Welcome to Eye of the Guide

Part Sixty-two

Why The Big Ones Get Away

By William G. Tapply
Excerpt from: Bass Bug Fishing
Published by The Lyons Press

I have failed to land my share of big fish of many species - including bass - although in my experience, bass are not particularly resourceful or powerful fighters for their size. They like to jump, bulldog, and dive for cover, but they do not make long-distance runs. They tire quickly, and the aggressive angler can usually overpower them. We should never lose a well-hooked and aggressively fought bass.

But we do.

Every time I've hooked and failed to land a big bass, it's been the result of my own carelessness. If he got loose by wrapping the leader around a stub or the anchor line or tangling himself in the weeds, it's because I did not assert myself aggressively enough. If the hook pulled free, I did not set it firmly.

Well, most of us don't get enough practice fighting really big fish, and those things happen.

But there are other reasons for losing fish that are inexcusable. Believe me, I know.

  • Bad knots. There's nothing more disheartening than to have your line abruptly go slack in the middle of fighting a large fish, then to reel in and find your bug gone and a pigtail at the end of your tippet. No well-tied Trilene, improved clinch, or other standard angling knot should pull loose. Only badly tied knots fail. Tie them carefully, lubricate them with spit before pulling them tight, and leave a little stub when you clip the end. Test your knots regularly. Pay equal attention to the knots that join your tippet to the leader and your leader to the line. Don't hesitate to retie dubious knots.

  • Bad hooks. Check the bend and point of your hook periodically. Keep a file [hook hone] handy for touching up the point and keeping it needle-sharp. If you cast aggressively, as you should, your bug will bounce off a rock, dock, or log now and then, which can dull or bend the point and prevent a solid hookup. If you hook a log, tugging to pull your bug free could open the bend of the hook enough to weaken it and let a bass slip free. Once a hook is bent, it's permanently weakened, so rather than trying to bend it back, discard that bug and tie on a new one.

  • Bad tippet. Encounters with toothy fish like pickerel and pike, a worm or scored tiptop rod guide, and even general wear and tear can create nicked or frayed spots on your tippet, converting 10-pound test into ten-ounce. "Wind knots" (overhand knots that are usually caused by a messed-up cast, not the wind) severely weaken a tippet. Run your tippet between your finger-tips or, even better, between your lips now and then, and if you feel a nick or wind knot, retie it. It takes only a moment, and tippet material is a lot easier to come by than five-pound bass. ~ William G. Tapply

    Check out the book this excerpt comes from, it's right here.

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