How To Set The Hook When Float Fishing

One of my guides ready to land his clients steelhead. We teach our clients how to set the hook when float fishing so we can net more fish for them.
One of my guides ready to land his clients steelhead. We teach our clients how to set the hook when float fishing so we can net more fish for them.

How many guide trips I have done where my client’s floats went down from a fish and they missed over 50% of them due to poor hook sets? I’d bet I would double the amount of fish in my net if everyone knew ew how to set the hook fast and set the hook well.

It’s important that an article on Centerpin Fishing for beginners has a small section on setting the hook because without it, you may not catch very many fish.

The results of poor hook sets mean missed fish or lots of nasty tangles.

I tell my clients to set with their elbow, and not with their body. The elbow is faster than a body twist-type hook set that some guys do. Some guys tend to throw their whole body into the hook-set and some almost fall over backward because of the momentum. This is wrong.

On a good elbow-arm hook-set you should not be off-balance, you should have plenty of speed and follow-through and have good control of your follow-through. Follow through basically means from where your hand starts on the hookset to where it ends. Follow-through can be extremely important.

If your float is in close to you, say maybe 15 feet off the end of your rod tip your follow-through needs to be short. I tell guys when the float is close to you and you set the hook your hand should end up almost straight up and not go past your ear. Your arm/elbow should be about 90 degrees.

The guys that set the hook too hard when their float is in close and they follow through past their ear end up having floats come flying out of the water which can end up wrapping your float and entire leader around your rod which can be a 15-minute tangle or re-tie.

Or you could end up hitting yourself with all your leader and hook, or you could end up launching your float into the bush behind you.

If the float is close to you, set the hook with a shorter stroke and a slightly softer hook set.

On the other hand, if your float is far away you will need to set the hook much harder and follow through to ensure penetration and the hook stays hooked.

When you hook set at any time, your float should pop or jump out of the water only a few feet at most. If your float keeps flying 20 feet out of the water, shorten your hook set and don’t follow through as much, otherwise, you will be dealing with a lot of leader tangles.

You want to run your drift with your rod at about a 35 to 45-degree angle up and you want to keep your rod tip pointed in the direction of the float most of the time. Follow the float with your rod tip. Then you want to set fast and you want to set upwards and to the side should you hold your rod.

Do not sweep the rod sideways along the water, do not twist your body, and control your follow-through, and something that is very common is do not do what I call the pop and drop hook-set. I’ll explain below.

A reader just asked about setting the hook and missing fish, yet the roe bags his guide tied were torn with each hookset which is an indication that a fish had the bait in its mouth. There are reasons for this if it happens often. If this is happening to you, read my answer here:

Hook sets are as important as everything else you do in fishing. Unfortunately, I can’t tell you what you are doing wrong unless I observe how you are setting the hook, but….

I have seen and corrected a lot of guys’ hooksets so I will give you my thoughts based on what you just said.

I have also made a note for myself to do an article on Hook Sets because there are a lot of things I see guys doing wrong.

The one thing that stands out about what you said was that you are getting float drops and then torn bags after your hook set and that could be due to a bunch of things.

Torn bags to me could be the result of the following:

  • your guide doesn’t know how to tie bags properly
  • or your guide is using some type of crappy netting material to tie his eggs
  • or your bag is ripping on rocks or wood and not on fish
  • or the fish are grabbing the bait but not getting hooked on the hook set which could be the result of a few things.

Missing fish when a fish grabs your bait is often a result of a slow hook set, a half hook set, meaning you’re not following through on your hook set far enough, a pop and drop hook set ( I see this all the time and will explain below), a late hook set, or the wrong shape and size of hook.

A pop-and-drop hook set is when you set fast, your rod comes up fast for the hookset but then you immediately drop your rod down. I don’t know why guys do this but I see it all the time.

When you drop your rod you are giving that fish instant slack at a time when the fish is likely head shaking to get whatever is in its mouth out, this slack allows them to spit the hook out easier. Your spawn bag may be torn but the fish is gone.

In my experience in hooking and seeing tens of thousands of steelhead hooked, when you set the hook on a steelhead, the steelhead will almost always give you two or three head shakes before they run. If you give them slack during a head shake, you are going to lose some fish.

Therefore, never not pop-and-drop on a hookset. Instead set the hook only as far as you need to get hook penetration and to bend the rod and then hold the rod in that slightly bent position to maintain constant tension between you and the fish.

Never drop the rod on a hook set. There are other times when I will drop the rod, but never on a hook set or on a head-shaking fish.

How To Set The Hook Q&A

If you have a question or comment about how to set the hook when float fishing, let us know in the comments section below.

Tight Lines


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