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STRUCTURE Makes the difference By Gary Howey

  You won’t have to look very far in most fishing publications or on a fishing show where you won’t hear the words structure mentioned several times.

  One thing is for sure, when you locate the structure on a farm pond, Lake Oahe or Lake Kampeska, you’re going to find the fish.

  Structure, exactly what is it?  A good definition of structure would be any difference or change on the bottom configuration.  At times, it might be large and at others, not large at all.

  No matter what size or type of structure you find on any body of water, it’s a good bet that there will be some aquatic life in that area.

 Now that we know the fish you are hoping to catch might be relating to some sort of structure in the lake, all you need to do is to locate the right piece of structure. This change in the bottom contour can attract numerous species of aquatic creatures, which creates a food chain.

  To make our body of water the underwater structure easier to understand let’s put it into above water terms. Let’s imagine a large pasture is your body of water with a large tree in the middle and a small clump of plum brush in the corner.

  Fish are like any other animal such as a deer or coyote and when they enter the pasture, the first thing they’re going to see is these two changes or features in the field and they’re drawn to them as these may be a good place to look for food.  If they’re underwater, these changes would be called structure.

  As I mentioned earlier, the change doesn’t need to be huge, as it can be a slight depression on the bottom or areas where the bottom content changes from soft mud to hard gravel.

   I’ve caught fish around some structure so small, unless I’d seen it when the water was low, I’d have never known it was there. 

  It could be a few weeds along the shoreline, a change from mud to gravel, a depth change in the old river channel, submerged trees, humps or points in the Missouri River reservoirs lakes. It doesn’t have to be a drastic change; it just needs to be something different.

WHY FISH RELATE TO STRUCTURE

  Studies have shown us how fish relate to structure and how much is needed in order for the fish to be attracted to one particular area.

  In studies, fish were put into a large stock tank and when the bottom configuration is all the same, the fish roamed around the tank. However, when rocks were placed on the bottom, the fish moved onto those rocks.  This example didn’t give the fish all they needed as most real structure does, but it gives you an idea as to how fish react to it.

  What draws these fish to these areas is simple; structure in a lake, reservoir or pond gives the fish everything they need; a food source, security and in some cases comfortable water temperatures. [Read more…]

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Spring Turkey Hunting When They Won’t Come In Gary Howey

  One of the things that I hear a lot when it comes to spring turkey hunting is the Toms will gobble every time the hunter calls,  but will not come in that last 35 yards or so into range.

  This is definitely a problem for turkey hunters and numerous reasons why a bird will not come in or hang up just out of range.

  In the real wild world, the hen hears the Tom gobble and comes to him.  Hunters need to reverse the roles in order to pull a Tom into range. 

 Can you imagine how hard this is on a big old Tom’s ego?  He is the big boy, the dominant Tom and he has proved it, kicking the daylights out of any other Tom that gets getting in his way. Here the gobbler is, strutting  his stuff, all fanned out and the hen just does not get it, she is suppose to come to him and will not play the game right.

  Well, if he is going to get the opportunity to get close to this hen, he will have to forget about his ego and work his way towards her, hoping that once she sees him she, in all his glory will come to her senses and come to him. Some Toms take a little longer to swallow their pride and may not move or saunter your way, which could take a long time.

  The most common reason a Tom will hang up is that he has hens with him.  It does not take a rocket scientist to figure out if an old Tom has several hens in his harem already; he is not going to leave two or three hens for a chance at a single hen.

  When a bird will not move and are henned up, do not give up. There are several things you might try to convince him to come your way.

  The first is to become vocal, call as if there are several different hens talking to him, by using a couple of different calls and changing the pitch.

  Many times, this will make the bird curious and draw the Tom towards you.  Do not give up or get upset if he takes his time coming your way, because he will have to bring his hens with him or take the chance of leaving them and having some subordinate Tom walk off with his harem.

  There are always subordinate Toms following in the shadows or with the flock.  The ones with the flock are generally the younger birds or birds that have not acted aggressively towards the dominate Tom.  Those hanging around the fringes of the flock are usually the older birds that the dominate birds has stomped the tar out of.  These are the birds that know better than to get to close, but are hanging around just in case something happens to the dominate bird or a hen strays from the fold.

  If the dominate bird hangs up and doesn’t come in, many times the loud boisterous calling will pull one of the subordinate Toms in and you’ll be able to tip one of them over and fill your tag.

  Another method that I have used to call a gobbler that has hens into range is to call to his girl friends.  There is usually a dominate hen with the group and if you talk sweet enough, long enough and loud enough, she might just come over and see who or what is trying to take her man away.

  I used this method numerous time; one that really emphasizes what I am talking about was a hunt years ago on the Rosebud Reservation in South Dakota to help Larry Myhre from The Sioux City Journal to fill his tag. 

  Most of the larger Toms had collected their harems and were not about to leave their flock to check out a lone hen.

  This Tom was over the hill, so I set up down the hill from Larry, putting my decoy in between us.

   I started calling with a slate call and immediately heard several responses from different gobblers.  I worked the birds for about 10 minutes and could not get them to come any closer, so I started to call louder and more frequently to the hen.  She got louder and started coming our way.  This went on for another 10 minutes, but the hen was getting closer, I knew if the hen left the Tom, he would have to follow her over the hill giving my partner the opportunity for a shot.

   As my slate got squeaky, I switched to my diaphragm call while I roughed up the surface of the slate call.  When my mouth got dry, I switched back to the slate and kept going back and fourth or used them together to make the Tom think there were several hens on this side of the hill.

  I kept it loud, because the Tom was not moving, he was hung up and I needed to bring the hen over in order to get the gobbler within range. 

  Fifteen minutes after I started calling, the hen appeared at the top of the hill and headed directly towards my decoy clucking, spitting and putting all the way.  She was “MAD”!

  Fortunately, for my decoy, another Tom had been responding to my calls and after twenty minutes of calling, she lost interest in my decoy and the Tom over the hill and headed off to looking for the other bird.

  When she shut up, I backed off on the calls and waited for the Tom and the rest of his harem to come looking for his hen that had wondered off.  It did not take long after the hen moved off when a blue and white head popped up over the rise.  A few more clucks and purrs and the gobbler stepped over the hill and into Larry’s sights and it was all over. [Read more…]

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Patterning Turkeys With the help of game cameras By Gary Howey

  The key to a successful turkey hunt is to know where the birds are going to be at a given point in the day, there’s no better way to do this than with your game cameras.

  I have certain places where I place my game cameras to pattern deer and these areas; food plots, fence lines, gates, corn and bean fields are areas where I find turkeys in the spring.

  In the fall after deer season, I pull my game cameras as the winter months are hard on cameras and times covered up by snow.

  When I’m out doing my pre-season scouting for turkeys, I’ll put a few of the camera’s out and when I’m scouting or when hunting sheds pull the cards to see if the birds are coming through the area. If they’re using the area, the photo will tell me what time of the day they may be there.

  Using game cameras in the spring cuts down on my scouting time as if the turkeys show up on my game camera numerous times and at about the same time, I now have a place and a time where I can set up and decoy a bird.

  In the early spring, my best bet is to use the game camera photos to get an idea as to where certain flocks of birds are heading in the early morning. One of the first thing turkeys do when they hit the ground, is to go out to feed, but if the area you’re hunting contains dozens of crop fields, a game camera will help you narrow your search.

  Good spots to have your game cameras located include, areas where the birds can move from one field to another, gates and down fence lines, if you have a mineral feeder out, it’s another good location for your camera as turkeys will come to investigate it.  If a farmer has livestock that he feeds, you can bet that the turkeys will visit that location.

  You can’t hunt too close to where they’re feeding as that could be considered baiting, but you can hunt where they come and go into the area. Game camera placed along these routes will give you a good idea as to when they come through.

 When I’m out searching for sheds, and I have an idea as to where the birds may be located, I use my locator calls i.e. crow calls, owl calls, and coyote howler to narrow my search area.

  These work especially well late in the day just about the time the birds are thinking about going to roost. Just prior to flying up into the trees, turkeys will mill around the trees they will roost in, pecking around, getting a bedtime snack before retiring up in the trees and will respond to those calls I mentioned. Once you get a response, you’ve a good idea as to where they will be located the following morning.

  Armed with the information you’ve obtained from your game cameras and your locator calls, the following morning, you can come back before the sun gets up to set up your decoys and blind.

  A couple of mistakes that new hunters make are to get into the field late, as the sun begins to rise and get spotted by the birds. Turkeys have excellent eyesight during the day but once it gets dark their eyesight is poor.  However, once it starts to lighten up, even though it’s still dark, if you’re out moving around, putting up your decoys, the turkeys will know something is up. [Read more…]

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The Song of the Sandhill Cranes By Gary Howey

  As we made our way along the half-mile trail in the dark to the photography blind at the Rowe Sanctuary near Kearney, Nebraska, the distinctive calls of the Sandhill Cranes echoed across the Platte River valley.  

  Once you have heard their calls, which can carry over a mile, it is something you will remember, as it seems they are always chattering, no matter what time of the day or night!

  Unfamiliar with the miles needed to travel to Rowe Sanctuary, we arouse at 4:30 am, arriving at the sanctuary well before our 6:00 am scheduled trip to the photo blind.

  The photo blind positioned on the shore just far enough away from the cranes to allow photos and videos to be taken, yet not to close to frighten the birds. These photographic opportunities at Rowe Sanctuary are available several times a day including one 6:00 am and again at 6:00 pm.

  We were not sure what to expect for bird numbers as the weather for this time of the year was warmer than usual and there was some concern that many of the birds may have gone through.

  Our concerns were answered the day before as we drew close to Kearney on I-80, in the fields on both sides of the interstate were large flocks of feeding cranes.

  As we approached the bind, the noise coming from the river at times was deafening and as the sun light worked its way up river, the song of the Sandhill Cranes became louder as thousands of Cranes appeared before us, a sight that is hard to describe. 

  Thousands of these tall gray birds appeared before us, some resting on the sand bars, wadding and feeding in the shallow water, while several of the males performed before us, trying to impress the females around them.

As the Cranes come through the Kearney area, on their way to their matting grounds, it is not unusual to see the males doing their dance, displaying, hoping to impress one of the females.

  Each spring over eighty percent of the Sandhill Crane population, estimated to be at 650,000 migrates through the Kearney area, “The Sandhill Crane Capital of the World.” Thousands of visitors from throughout the world travel here to observe these birds and on the morning we visited the sanctuary, I observed vehicles from Wisconsin, Iowa, California, South Dakota, Nebraska, Illinois, Minnesota, Colorado, Georgia, Missouri and Manitoba Canada in the parking lot. www.rowe.audubon.org        

  Throughout the day, no matter which direction you would look, there were always flocks of birds in the air or feeding in the fields, seeming not to be concerned with the vehicles, photographers and others observing them as the cranes went through their daily routine.

  Kearney, known for the Sandhill Cranes, also has numerous other attractions and if you are into the outdoors, history or classic cars, these are but a few of the things in and around Kearney, making it a great vacation destination.

  History has always been my thing and we history buffs will not be disappointed as there is plenty of history in the area.

  You cannot miss the Archway that spans I-80 as you come into Kearney; this majestic building is a history lesson in itself. The exhibits inside include the Oregon Trail which ran through this part of Nebraska, the Pony Express, gold panning, early railroads, the driving of the “Golden Spike”, the Lincoln Highway and much, much more. archway.org/

   Nebraska’s State Historical Park Fort Kearny was the first fort to protect travelers on the Oregon Trail. It was also a home station for the Pony express riders and the Pawnee scouts serving with the U.S. Army.  On the site, you will find a walking trail, State Historical sign, and reconstructed buildings: a blacksmith shop, stockade, powder magazine, carpenter-blacksmith shop and the Ft. Kearny State Park Bridge on the Platte River. outdoornebraska.gov/fortkearny

  Kearney is where the “Worlds’ Foremost Outfitter” Cabela’s placed their second store, located on Highway 30 on the northeast edge of the city, it has expanded several times and has everything someone like me who loves the outdoors would ever need or want. www.cabelas.com

  If you are into cars, you do not want to miss the Classic Cars that is located adjacent to the Cabela’s store. There, you will see over 200 cars, historic automobiles from the early 1900’s to the modern era,

with displays from the cars era. From limited edition, Royal Royce, to automobiles that many of us may have never heard of such as the Rover are featured at Classic Cars.

  You will find the cars of your youth, those you and I cruised the main drag of the town we grew up in as well as some high performance muscle cars we dreamed of owning when we were younger.

  Beautifully displayed, at the drive in theater and the malt shop, there you will find Fords Mustang, limited edition Fairlane, Chevy Corvettes, Camaro, Chevelles, Nomads, Pontiac GTO, Firebird, Plymouth Road Runner Barracuda, Dodge, Charger and Super Bee that can be driven either on the street or down a quarter mile drag strip.

    If you are into cars, it may take you awhile to get through the display and if you were not into cars when you went in, you could possibly be before you leave. www.ccckearney.com

  The number of Sandhill Cranes and other waterfowl migrating through the Kearney area is amazing and if you have not had, an opportunity to see this, it is something I would highly recommend. 

  The trip to view the Sandhill Crane migration and other sights the Kearney area is one you should take and if you can’t make it this year should be added to your buckets list as there is much to see and do in and around Kearney, NE.. https://visitkearney.org

 

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Tips for Tagging Gobblers By Gary Howey

  The gobble rang out across the creek bottom, up onto the road where I was using my shock calls to get a Tom to give away his location. As my call faded, a resounding gobble came from the tree-lined hillside adjacent to the creek

  From the direction the gobble came from, it appeared that the birds were in the same general area where I had located them last spring. It looked as if my plan for opening day this year would be much the same as it was last season.

  Before I head out opening morning,  I’m going to make sure I have everything ready, starting with checking my camo, making sure it’s in good shape and going from there to my calls, backpacks and shotgun.

  Because I use my Winchester 12 gauge for several different hunts, I need to change my choke to either a full or extra full depending on what shells pattern the best with a particular choke.

  I’ll test fire my shotgun at several turkey targets and decide which choke works best with which shells allowing me to put the most BB’s in the neck and head region of the target.

  My opening day location was an area that could be hard to get into without spooking the birds, as it would require a good quarter mile walk over some open ground so the approach needed to be early, well before daylight and had to be done quietly. 

  Turkeys have an excellent hearing and if you don’t come in quietly, they’ll know something’s up and pitch out of the trees in the opposite direction.

  What the birds can’t pickup with their hearing; they’ll spot you with their excellent vision. Their night vision isn’t good but once there’s enough light to see, they can detect movement and danger.

  Now that you’re close, you need to set up, depending on how you have things laid out. In several of my locations I hunt on, I have deadfalls that I can climb behind and be hid, some are trees which have fell and trimmed so I can shoot over the top while others are dead timber I’ve drug over and piled up where I want to call the birds to. In other locations I hunt, I won’t have the luxury of dragging trees around and will have to rely on my poke in the ground blind, that’s lightweight and adjustable to any height so you can shoot over the top of it.

  There are times when put out a decoy and other times when i avoid them completely, the main factor as to when I should use decoys is how the gobblers have acted to them in past seasons. If the decoys seemed to spook the birds, I go without, but if they don’t bothered them, I’ll probably put them out [Read more…]

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Getting ready for Spring Turkey By Gary Howey

  For those of you, who like me, live for spring shotgun turkey hunting, our wait is almost over; it will not be long before we will be in the field.

  Archers have been in the field since March 25 in Nebraska and April 1 in South Dakota while the hunters armed with shotguns will have to wait until South Dakota until April 8 and Nebraska April 15.

  With the increase in turkey numbers throughout the upper Midwest, we hunters have the opportunity to obtain several permits.

  There have been years, when my hunting partners and I have had permits in several states, Iowa, Nebraska, South Dakota and Missouri.

  The first thing I do once I know I’ll have my permit, is to get out and check with the farmers and ranchers where I’ve hunted in the past, obtaining permission, as things might have changed since the last time I hunted there. In some cases, part of or all of the land may have been sold or been leased to another or woodlands converted to crop ground, which changes our whole game plan. 

  After obtaining permission, I do a drive by; looking the area over for any changes that might have occurred since I was there last and armed with this information will locate a map of the area so I know exactly how the land lies and where the property lines are. It is not a bad idea to contact adjourning landowners to inform them you will be hunting the area so there will not be any surprises when they see you or your vehicle parked near their land. 

  I do not know how many times I have stopped by an adjourning landowner to let them know I would be hunting nearby, when they thanked me or even gave me permission to hunt on their land.

  After getting my permission and obtaining everything I could find about where I plan on hunting,  I’ll spend some spend time in the field, scouting, with my first scouting opportunity while hunting deer sheds as this gives me an early opportunity to check things out.

  During this time of the year, there may be snow on the ground, with the birds still in their large winter flocks, if so, locating them, an easy task.

  With snow on the ground, figuring out where the birds are congregating, feeding and roosting is easier. Turkeys are scratchers, so look for areas where the snow or leaves are pulled back, leaving open areas, where the turkeys have scratched down through the ground debris and snow to find food. [Read more…]

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Poachers Stealing from us all By Gary Howey

  Those that take game illegally, poachers are robbing us, the hunters as well as our state of valuable resources and something needs to be done to stop this.

  It’s not just a problem for one state; it’s one affecting all the states and one that needs to be addressed.

  Some of the animals poached were left lay to rot, while others had their head and rack cut off that were either mounted and displayed as a legal mount in the poachers home or sold to someone else who had it mounted and displayed.

  It’s not just big game animals that are poached as fish are also affected by poaching as they over bag, taking more than their limit, which depletes the fish population, and if continued over an extended period may deplete the ponds fish population. If a poacher takes a trophy fish illegally, it takes away legal anglers the opportunity of catching that trophy fish.

  Many times, those that have broken the law, poached big game or came home with five to ten time their limit of fish seem to get away with it, receiving a small fine, probation and little else.

  Take for instance when poachers killed and left lay 25 antelope in western Nebraska the two men should have lost their right to hunt, paid huge fines and then went to jail. This would have been a deterrent to them and others who think nothing of breaking our game laws and robbing law-abiding hunters the opportunity to take these animals.

  These poachers received fines of $950.00 and sentenced to 18 months probation and each man ordered to pay $530.00 in court costs and $6,000.00 in liquidated damages.

  The liquidated damages, what the state deems the animals poached were worth, if divided among the fifteen animals is only $240.00 for each animal.   [Read more…]

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I’m a “Fan” of Turkey Hunting By Gary Howey

  It was twelve or so years ago, when I suggested to my  hunting partner Larry Myhre that we should come up with some type of turkey fan that would help us sneak up on Gobblers. He thought it was a good idea, but said it sounded like work and he was looking for less.

   That next spring, I took one of my turkey fans that I had spread out and dried into the field with me, didn’t have much luck with it and abandoned the idea.

   Since then, I’ve used then every spring and have fooled more long beards with them than I had every thought possible.

   Several years ago, my Outdoor Adventures radio co-host Simon Fuller was operating the camera as I called in a group of young birds using a combination of my calls and the fan. They five of them came into my decoys feeling brave with all of the birds fanned out as they approached my jake and hen decoys.

 As they surrounded my jake decoy, I made the raspy call of an old gobbler, raised the fan and all five of the birds about dirtied themselves as they did their best to get away from my fan.

  On the same hunt, using my fan and calling, I called a hen a long ways and when she came within sight of my decoys lost interest and started to move away. However, when I brought my fan back up, she came within arm’s reach of me and refused to leave, I think she fell in love with my turkey fan. I finally had to chase her away as she was messing up my turkey hunting.

  Later that day as we were heading back towards town with my Honda Pioneer, we spooked a big Tom that took off running across a pasture. Down the road a ways, we spotted two gobblers and a hen bout a 1/2 mile away, in order for the birds to hear and see the fan, we crawled through the pasture, with my fan out in front of us, up to the fence line and started calling. I watched the birds with my binoculars and each time I called, they would gobble but not leave the hen.

  Simon had the camera zeroed in on them as I brought the fan up high and worked it from side to side, hoping to get the birds attention, but to no avail. Suddenly I saw the gobbler, the bird we had spooked as we came in, on the other side of the gobblers and hen and each time I raised the fan, he would head in our direction.

  He ran right past the other birds and came in our direction and each time the fan came up would strut and gobble, coming closer all the time.

  When I said “the birds coming in”, Simon who was still locked on the two gobblers and hen disagreed with me and wasn’t sure what I was talking about. By this time the bird was out a 100 yards or so when I told Simon “can you hold this fan up as I can’t shoot and run it at the same time” that he looked my way and spotted the gobbler out in front of me. [Read more…]

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Setting the Hook The Key to Landing more Fish By Gary Howey

  It’s said that a definition of a fisherman is a jerk on one end of a line waiting for a jerk on the other end.

  You know there’s some truth to that statement!  If you don’t jerk or set the hook properly, you’re going to do a whole lot of jerking, not much catching and then feel like a jerk when you miss the fish.

  It’s happened to all of us, you feel a tug or a little extra weight on the end of your line and you instantly jerk back, which at times works out well!

  There can be quite a bit of difference when and how to set the hook and a lot of it depends on what you’re fishing for, what action rod you’re using and what type line you have on your reel.

  Let’s look at it from the fish’s point of view?  The fish is just lying on or near the bottom when along comes a tasty looking morsel, in this case a jig with a minnow. He  glides up to it, looks it over, decides it’s just what he’s looking for, flares his gills, sucking the bait in only to have it jerked out of the side of his mouth.

  What’s wrong with this picture?  Well to begin with the best place to hook a fish is in the top of the fish’s mouth, the boney part of its mouth, not in the side where there‘s very little bone and a whole lot of soft skin.

  So when you set the hook it’s best to pull straight up, because you have a better chance that your hook will penetrate the top of the mouth.  If you pull to the side, you’re more apt to pull the hook away from the fish or hook him in the soft tissue in the side of the mouth where it can easily pull out.

  If you’re using a live bait rig or jig and feel a fish pick up your bait, your best bet for a good hook set is to reel up the slack line eliminating any bow in your line.  Once you feel the weight of the fish on your line bring the rod tip straight up not side ways, forcing the hook into the top of the fish’s mouth.

The way you set the hook is extremely important with crappies as their mouth is paper thin on the side and a hook set to the side may result in the hook tearing through the side of the mouth.

  By reeling up the slack line, you’re removing the bow in your line, shortening the distance between the end of your rod and the hook, allowing you to drive your hook home with less effort.

  This is especially important if you’re using monofilament line because mono has a tremendous amount of stretch. In order to set the hook using mono, not only do you have to use enough force to penetrate the hard, bony top of the fish’s mouth, you also have to pull hard enough to make up for the stretch in the line.

  If you’re using one of the super lines like Fireline and Spider Wire, it’s a completely different story.

  To get the inside scoop on these super lines and how to fish them different, I contacted Berkley, the manufacturers of both Fireline and Spider Wire.

According to the folks at Berkley, “you’re going to have to fish super lines differently than you will mono since super lines have no stretch.

  If you fish Fireline or Spider Wire the same way you fish mono, you’re going to end up pulling the bait away from or tear it out of the fish’s mouth.”

  For walleye fishing, they recommend a rod with a fast, limber tip as this takes the place of the stretch in the mono, giving you a little give when you set the hook.

 

  When fishing for Bass, Pike and Muskie, you’re going to want to go to a moderate action rod which not only gives you a little give when you set the hook into these hard hitting, hard charging fish. The heavier rod will have enough backbone to drive the hook home and be able to bring them to the boat.

  This is especially true in current as you need to be quick with your hook set, but not so quick that you rip the bait from the fish.”

  If you’re fishing super lines in shallow water, it’s a good idea to go with a Medium Light rod.  In medium depths a Medium rods will work well and when you’re fishing water deeper than 25”, he’d recommend using a Medium Heavy rod.

  With super lines, you let the rod set the hook and that’s why a quicker tip rod works well.

The main thing you need to remember to become a more consistent catcher and not a jerker is to make sure that you reel up all the slack line once you feel a bite, that bring your rod tip straight up, driving the hook into the top of the fish’s mouth.

  If you set your hook to the side, more times than not, you’ll pull the bait away from the fish or tear the hook through the soft tissue on the side of the fish’s mouth.

  By keeping a tight line, you’re going to detect more bites and by setting the hook by bringing your rod straight up, you won’t believe how much your fish hooking ability will improve.