied to kinky monofilament line on a clunky push-button reel taped to a beat-up spinning rod, a 20-inch largemouth swam by and pulled my bobber under. I jerked on the rod, the reel jammed, and I grabbed the line to pull the bass onto the bank. I can’t imagine being so lucky today if I attempted to repeat those same circumstances. Nothing but the fortunes of a young boy allowed that fish to be landed.
With over 50 years of hands-on angling under my belt, I’ve likely made every possible mistake – but learned to be a better bass angler in the process. That’s why I can say with confidence that reducing errors will boost your catch-rate substantially. Here’s how to avoid seven of the most common pitfalls in bass angling.
1. Dull Hooks
Dull or bent hook points may be the angler’s number one equipment error. Certain hook manufactures love the pitch that their trebles and soft plastic rigging hooks don’t need sharpening. True, some of the latest high-tech hooks don’t need sharpened right from the package – but they cost more. Rather than pay dearly for those top end hooks, you may decide to settle for quality standard wire hooks – which definitely require sharpening.
Either way, even the sharpest point becomes dull or bent after scraping rocks, hanging snags and catching fish. Inspect hook points frequently (including new ones right from the package) and either sharpen or replace any that seem questionable.
Here’s how to test sharpness. I first check hook points visually. If its sharpness is in doubt, then lightly press it against the side of a finger. If the point doesn’t prick or stick to the skin, it isn’t sharp enough. Using a quality fine-tooth hook file, evenly stroke the edges on cutting point hooks. Or, use a grooved sharpening stone to bring a needle point hook to full sharpness.
Since lures for bass fishing range from as small as 1/16-ounce to more than 1 ounce, one of the most common equipment mistakes is mismatched lure and rod combinations. Rods are designed to be used with specific range of pound-test lines and lure weights, with the information imprinted on the blank. Varying too far beyond these parameters can impede efficient casting or even hook-setting ability.
For example, attempting to fish a lightweight balsa minnow for creek smallmouth with a medium-heavy action casting rod spooled with 20-pound test will yield very short casts and possibly a line backlash on the reel.
On the other hand, if an angler ties a 3/4-ounce flipping jig with stout hook on a light-action spinning rod with 8-pound test (a balanced combo for that lightweight balsa), the result will be ineffective hooksets or perhaps a broken line.
Improperly Spooled Line
It’s an easy mistake to make when spooling on line on a spinning reel. You fill the spool with line right up to the very edge, thinking it will allow you to cast farther. Instead, the too-full spool creates problems with line looping and tangling. To avoid this, keep the line between 1/8 and 1/4 inch below the spool lip.
Monofilament and fluorocarbon will gradually deteriorate when exposed to sun over time, so replace it annually. Also, line should be replaced anytime it shows signs of taking on a “set” or becomes severely twisted due to certain lure presentations. Superlines (braid & gel spun lines) have a longer life on the spool than mono or fluorocarbon, but will eventually require replacement, too.
That’s enough to think about for now. Come back soon to find out
if you’re making four more common mistakes.
About Darl Black
A lifelong freshwater angler and veteran writer/photographer, Darl tackles a wide variety of fishing related stories for print publications and websites. Of all fishing, angling for smallmouth bass is his favorite pastime. He may be reached for assignment at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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