View Full Version : why you miss hookups when trolling

01-25-2005, 12:59 PM
what are the main reasons why a fish'll strike but not hook up when trolling? and how can you avoid this? ???

i'm new to this trolling business, but have had fish hit, and hit hard, but not stick. i just assumed the strike-to-catch ratio would be higher. ::)

01-25-2005, 01:16 PM
try changing out your hooks to Gamakatsu or Owners hooks

01-25-2005, 01:16 PM
by the way, i use lead core (12 lb) with a 45' leader, 8 lb fluoro. Med action rod pretty stiff, i put the clicker On, and set the drag very loose, and set the hook once i hear the clicker sing and see the rod jump, and pick up the rod out of a rod holder. i have replaced single hooks with trebles on lures like Needlefish. what am i doing wrong?

01-25-2005, 01:46 PM
No matter what you try to do, short of some kind of super glue, you will have strikes but no fish...

Some trout and salmon would hit below the Mendoza Line (that's .200 for those in Rio Linda) if they played baseball...

They simply are not very good at striking their quarry...so if you get a strike and no hook-up, wait a few seconds...don't be so quick to remove the rod from the holder. They may be circling around and coming back to try again.

First5 - unless you are keeping your catch, stay away from trebles...use singles, and barbless -- it makes releasing much easier and thus the survival rates much higher...

Also, some lures may lose their action (effectiveness) if you change out the hooks...

Country 8)

01-25-2005, 01:52 PM
Most common reasons for missing strikes when trolling:

1) Hooks aren't "sticky sharp". Factory points with the possible exception of Gamakatsu's need to be touched up. Try to re-sharpen hooks after each fish or each time the lure drags bottom.

2) Trolling too slow. Fish often hit a slow moving lure without much enthusiasm. They hang on for a bit, which feels like a hard strike, but they let go before the hooks stick. You will hook a lot more fish if you're moving at a good clip.

3) The drag is set too loose. You don't want the fish to take any line on the strike. Very few trout can break an 8 lb leader even if you have the drag locked up. If there are large fish around, it is better to use a more limber rod and a firmer drag that a stiff rod and a loose drag. You can loosen the drag as the fish gets closer to the boat and there is less stretch in the line. The right amount of drag tension is sort of a by feel thing. But if a strike by an average sized fish takes line out without a hook up, the drag is probably too loose.

01-25-2005, 02:32 PM
also when trolling slow, when you get a hit try dropping the tip of your rod back toward the back of the boat, this will simulate a wounded bait and they will come back to pick it up. Thats if your holding the pole. my 2 cents

01-25-2005, 02:37 PM
Having a good release clip is important when you're trolling with a downrigger. Much of the "hookset" happens when the fish pops the line out of the release clip. This is specially true when fishing for a soft-mouthed fish like kokanee. After the fish releases the line from the rigger, you can give an additional set with a soft tug on the rod if you think it's needed. Doc mentioned having sticky sharp hooks and I sure agree with that. I tie almost all of my lures with Gamakatsu Hooks. I can always make them sharper than they come out of the box by honing them a little more with a diamond grit sharpener. I stop honing them when it is real easy to "stick" the point in my thumbnail. That's when I consider them "sticky".

01-25-2005, 02:45 PM
Another time it's hard to get a good hookset is when you're toplining with monofilament way behind the boat. When the fish are on the top they get spooked by the boat. So, it's not unusual to troll 150 to 250 ft behind the boat. Because monofilament has so much stretch, it can be difficult to get a good hookset. This situation becomes more difficult when the fish doesn't hit hard, or hits the lure swimming towards the boat. These are time that I give a little bigger hookset with the rod than I would when I'm fishing closer to the boat with a downrigger. Also, using braided or other low stretch lines can help get a better hookset when you're trolling way behind the boat.

01-25-2005, 04:11 PM
You got some good info that just about covers it all! Dull hooks, loose drag, slow speed and stretchy line. There are times however when you get just a slight lip hook and no matter what you do, the fish will self release. I also like the single hooks if they don't ruin the action of a lure. Sometimes if the fish are running to the small side, a smaller hook might help with the hookup. Good Luck!

01-25-2005, 04:27 PM
I definately second Doc's suggestions. Because you use lead core I don't think stretch is a issue, but if you were top linning I'd also suggest braid or one of the super lines like fish4fun said. I just tried some and I definately like the sensitivity of the no-stretch lines.

Let me add that a change in color might make a difference. I remember someone told me that if I get a few hits but no fish to try a color change it might make all the difference. I've seen fish hit one color of curly tail grub and maybe even catch one or two but if change to another color the fish swallow it. Which makes it hard to release. I'm sure that size will also have the same impact. I just haven't had much experiance going smaller or larger.

Let me close by saying start with Doc's suggestions and keep the rest of this in mind if those three suggestions don't produce.

01-25-2005, 04:32 PM
I sure learned alot in this post, but nobody mentioned snubbers. Whenever I drag blades and a nightcrawler I always use a rubber snubber, it seems to help with hook set also.

01-25-2005, 04:36 PM
I usually try to set my downrigger clips so that they won't easily release. Sometimes I would actually rather have the clip not release and then I pop it off by realing down and giving it a quick pop. Also, if you don't have your rods cranked down with a bow in them on the downrigger there is a lot of belly in the line which they can easily shake loose from if not hooked well. Keep tight lines and tight releases. I have found that the speed does not matter in hooking fish since I troll down to .5 mph with various setups. I have also recently gone to the Big John clip that you can find in Cabela's. You can preset the adjustment to work the same tension every time for what size line and fish that you are trying to catch.

01-25-2005, 05:27 PM
I agree with the sticky hook theory and hold your pole as much as possible when trolling rapalas you want to jerk the pole every few seconds and let it goback then stop the jerking motion it makes the rapala look like its wounded but still trying to get away


PS if your using two poles alternate but pay close attention when you switch poles when the lure stops twitchin alot of times you get hits missed alot of fish not payin attention :-/

01-25-2005, 05:30 PM
Snubbers, in my opinion, only make sense when you are fishing with very small hooks that pull out easily. I never use them. It the hook is large enough and sharp enough, a firm hook set will put it right through the jaw bone for a firm hook up. Even for kokanee.

01-25-2005, 05:45 PM
Used to use snubbers on everything I ran. No mas! A trip out with Phil Johnson (GRHS) changed some of my habits. He was of the opinion that while a release popping on a rigger was visually impressive, a lot of fish were lost when the slack is being pulled out of the line. He preferred a fish (kokes especially) not pop the release, ensuring a solid hookup then you manually pop it and fight the fish. When trolling leadcore, I am often using some setup involving crawlers. I have had the greatest amounts of non-hookups on a wedding ring/crawler combo, only to reel in and find the back half of your crawler gone. I went to the double whammy setup for this reason, but while the hookup ratio has dramatically increased, still get a lot of missed fish. As for drag, I don't go with the clicker for trout. Salmon and stripers yes, trout and kokes no. Big fish = clicker. Small fish = no clicker. For the smaller fish, anything that can create slack will cause you to lose fish. My $0.02


01-25-2005, 06:22 PM
Hi Donzi, I would agree with you, I have gone to setting my downrigger clips real hard and I snap them to release rather than the trout unless he is huge. I have come to realize though that the trout at amador can hit extremely hard and snap your line, so now I have had to go up to eight pound line to keep them from busting off at the downrigger ball.

01-25-2005, 09:23 PM
Freon, I always run 8# test on my trout/koke rods since you never know when you will hook into a bigger brown/mack/bow. If you set your release right, a smaller fish won't pop it, but a bigger fish will. I won't even get into the topic of different releases, as that's a whole thread all on it's own! That's just my opinion, as influenced by the guides I've fished with and my own personal experience. The cohos in Oroville last summer though were popping the releases even with the line all the way back in the pads (I use Seps and small Scotty's). Of all the cohos we caught, we only lost a few. FISH ON!

01-25-2005, 10:17 PM
what's a double whammy set up? is this like using a trailer hook?

and what about Trout Gravy and other scent products...do you notice using these products results in more aggressive strikes and more hook ups?

01-25-2005, 10:34 PM
Double whammy is exactly that, a trailer hook. It's most commonly found on a wedding ring. I love them so much I tie all of my home mades with two hooks now.

As for scent, isn't a lure that hits the water outta my boat that doesn't have scent of some type. Does it help? It sure can't hurt! Maybe sometime I should try the same lure side by side all day and see which catches more fish!


01-26-2005, 12:41 AM
It goes against the rules but I'd have to say that a limber rod helps your chances of getting hooked up.http://www.sighost.us/members/reno/emoticons/unsure.gif

01-26-2005, 10:42 AM
One more tip to increase the ratio of hits to hookups. On single siwash hooks try offsetting the point so that it is not inline withthe shank of the hook. This way the hook will not "slip" thru the lips.

01-26-2005, 03:00 PM
This may have already been covered here, but when I'm switching trebles to Siwash I like to use a barrel swivel.

01-26-2005, 05:03 PM
I notice on some of my lures that I would have to put a split ring, then a barrel swivel and finally the siwash hook. This would seem to put the hook quite a ways behind the lure. Have you had any problems getting a hookup with the hook so far back or do use a different method?

01-26-2005, 05:30 PM
Yeah Oxbow, sometimes it does look a bit to far back. I have an assortment of split rings and use the smallest necessary for the hook I'm using. But the barrel swivel gives the hook more freedom of motion and seems to hook better than when left in a ridged position. But even the ones where I'm dubious as to how far back it looks, they still work good for me.

01-26-2005, 05:57 PM
FF, Do you use that set-up on what type lure, Rapala's and if so do you do it to both trebles?

01-26-2005, 06:51 PM
missing hook sets is part of the game, its fishing! you can do a millions things to avoid it, and it will still happen. you got to give the fish a chance. other wise might as well just troll a huge net.

01-26-2005, 07:20 PM
Part of the fun for me is refining various techniques but I understand there are those that would choose to make no changes in the way they have always fished. It's a matter of personal choice and I respect both methods. It's all about doing the things that we as individuals enjoy most.

01-26-2005, 07:33 PM
Most of what I've converted to, or experimented with, concerning hook changes has come from discussions on these boards. And most of the ideas, where numerous members agree, do work. There have been several in depth discussions on hook changes and you can probably find them using the search engine. I can't remember what threads they were on but FISHSTALKER had much to say about hooks and barrel swivels, and he posted some good pictures of what he was talking about.

I have stayed with the consensus and leave the trebles on the Rapallas because most believe they are critical to the action of the lure. Flat fish, Kwick fish, spoons and others change well to single Siwash hooks with barrel swivels. And from my one-man-experiments they do work. It makes sense, too. There are swivel type trebles, the true-turn hook, and the idea posted above of offsetting the point on the Siwash. In my mind the barrel swivel helps the single hook act in the same way.

As far as giving the fish a chance: So far the fish are in the Super Bowl and I'm still playing in the farm league.

01-26-2005, 10:43 PM
Here's a Lyman with a single Siwash and swivel modification:

I agree with Frank about not messing with Rapalas except that I think Shad Raps would work fine with a single hook/swivel setup in the rear position.

I don't know if an offset point is a good idea for trolling lures. They work well with bait, since the fish generally try to swallow the hook and the offset point helps to catch the inside of the mouth. When fish strike lures, they often don't try to close their mouths. I'd think that large hook with a straight wide gap or a bunch of sticky trebles would be more effective. But whatever works, works. ;)

01-27-2005, 12:20 AM
I don't doubt you for a minute but I'm sure curious. How did you ever observe or come to the conclusion that the fish often don't try to close their mouth when striking a lure. Is there anything about a fish that you don't know? ;D ;D

01-27-2005, 07:49 AM
Maybe I didn't say exactly what I meant to say. I've watched fish strike lures hundreds (maybe 1000's) of times. Most times they don't try to swallow the lure. They release the lure almost instantaneously after the strike. And often they don't even open their mouths. They often just bump the lure out of curiosity or aggression.

Most of my observations were on saltwater fish is Florida. But I've seen exactly the same behavior in trout during the jig bite at Pyramid. Ask yourself how many times you have hooked fish deep when trolling lures. It happens occasionally, but not often. So my point about offset hooks is that if the hook isn't laying in the fishes mouth and then pulled out, there is no advantage to the offset.

01-27-2005, 08:13 AM
Thanks Doc, that sounds reasonable. One of the things I like most about what little fly fishing I do is that they are almost always lip hooked and thus easy to release.

01-27-2005, 08:35 AM
F Frank - Thanks for the mention. I'm a little late catching up with this thread. That post I made was in October last year and was titled terrible treble hooks. I posted the photo of my converted U20's and flat fish Lures. A couple of which I used on Pyramid when we had the get together. The big advantage is the fish are released in much healthier shape using the single siwash hook. Trebles can do a lot of damage. Also too many times I have been the one on the receiving end of the second set of hooks. This usually happens when trying to unhook a fish that suddenly decides to make a break for it. At the time of my original post I had used a new boxed Lure with trebles in place. Sure enough as the fish was in hand, it fought and sent the second treble through my thumb. Note: I do use pliers to remove hooks from the fish. Even so I have ended up pinned to the fish.
I have watch some films on TV of how fish catch their prey. They ram the prey to stun it so they can swim back around and swallow the prey head first. I have no doubt that they smack our Lures the same way.

01-27-2005, 01:54 PM
once again, great info from the Sniffer...so for newbies like me, the take home lessons are(?):

1. sharp hooks.
2. good speed trolling
3. firmly set drag; limber rod
4. no clicker use; hold rod when you can
5. low stretch braid when toplining to improve hook set.
6. adjust color/size of lure as needed.
7. double whammy on some set ups can be helpful
8. adjust downrigger clips approp'ly
9. varying opinions on hooks, but generally, Siwash hooks/barrel swivels unless they interfer with lure action.
10. if a fish hits and misses, pause the lure to give them a second chance to hit again; they'll hit or nudge out of curiosity/agression/to stun, and may hit again.

(hey that's 10, like Letterman's Top Ten..). ;D ;D These sound about right? thx again, definitely saving this thread. :)

01-27-2005, 02:21 PM
Good summary. I'm always amazed at how often people who fish a lot end up doing pretty much the same things.

The only thing I might disagree with is holding the rod. You'll get more firm hookups if you leave the rod in a rod holder. Most people will allow some "give" on a strike unless you train yourself not to do it (I never have been able to stop doing this myself). The exception of course is ripping or horizontal jigging. Here you set the hook firmly when you pull the rod forward.

01-27-2005, 03:29 PM
i dont think they can swallow the lure becuz its moving away from them. and when they hit it they stop therefor it really cant get to deep. a few times while i stopped to fight a fish and left the other line out, i've caught fish and had the lure down its throat or way in. also ive taken many spinners deep out of them while river fishing.

01-27-2005, 05:23 PM
I have caught fish using flasher/crawler combo and I usualy hold my pole to feel the strike.I can feel it when they are bumping lightly and when its a good hard hit. Sometimes hooked in the lip and sometimes swallowed all the way down to their belly button.If the crawler is moving away from the fish,how do they swallow it?

01-27-2005, 05:58 PM
We don't "troll" faster than a fish can swim so I assume the fish is moving toward the lure/crawler faster than it is moving away from them. That would be my best guess.

01-27-2005, 06:06 PM
Here is the story. *Fish are stupid. They can't think about what they are doing. *So they merely respond to a series of sensory inputs that act as behavioral releasers or inhibitors. All the steps right up to swallowing are pre-programed in their brains. *But the whole process stops as soon as an inhibitory signal is sensed.

The problem all fish must deal with is how to distinguish food from non-food in their environment. *If they ate every stick that drifted by, or living things that they can't digest, they would: a) have a major digestive failure; and b) expose themselves unnecessarily to predators or at least waste a lot of energy. *The major senses used by fish to determine prey from non-prey are sight, smell, and taste. *So if a fish sees a lure or bait that is similar is size and pattern to whatever has recently proved to be a suitable prey item, it will swim up to it for a further look and maybe pursue it. *If closer inspection still provides the "go" signals, the fish will grab the item with its mouth. A fish's mouth and lips have thousands of touch and taste receptors. So if the item doesn't taste or feel right (inhibitory signals), the fish spits the item out and swims away. *If real bait is used and everything else seems right, the fish will swallow the bait even if it is moving away. *Depending on how fast the lure or bait is moving, fish will often slash at the "prey" and try to disable it. *Then they come back and grab it a second time.

What I said about fish not swallowing lures only applies to relatively large ones. *A fish samples a fly or small lure by sucking it into its mouth. Once the fish's senses tell it that the item is not real food, it gets spit out. *So you are more likely to hook a fish in the throat with a small lure as opposed to a large one. *And since bait usually provides the swallow signals, you are much more likely to hook a fish deep with bait.

01-27-2005, 06:12 PM
Asked! and answered!!

01-27-2005, 06:17 PM
great summary doc.i am a firm believer of using scents.i believe in many cases,it triggers that second"go" signal you were refering to.as far as deeply swallowed hooks,i have never had a trout deeply swallow a hard lure.and i can probably count on one hand the times i have gut hooked a fish when trolling a crawler.but in rivers,given the time ,a fish will swallow it right down.i do believe that if a fish senses something wrong with a bait,it will immediately release it.but i can also see where trolling speed will inhibit a fish from being able to swallow a bait deeply. again thanks for the insight doc.

01-28-2005, 08:47 AM
Concerning fish ramming broadside to disable possible bait: There was discussion on an earlier thread suggesting to change the tail hook to a siwash/swivel, but leave the middle treble on just for such times? Any input on that?

01-28-2005, 09:05 AM
I just use a tail hook. I look at the Siwash/swivel setup as a gaff. The fish hit the lure and get caught by the gaff at the stern end. If they don't get stuck, it's a clean miss. They don't feel the hook and often come back and try again.

I also use the Siwash as a lip gaff for boating fish. I just grab the lure. It there was a middle treble, I couldn't do that.

01-28-2005, 09:25 AM
I'll go with that theory Doc. I hate trebles and get stuck handling them almost as often as FISHSTALKER. And Pink-Boat is a lost cause when it comes to hooking himself with trebles.

01-28-2005, 12:15 PM
I always love doc stressor answers.

Fish are stupid. I agree 1000% but when we (people) try to match wits or try to figure them (fish) out, fish usually seem to win ::)

Most problems are with the fisherman: hooks not sharp, bad hookset, drag set wrong, wrong equipment, etc. Even when everything seems right, the fish sometimes just don't want to cooperate.

Great info on this thread

01-28-2005, 01:50 PM
First5, that about summarizes it, though about half of that (or more) is opinion and you will always find someone who thinks doing it different is a better way. The great thing about this board is when you can hear from several different people who are doing it the SAME way, then you know there's got to be something to it!

Doc, if I had to hold my rod what would I do with my beer? Maybe I should get one of those old plastic baseball type helmets with the dual can holders with the tubes to drink from?


01-28-2005, 01:58 PM
You got your priorities right Donzi. The only time I'm putting my beer down is when the rod tip starts jumping. I'll work on all the other tips mentioned, but putting the beer down to hold a rod is not one of them.

01-28-2005, 07:22 PM
Sometimes the bite is like that, just bumps. Other times there is a sandwhich soaking up the sun, potatoe chips spilled and a beer getting warm cause the bite is on and they all stick. ;D ;D

I go with the Gamakatsu hooks, a tight clip if downrigging and use a trailer hook when I can.

01-29-2005, 06:39 AM
I think I need to invent a lure that when hit produces a large electrical spike that stuns the fish so that you can put your beer down and set the hook. its much better to go home smelling like a fish instead of a beer that was spilled all over you trying to get to a rod,lol.

03-01-2008, 08:31 AM
Rigging a Nightcrawler to troll. How is this done? worm threader? how far do you thread it up the line or should I say, how much do I leave trailing behind the hook?

03-01-2008, 01:39 PM
i use a worm threader with a partial piece of crawler. maybe 2"-2.5". and leave about 2/3 behind the hook. but vary depending on hookups/misses. i'll rarely use a whole crawler.

03-01-2008, 01:53 PM
well when they hit they usually hit hard !!! but usually when they hit once they will most likely hit again. its happened lots of times to me. even with striper. just make sure you keep your eyes on the poles at all times :o and then keep pressure on the fish

03-01-2008, 05:33 PM
Wow, a thread for 2005! Someone has been doing some searching! :o

03-08-2008, 10:16 PM
Anyone trolling Thomas Boyants? What colors?


03-10-2008, 11:35 AM
One thing that I did not see addressed was the 45 foot leader. Was that a typo or do you really use a 45 foot leader. I have been fishing with lead core most of my life and have never used a 45 foot leader. I use 8 to 10 foot leaders and have never had a problem.

03-10-2008, 11:52 AM
1) Mising hook ups: IMO, most fish short strike trolled offerings. When I started adding trailer or stinger hooks to grubs, I caught many fish on the trailer alone.

2) Holding the rod: I was taught to troll with lead core and pulling the rod back when you got bumped set a lot of hooks and feels a heck of a lot better than picking up a hooked fish out of the holder. DR's not withstanding

3) Leader length: Length is probably best determined by what fish you are fishing for and their subjectness to being line shy. 8' - 10' leader won't catch trout in a few of the lakes I fish but probably has no adverse effect on planters or Kokanee.

03-10-2008, 12:00 PM
justme, my best lead core success (which isnt much yet...this is only my 3rd yr having a boat) is using 40-50 ft leader. *if only trolling one or two colors, fishing a gin clear lake w/ shy trout, 40-50 ft leaders gets you away from boat........ FWIW...

p.s. just make sure knot or swivel between main line and leader fits through level wind guide.. :-[ *unless you like hand over hand combat...like i did a couple weeks ago ....doh!... *;D

03-10-2008, 12:13 PM
p.s. just make sure knot or swivel between main line and leader fits through level wind guide

Dave in el dorado, have you tried the mono inside the lead core sheath knot? You break about 4" - 6" of the lead out of the sheath and start a loose double knot with the sheath. Slide the mono into the center of the lead core sheath and cinch the knot. It works like a Chinese finger knot toy.

03-10-2008, 01:28 PM
superdave, thanks, no i havent tried that one. *is a double knot just a shorthand wrapped twice?

i did find some swivels (#12 i think) that fit through my reel guide though, which works o.k., i have metal guides and not ceramic so nothing really gets beat up by the swivel...i'll definitely try it....i'm terrible at tying a blood knot.....

regarding missing hookups, i've found when not holding rod, set drag fairly tight and have confidence in yer knots...i've fished w/ several folks who like to keep drag fairly loose and they seem to have more misses than hooksets.

also several times i've felt or seen a quick strike, which is likely the fish checking out the bait, and it takes practice not to react setting hook, rather i'll either let rod tip down and back , then give it a forward rip and let it back again (if holding rod) or use throttle to decrease, increase, then decrease the trolling speed (w/ rod in holder) and sometimes the fish comes back and takes it good (as has been discussed somewhere here before) its really cool when it works!

03-10-2008, 01:46 PM
BEER,FRIENDS, RADIO channel 69 ;)

03-10-2008, 03:41 PM
When I use lead core it is because I need to get down 30 to 50 feet and have out 8 to 10 colors so being to close to the boat is not an issue. When I only need to get down 5 to 10 feet I just add a sliding sinker to the main line and use my regular line and pole more fun to fight the fish with lighter gear. Does not take much weight to get down 5 to 10 feet with flashers.

03-11-2008, 06:35 AM
When I've used flashers (such as Sep's) in the past, at about 80 to 100 feet out, they troll at 5'-10' deep without added wait. Line diameter and speed affect this of course ;)