Why Are You NOT Hooking Fish?

Why Are You NOT Hooking Fish?

Why are you not hooking fish? Here is why. You are not hooking fish because your hooks are dull, you aren’t setting the hook properly, and your bait is too big. Other common factors can be wrong hook size, and even improperly hooked bait.

There can be a wide variety of reasons you are missing fish. All these range from small problems you probably thought of before and some maybe not so much. I am sharing some tips that I go down the list of when I keep missing bites.

Setting the Hook Too Early

Let’s admit this; we are all guilty of setting the hook too fast at least a few times. It’s a slow day, 4 hrs in you get your first bite and you go straight for the hook set.


Before you know it, that bait was ripped outta that fishes mouth. Patience is key for situations like this. Don’t move so fast to set the hook. Pick up the rod, feel what that fish is doing. Then you can make your judgment call.

Sometimes you gotta give that fish some Time to eat the bait. You want to capitalize on the chances you do get, especially when the bite is slow. Be Patient!

If that fish really wants to eat that bait, he will. Often times we get excited feeling the biting of the fish on the end of the line, and go straight for the hookset. This is the key time where you can make or break that catch.

Do not get too excited and swing! Make absolutely sure that fish has the bait in its mouth, and is actively swimming away with it.

Your Hooks

Hooks obviously play a HUGE ROLE in getting a proper hook set on a fish. First off I would make sure you are using the proper hook for your species.

For example, you probably shouldn’t be using a 10/ot circle hook for bass fishing. You probably shouldn’t be using a size 4 bait holder hooks for shark fishing. You get the picture. Next is making sure the size is correct.

You want to make sure that hook is going to be able to get into that fishes mouth. This does take some experience to nail down. Go off of a general baseline for your species and size of fish in your river. If you keep missing fish, you may have to upscale or downscale your hook size.

If you are getting small taps and pecks on your rod and missing fish, that’s a good indication you need to downsize. If you are hooking fish, but they only stay on for maybe a few seconds, you may need to upscale.

Lastly for hooks you want to make sure your hooks are sharp! Dull hooks don’t catch anything. Check your hooks periodically throughout the day because some do dull very quickly. The way I test my hooks is putting a finger on the tip to see if sticks.

If the hook point catches the top of your skin and sticks, you should be good!

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Use Proper Bait Size

If you are constantly getting your bait pecked off of your hook, and you are missing fish, it is a good idea to downsize your baits. Although some fish are greedy, most fish like pieces of bait they can fully ingest into their mouths.

Fish can easily take small chunks out of your bait if it is too large for them to eat. This can save you some bait, and improve your hook up ratio.


This actually goes hand in hand with your hooks as well. You want to match your hook size to your bait. This will give you the best chance at getting the fish to bite your bait and get hooked.

If you need help finding bait, or simply rely on store bought bait, check this out. There are some great catfish baits you can buy at the store!

Improperly Hooking Bait

Improperly hooking your bait can be a cause of you missing fish. If you just hook your bait, and pay no attention to where the hook point is, you can be missing fish all day!

You want to make sure your bait is in a position that it can get a good hookset on the fish’s mouth. You don’t want your bait covering the gap of the hook or hook point. If you cover the gap of your hook, the hook will be able to penetrate the fish’s mouth, but not very deep.

Your bait will be in the way of the hook working itself fully into the mouth of the fish. This can cause the fish to easily get off. If your hook point of covered, you may not even hook the fish.

The hook point is the initial penetration of your connection to the fish, so if this fails the fish is gone. You want to get both your hook point and the gap of your hook into the fish’s mouth to help get a good hookset on the fish.

This will increase your hook up ratio, and total fish caught. It is a small step that people seem to miss.

Your Hook Set

I have seen sssoooooo many times people set the hook with not enough force, or maybe a bit too much force. Personally I would rather swing harder than lighter. You want to base this on your target species however.

For example, setting the hook on trout doesn’t take much, maybe a small flick of the wrist. So if you are swinging for the hills on trout, maybe you should tone it down a bit. If your sturgeon fishing and you’re barely raising your rod, you should probably be swinging harder.

It is important to know this for all the species you target to see what you should be doing. Sturgeon, catfish, salmon generally have tougher mouths, so a harder hook set may help. Smaller species such as sunfish, perch and trout have very soft mouths, so a small flick of the wrist does just fine.

The Right Hookset for Your Hook Style

Circle hooks – For circle hooks, you do not need to set them like ordinary j hooks. It is best to slowly apply pressure to the fish by reeling until you feel the fish, then slowly lifting up on the rod.

This helps the hook catch the fish’s mouth, and then drive through by you lifting up. You can also leave your rod in a holder, and let the fish hook itself. I usually reel down on the biting fish when in the rod holder, just to bury the hook a bit more.

What you do not want to do with a circle hook is a sharp fast hookset. This type of hookset will pull the hook out of the fish’s mouth, and will not allow the circle hook to work properly.

Circle hooks are made to apply slow pressure to the fish’s mouth, in order to set the hook correctly.

J Hooks – Swing them home! J hooks are the most standard kinds of hooks. When getting a bite with a j hook, you simply pick up your rod and set the hook by a sharp fast pull with your rod.

It is important to keep your rod up after you set the hook; you need to keep the pressure on the fish. J hooks are meant to be driven by the angler, and circle hooks are more for the fish to hook themselves.

You need to be sure to tailor your hookset to what you are fishing for. A small bluegill probably doesn’t need a huge windup and hookset. A big sturgeon or shark however may require a pretty good hookset.

Why Do Fish Keep Coming Off My Hook?

Fish keep coming off your hook because your hooks are dull, your hookset isn’t good enough(or too powerful), and you are not keeping pressure on your hooked fish.


Now there are many things that could affect fish coming off your hook, such as soft lips of the fish, hook style and your hook is not getting all the way in the fishes mouth. Most of the time, fish are getting off due to your hooks not setting correctly.

Your hook needs to get to the gap, and the barb needs to be all the way through the fish’s mouth. When the barb catches, you will more than likely land the fish. Another overlooked reason is a hook too small or big.

For bigger fish with bigger mouths, a bigger hook is optimal. This will be the opposite for small mouth fish. You want to match the hook size to the fish’s mouth and the bait your using, so it has the best chance of hooking and keeping a fish in the line.

This ties into missing fish, but if you do hook them, you don’t want to lose them. Make sure those hooks are sharp, properly sized, and getting those fish in.

Keeping Pressure on the Fish

Another overlooked tip is to keep pressure on the fish. I see a lot of people set the hook, then immediately lower the rod releasing pressure on the fish.

You want to keep pressure and tension on the fish at all times. Even when you reel down, you need to keep the tension on. Your rod is there to help you with this, as some bend more than others.

Keep the rod high or at least bent through the majority of the fight. If you do this you will certainly seem an improvement in yourself landing fish.


Hooking fish can be tricky. You need to have the species you are chasing narrowed down. I hope these tips helped improve your fishing game!

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