With more and more fly anglers trying warmwater species with a fly rod there’s a transition period of using different techniques than the trout angler is used to. It’s a little like trout anglers heading down to the salt to try flats fishing. Hook sets are different and retrieves can be different.
Poppers are one of the favored methods for catching both smallmouth and largemouth bass. It can be frustrating for first timers when trying to set the hook using a popper. Most trout hook sets require simply lifting the rod tip to send the hypodermic like small hooks home and it is done quickly and soon as the strike is seen or detected. Strike too quickly when a popper gets eaten and you will probably pull the fly out of the bass’ mouth. The key to more hook-ups is to wait until you feel the weight of the fish to set the hook. This will allow the bass to close its mouth and turn a little so the hook isn’t pulled out the mouth without making contact.
Another key aspect to more bass hook-ups is to keep your rod tip at the water surface and keep your fly line pointed at your fly creating a straight line from your fly line to the fly. This will keep slack out of your line and form as direct a connection to fly as possible to help drive the larger hooks into the tough mouths of bass, pike and muskies. I like to use a strip-strike motion to set the hook or a sweeping motion with the fly rod to engage the rod’s butt section to put some extra muscle into the hook set. High rod tips like those used to get drag free drifts when trout fishing create slack that will make setting the hook extremely difficult.
The Bass/Muskie line that I designed for Airflo will help to get the hook set too because of the no stretch Power Core construction. Big bass, muskies and pike generally require more power than finesse and these techniques along with the no stretch Bass/Muskie fly lines should bring your success ratio up.