Improving Your Catch Rate

Tips to help you catch more fishes than your friends!

This write up is a small accumulation of all the little tips and tricks to improve your fishing and catch rate. The information provided is gathered from my years of fishing and observation. Some of these are my opinions, but many are just logical deduction. But before I proceed, I would like to remind everyone, that "With great knowledge come great responsibilities!". Catch what you need, and please release the smaller and the unwanted fishes. Take some care when releasing fishes too, to ensure they have better survival rate. We reside in a country that have more anglers per kilometre of coast line then many other countries in the world. So to ensure that we continue to have something to fish for, conservation should always be on our mind. I hope this document doesn't contribute in any way to the depletion of fishes, instead help to conserve and improve our fishing environment at the same time improve the joy of fishing.

My focus on this write up will be on the hook and hook leader line. In my opinion, the hook is the one of the two most basic elements in a fishing rig. If you get this one wrong, it will seriously limit your ability to catch any fish. There are hooks of all material and make but for a simple guide as this, hook material is beyond the scope of this write up.

Always get the right hooks by knowing what you're targeting. You'll want to know the average size of the fishes you'll face and the fish species you'll probably encounter and the mouth structure of the fish you're targeting if possible (eg. Mullet, Rabbit Fish, etc). I know that as beginners, we tend to just visit random places and start fishing. There is usually no pre-conceived idea what's available nor average size of the fish around. Well, don't worry. You can always use the first trip to a spot to recon the location. We usually call this first trip to any location the reccee trip and that's the trip that you take the opportunity to see what others are catching, what's the rig and baits they use, if the place is large at which location is people catching fishes and at which stage of the tide are these fishes being caught.

Anyway, lets us take a look at hooks to begin with.

SIZE OF HOOKS - (Use the right size - Smaller if you're not sure). Many a times, I have seen new anglers' using hooks that are way too big for the location they are fishing from. And because of that they will probably catch nothing unless their luck is very good and something different swim by. My rule of thumb for new places is start small (or medium depending on your perception of size), at a place where you have no prior knowledge of. I uses Daiichi Size Aji size 10 hook, if there are bites but no hook up then it's time to downsize. And if I'm catching too many small fishes then I'll upsize. Some fishes that have smaller mouth in relation to their size, these are, mullet, rabbit fish, scats, trigger, etc. On the other hand, there are those that have exceptionally large mouth in relation to their size, fishes like Grouper, Toad fish, cardinal, catfish, cobia, etc. But in general, the size of the mouth of the fish is very much in relation to their size. Big fish big mouth type of logic usually applies. Incidentally, I realised that if your hook is too small in relation to the mouth of a fish, the chances of a good hook-up is also lesser and chances of a thrown hook is also higher . Under size hooks also tends to result in straighten or broken hook if you hit a big one. Therefore "Too Small" is also not good.

SHAPE OF HOOKS - ( No Particular recommendation ) For fishes with smaller mouth or for smaller fishes I prefer to use long shank hooks, for others I use round hook (not necessary circle hook ). Generally because long shank hooks are easier to find in smaller size and I also feel that they hook on better for smaller mouth. I use long shank for Tambans(Herring), Halfbeaks, Whitings(Pasir Pasir), Selar, and most baitfish. The long shank also makes for easier removal, especially when the hook is tiny.

THICKNESS OF HOOKS - (Thinner for better hook-up) Thin hook will catch you more fishes, compare to thick hooks. I believe the thickness and size basically dictate how easy is it for the fish to take the hook in its mouth (the gulp of water that bring the bait and hook into the fish's mouth). The thinner and lighter the hook, the easier it is for the hook to be swallowed. Thin hook also does not spook the fishes as much therefore giving you higher bite rates. This is not to say that a thick hook does not have its place, if you're fighting a big brute like a huge shark, giant marlin or giant grouper, you will need the strength provided by the thickness to manage these biggies. And big brute like these doesn't really notice the thickness of the hook, once they see the bait (food) they will whack it, even if there is an anchor attached to it (joking). On the other hand if you do live baiting with live prawns, you would want to look for the thinnest and lightest hook to do the job, of course you also want it to be strong. You would want a hook that is light and small enough for the prawn to be able to move around, yet strong big and strong enough to hold on to the fish. When live baiting with live fishes, it will depend on the target fish you're going for. When targeting Mahi Mahi with balloon, you would want a thinner hook on smaller baitfish. But if you're using bait fish in the range of 300g and above, the thickness of the hook probably won't make much of a difference to your target fish.

SHARPNESS OF HOOKS – (Sharper the better) Sharper hook catches more fishes. But with current technology, most of the hooks we can buy off the shelf are relatively well sharpen. The different is in the material they're made of and for some hooks they lose their sharpness after a day or two of fishing. Corrosion to certain extend will also reduce the sharpness of hooks, especially on a longer fishing trip. Therefore always ensure you hooks are sharp, and if you're fishing on a longer trip, try to change your hooks daily unless you're using stainless steel hooks which you can re-sharpen with a hook sharpening stone.

Exploring the leader Line

The leader line is the line that secures the hook to the main line of the rod. Depending on the rig you use, it could be classified as a hook leader which secures the hook to the main leader of the rig as in a paternoster rig. Or for a single hook rig, it secures the hook to the main line or rangong. As a beginner, the rig you use when fishing is usually either a single hook setup or a 2 hooks paternoster or Apollo rig. The characteristic of the single hook leader and the hook leader for the Apollo rig is the same and that's what we will look at to improve our catch.

MATERIAL OF HOOK LEADER – We can't escape mentioning material here because of their physical properties. Good Fluorocarbon line will improve your catch rate. The theory is that due to the reflective index of the material, light travel through the line in a particular way to make it almost invisible to the eye (and hopefully eye of the fish) therefore it doesn't spook the fish as much. This is especially important for finicky feeders. Some fishes will not feed if they see a line attached to the bait. Therefore a thin, transparent line will improve the hook-up rate in most situations. If FC lines (which are generally more expensive) are beyond your reach, then get normal mono leader. For this, my preferred brand is the dependent Dupont leader lines that they sell in coils (without a spool), and there are two type available. The translucent version and the clear version, the translucent version is softer and is my preferred leader line for single hook setup. Normal Mono lines are generally thicker and stiffer then FC line, for example for the same poundage, the FC line are usually thinner, therefore use FC line if possible. There are leader made of monofilament that are abrasion resistant or have other properties like shock absorbent, but since these don't really impact the catch rate, we shall not get into it here.

THICKNESS OF HOOK LEADER – I always believe that using the thinnest hook leader practical, will catch you the most fishes. Everything equal, a thinner hook leader enables the fish to swallow your hook easier. The catch to this is that you must also ensure that after the fish has taken the hook, your hook leader is strong enough to take the stress of the fish pulling and the abrasion cause by the teeth of the fish hooked. It's a fine balancing act and that's where experience and skill comes into play. You might also need to take into consideration how you're going to land the fish, eg. On a seawall, breakwater, jetty, etc. Are you depending solely on your leader to lift the fish or do you use a scoop or gaff?

POUNDAGE OF HOOK LEADER – It's the same as above, if you can find line of a stronger material with same of thickness that will be the best. Of course you need to also take into consideration the material ability to with stand abrasion and other properties necessary to be a good leader line. For general coastal fishing, use not more than 10 to 15lb line for the leader, that should cover 95% of possibility for coastal fishes. Unless you're targeting bigger game (eg. Stingray, skate, large catfish, giant grouper, etc ), by surfcasting method or wreck fishing, you would then need to upsize accordingly.

STIFFNESS OF THE HOOK LEADER – A softer leader line (limp) will improve hook-up but it sucks in bait presentation if you're using a paternoster rig and a limp hook leader tends to wrap itself and the hook around the main leader line of the paternoster rig. Therefore I would usually work on a compromise, a stiffer but thinner hook leader line for paternoster rig.

LENGTH OF HOOK LEADER - Having a longer leader line is better than using a shorter one. If you're using a paternoster rig, your hook leader line should not be too long or it will entangle easily and be harder to manage. A hook leader line for a paternoster rig should not be longer than 1 foot unless the gap between the hooks and the gap between the hook leader knot on the main leader and sinker is very wide. That would also means that the total length of the rig would be very long and that can only be used on a very long rod. See tying of paternoster rig (hyperlink). The reason a longer leader line is more effective is because it allow the fish to swallow the bait easier (without restriction) and allow the fish more time to properly swallow the hook before feeling the resistance of the leader. Short and thick hook leader makes the worst combination.

Other General Tips.

From my general observation, the most common mistake made by beginner is that they tend to use too large a hook and too thick a leader. Tone down and you should see your catch rate improve.

For general fishing worms and prawns meat is the best bait to use. Squid is not as effective for local fishing.

Do not soak your baits in freshwater or ice water (I have seen many ice boxes with markets prawns swimming in ice slurry). One reason our market Sotong is not effective for local fishing because the stalls or super mart always soak their squid in ice (water) and that contaminate the squid. I have tested this theory with aquarium fishes and the result is very obvious. For market prawns once you buy it, separate it from ice or tap water. Once a prawns is de-shell never soak it in ice or freshwater or it will useless as baits.

The upcoming tide (2 hour after lowest tide to ½ an hour before the peak of high tide) is the best fishing time. There are fishes around all the time but they tend to feed around this time especially along coastal area.

Live prawns should only be used on a single hook set-up and keep the hook and hook leader as thin as you practically can and at least a meter long if possible. This allows the live prawn to swim and attract the fish. Using life prawns on a paternoster rig is a waste of good baits.

Happy Fishing! :)
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