It depends on what kind of hook you are using. If it is a circle hook, you don’t have to set the hook. The hook was designed to set itself. When the fish grabs your shrimp and starts to move away the circle hook will slowly roll until it catches a part of the fishes lip. If you set the hook or even jerk the rod, the circle hook will never get to complete its full rolling range of motion in order for the point to grab. Basically with a circle hook, you just reel when you feel.
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Now if you are using a J-Hook or a jig, I would set the hook when you think, feel or get a few taps on your shrimp. What I like to do is when I feel a few taps, I would slightly wind down until my line is tight and if I feel weight I set the hook. When I reel down, if I do not feel any weight and a fish was mouthing it, he will usually now strike the shrimp hard and set the hook himself. I prefer to use J-Hooks around docks and structure. The reason is when you set the hook you pull the momentum of the fish in your direction immediately and away from the structure. This gives you a better chance of landing the fish. With a circle hook, the fish has to basically turn away and start moving in the direction of the structure before the hook starts to roll and get caught. The fish already has the momentum and is moving towards or already in the structure.
It is much harder to now pull him away or out of the structure. Always check your hook points even when they right out of the package. Have a hook sharpener handy. If you are fishing around docks, rocks, oysters or any structure, you should be periodically checking your hook points. Remember, when in doubt with a J-Hook –set it!!!
Captain David M Rieumont
The Online Fisherman Inc
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