You have probably heard that the best way to convert bites to hookups when backtrolling for salmon & steelhead is to leave the rods in the holders, right? But has anyone ever explained why?
Way back in the 1980’s I was just learning to plug fish and had always been told the same thing. But it didn’t make sense!
I figured I’d ignore conventional wisdom and set the hook anytime I got so much as a sniff from a fish. After all, I reasoned, why would a fish hang onto a lure for long once it felt it was hard plastic? It just didn’t make sense!
Well, sure missed a heck of a lot of bites in those days…until I started putting the rods in the holders.
Take a look at the pix above and think about this: When you are backing plugs down a river, you and your rods are facing downriver while the fish are facing upstream.
When a fish first contacts your plug, he’s typically at the worst possible angle for getting a hook into him. If you were to set the hook when you are facing each other, there’s not a lot of good jaw there to get a point into. Plus, you’re pulling the lure straight away from him — like pulling a spoon out of a baby’s mouth.
When the rod is in the holder, however, you give the fish a chance to chomp down on the plug and then turn downstream with it. As the fish is winking away from you, the hooks have a better chance to bury in the corner of the jaw (where they often stay put).
By the time you get to the rod, the fish has usually hooked itself.
Of course, not all fish bite the same way and this is anything but a fool proof method. But, give it a shot and I’m sure you’ll see that your bites to fish in the net ratios go way up.
By the way, the same principle applies when you are fishing bait behind divers…let em eat it!