Priceless moments are a given when fishing with friends and family. My one friend Jerry has a hookset so fast and strong that I’ve seen him break a rod with a sound like a gun shot and in the blink of an eye. Others I’ve fished with have a hookset so discreet that the only way I knew they caught a fish was when it splashed as they released it. On the technical points there is a lot of value to having several hookset options at the ready, especially where smallmouth are involved.

With an open faced spincaster a straight-up hookset is probably the most common and makes sense as it follows with the natural bend and backbone in that rod style. Even within the advantages simple physics affords the bass don’t always cooperate with the technology so we might need to make some adjustments.

One change to a straight-up hookset to make is to reel down on the fish before setting the hook. This changes the angle and type of pressure exerted at the point of the hook. Another option would be to let the fish have the bait a bit longer before making your move. Instead of doing a full reel down on the line you can put light pressure on the fish before setting the hook. These techniques work for both spin and bait casters.


The bend of a baitcasting rod lends itself to a hookset that follows parallel to the water. This can be made to the bend of the rod but also against it for even more leverage.

The best sweepset outing ever was a trip out with Mom and the first day using the Banjo Minnow. The bass were all over this bait but they weren’t being hooked with the straight-up hookset. Once I went to a sweepset nearly every largemouth was boated after that. The score at the end of that day was: bass – 80 (misses) us – 40 (hookups).

(c) 2010 Wayne Carpenter

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