Elite Series pro Mike McClelland's name has become synonymous with dragging a Carolina rig or football jig around the bottom for bass. In fact, you might say that the Arkansas pro wrote the book (or at least a chapter) on deepwater structure fishing.
He's a perfectionist when it comes to the technical side of bass fishing, so it's no surprise that he takes issue with the manner in which many anglers approach the moment of truth when fishing those deep water techniques — the hook set. "When you're talking about catching fish deep on a Carolina rig or on a football jig, you're talking about maintaining contact with the bottom of the lake," he explains. "The biggest key to getting fish in the boat with either of these presentations is the hook set.
"Most of the people who pick up a Carolina rig for the first time have no problem feeling the bite," he suggests, while pointing out the amount of time many anglers allow between the moment they feel a bite and the moment that they act upon that realization. "The biggest problem is that as soon as they feel the bite, they immediately set the hook.
More times than not, what they end up doing is jerking the sinker up off the bottom and away from the fish." Instead of that quick jerk, McClelland suggests using the fish's resistance to your advantage. "On either the Carolina rig or football jig, I like to start winding slowly until I start to feel the fish load up," he explains. "Once I feel the fish, rather than giving a big power hook set, I sweep the rod laterally as I'm winding the reel at a high rate of speed.
"People assume that fishing deep means gigantic hook sets," he continues, "but with the hooks being so much sharper nowadays, you don't need that much force to bury the hook. Once the hook point gets started, the slightest resistance will drive it where it needs to go." On the sweeping hook set, Mike points out that it's as much to do with the rod as it is with the reel. "Once I start sweeping, I'm winding just as fast I can — and typically with a fast, 6:1 ratio reel," he explains. "I put a lot of pressure on that fish by reeling at a high rate while I sweep the rod.
" While the Carolina rig and football jig are McClelland's peas and carrots, he's quite comfortable fishing the West Coast finesse techniques, which have become mainstays on the Elite Series over the past few years. "To me, regardless of whether I'm fishing a football jig or a drop shot, the hook set is almost identical," he says. "You never want to rare back and set the hook as hard as you can. With the way the baits are designed, and the line and hook technology in place today, short of flipping a bush or grass mat, there's not really any reason for a massive hook set."
McClelland points out that the right hook set begins with your rod position while fishing these techniques. "I've learned over the last few years when I'm fishing either a Carolina rig or a football jig to keep my rod in the nine o'clock position and sweep the bait sideways as I move it versus working it from the 12 o'clock position," he reveals.
"This allows me to maintain better bottom contact, plus it shortens the gap from when I feel the bite to when I begin to feel the fish load up because I don't have to reel up a bunch of slack. I guarantee if you'll do that, you will catch more fish."
(Provided by Z3 Media)