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#557496 04/17/23 11:08 PM
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Electro-survey found that Florida LMB genes are dominant in my BOW, and that the real bigguns are wary & tend to stay deep in cover. Thus, it is often difficult to tempt them with artificial lures.

So I was thinking (a dangerous pastime) that perhaps I should modify my approach when I want to go lunker fishing, especially after observing how a big LMB attacked panfish hooked around the dock. That is, use a small fin clipped bass or BG as bait around cover, rather than constantly casting with lures.

Trouble is, I do NOT want to harm any lunkers that might bite. Swallowing a relatively large hook can be hazardous to big momma LMB, and they are too rare to kill for sport.

I've heard that circle hooks reduce the risks of deep hooking, but never used one. Has anybody tried them for bass? Do they actually work to hook fish in the upper jaw, thus protecting it from serious injury? Any tips on how best to fish with live bait for lunkers?


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Great topic, anthropic! We talk about how to handle lunkers out of the water on the forum. Let's find out the least damaging way to actually catch lunkers.

Perhaps you should watch some of the videos of large bass violently inhaling their prey/lure. That may provide some useful insight?

My experiences on bass mortality. (FWIW)

I have caught many small bass (9-14") on crankbaits that managed to get the back treble hook into the gill-rakers or gill arch. No matter how delicately we tried to surgically remove the hooks, this resulted in severe bleeding of the gill filaments. Those fish would float when returned to the lake, and presumably died shortly thereafter.

I have never gill-hooked a large bass with a dual treble hook lure (although that is a much smaller sample size). Considering how violently a big bass inhales the lure by flaring her gills, would gill hooking a large bass be more likely?

Our other "catch" mortality was "gullet-hooked" bass on Texas-rigged plastic worms. Once again, I only did this on smaller bass, and never on a 5#+ bass.

I actually think this problem was most common on spotted bass (Kentucky bass). (Do they attack/eat baits in a different manner than LMB?) Sometimes these bass pick up the worm and start swimming. If you set the hook immediately, you would only recover the front half of the worm. If you waited for a subsequent "twitch" while the fish was swimming with the worm, then you could hook the fish. However, a small number of fish caught in this fashion would be gullet hooked.

I speculate that the small bass were picking up the worms by the tail. At some point, they would then inhale to re-position the worm completely in their mouth. A few of these fish did get the tail of the worm down their gullet and the hook set would pierce at the very top of the gullet soft tissue.

I would think a large bass could inhale the worm to that degree on the initial strike, but I never have gullet hooked a large LMB. Once again, perhaps my sample size is just too small.

I personally have never fished for giant LMB with large live fish bait. However, I believe that in Texas some people fish for 10#+ LMB with large gizzard shad, and in California they do the same thing with rainbow trout as bait.

Perhaps there are some articles on the best way to rig your live bait to catch those very large LMB? The way they rig might yield some info on how the very large LMB hit the live baits?

I am glad your pond has finally reached your goal of double-digit bass! grin

I look forward to some future reports of people successfully "sampling" these bass - with pictures!

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I wonder if it would be possible 'save' a gill or gullet hooked fish if the hook was left in place (by slipping it off the snap ring attached to the lure, etc). Then allowing the fish's immune response to expel the foreign body over the next few days (or maybe weeks?). Or would this just be a slower death sentence?

I'm also thinking of trying some live bait fishing for our LMB, via back hooking a smallish BG (? 3-5"). I'm gonna pay attention to this thread, regarding the circle hook question.


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Rod, thanks for the response. I usually throw 4 inch jigworms on a 1/32 oz jig head, finesse stuff. Perhaps due to the small size of my lure, I have had more issues with gut hooking than it sounds like you have had. If it is a good fish, of course, I cut the line near the hook & release.

As you say, serious lunker hunters in Florida use live bait, as the big girls are very hard to tempt on artificials. I've never fished California bass lake, but the use of trout makes good sense.

I've seen double hook setups for large live baits targeting muskies. In fact, I fished (private lake) for a large tiger muskie using an 11 inch live bass, and it got eaten. Unfortunately, I was too eager to set the hook -- when that big bobber went racing under the water I heard the theme from Jaws! -- and missed it. Two hooks might have made all the difference there. But, again, is it safe for big momma bass?

Circle hooks, anybody?


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I've used them, but I'm not comfortable giving you a definitive answer. I hooked the tails and reeled in with no hook set. I caught more than I lost. Also, pick a wire worm hook. Wire hooks will rust out, and fish will actually pass them.


AL

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I live in California and it is illegal to use any game fish as bait even in your own pond where you have purchased and stocked all of the fish. I have used circle hooks for several different species of fish they do work as advertised if used properly. You must let the fish take the bait and swim off with it without setting the hook otherwise you'll just pull it out of their mouth most of the time. When using big BG it's hard to watch a large bass come out and swallow your bait without setting the hook. Don't ask me how I know. When they swim off with it the hook usually rotates around the corner of the mouth. You just have to hold tight and let them hook themselves then it a fight just like normal

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Originally Posted by cb100
I live in California and it is illegal to use any game fish as bait even in your own pond where you have purchased and stocked all of the fish.

cb100, I am sure you are correct.

I remember the buzz from CA a few decades ago that they were easily going to break the world record for LMB.

I think that confidence was based on the apparent ease of growing rainbow trout to the correct size to feed trophy bass.

I suspect my fuzzy memory conflated that with fishing WITH trout rather than artificial baits that mimicked trout! crazy

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Originally Posted by cb100
I live in California and it is illegal to use any game fish as bait even in your own pond where you have purchased and stocked all of the fish. I have used circle hooks for several different species of fish they do work as advertised if used properly. You must let the fish take the bait and swim off with it without setting the hook otherwise you'll just pull it out of their mouth most of the time. When using big BG it's hard to watch a large bass come out and swallow your bait without setting the hook. Don't ask me how I know. When they swim off with it the hook usually rotates around the corner of the mouth. You just have to hold tight and let them hook themselves then it a fight just like normal

Cb, do you use a bobber? Also, when the bass takes, do you freespool line at first, and then engage the drag? Sorry for elementary questions, but circle hooks are new to me.


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Originally Posted by DrLuke
I wonder if it would be possible 'save' a gill or gullet hooked fish if the hook was left in place (by slipping it off the snap ring attached to the lure, etc). Then allowing the fish's immune response to expel the foreign body over the next few days (or maybe weeks?). Or would this just be a slower death sentence?

I believe we have successfully saved some gullet-hooked fish. I always carry a very long-handled hook remover.


Link to product at Cabelas

There is a way to get down all of the way to the curve of the hook and gently push towards the fish's tail to free the barb. You then twist the pliers to roll the point of the hook out of the gullet.

I have done that and extracted the hook and observed no blood. When the fish was returned to the water it swam deep in apparent normal behavior. I believe some or all of the bloodless fish lived, because I have come and fished the same bank in the evening and NOT seen any floating fish.


As regards fish dealing with an impaled hook, I have caught nice bass that had a rusty hook in their mouth. The wounds on these fish (observation bias to those that lived) appeared to have healed nicely. In my fuzzy memory, these fish had the hook most commonly through their cheek plates (don't know the proper anatomical name) which is a fairly non-fleshy portion of their mouth.

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I have one data point and some observations. Data point -- I used a live bluegill on a jug line with a circle hook to try to remove some large flathead cats. I ended up with a 7# bass, mouth hooked. I was a hand sized bluegill.

I fish Texas rigs a lot and I use 5/0 hooks. I usually throw Baby Brushhogs. I ocassionally get a gullet hooked fish. I can almost always work the hook out without damage. I do have a hook cutter in the boat and have used it a time or two. I think you can do about as well by flattening the barb before you try to remove the hook when its deep. Leaving the hook in place is another option. I heard that the fish chemistry will disolve hooks pretty quickly, but I have no data to back it up.

Those bass deep in a brush pile usually respond to large worms, brushhogs, and jig/craw.


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anthropic,

I wish we could give you more help on the circle hooks.

I think(?) I would want a hook that caught easily in the big bass's mouth BEFORE it got the live bait near the gullet.

As I remarked in your "Double Jeopardy" thread, we used to troll a sunfish behind the boat under a bobber. Sometimes my brother would have to replace the poor bait fish because it had been so badly mauled by the bass. Some even looked like they had been partially scaled!

All of that abuse was doled out with the bass managing to avoid the point of the catfish hook sticking out of the back of the bait (dorsal hooked).

Maybe our fish biologists can help as regards exactly how a big bass eats a big live bait?

My two cents would probably be HOW the baitfish is hooked is most important. Lip hooked, dorsal hooked, or tail hooked? I have no clue as to the correct answer.

I wish my Gpa was still around! He fished a lot with live baits.

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Some southern California lakes have regular Rbt stocking so they use a large trout swim bait. As for bobbers I don't use them just place the hook just in front of the dorsal fin and toss it by some cover the BG will swim around but you can tell when it's getting nervous. If you have some visibility you can see the bass come out and swallow it. just wait until the line gets tight and then reel down. I had a coworker come fish had him flip it out by a tree growing out into the pond had a nine pounder come out and grab the BG he set the hook and sent it flying over our heads he did that two more times on the fourth attempt I reached over and held the rod down until drag started coming off the reel

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Some of the circle hooks are Nickle-very undesirable to leave/cut as the digestive system will not process this material.
In my opinion it is best to mouth hook the bait. Large fish may grab sideways but quickly turn the bait headfirst. You can then set the hook fairly quickly.
Just my 2 cents.

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Originally Posted by RossC
I have one data point and some observations. Data point -- I used a live bluegill on a jug line with a circle hook to try to remove some large flathead cats. I ended up with a 7# bass, mouth hooked. I was a hand sized bluegill.

I fish Texas rigs a lot and I use 5/0 hooks. I usually throw Baby Brushhogs. I ocassionally get a gullet hooked fish. I can almost always work the hook out without damage. I do have a hook cutter in the boat and have used it a time or two. I think you can do about as well by flattening the barb before you try to remove the hook when its deep. Leaving the hook in place is another option. I heard that the fish chemistry will disolve hooks pretty quickly, but I have no data to back it up.

Those bass deep in a brush pile usually respond to large worms, brushhogs, and jig/craw.

Thanks. Flattening the barb sounds like a good strategy for these situations, Ross. My natural inclination is go as light as possible, but that doesn't work in brushpiles. I used to fish Texas rigged worms all the time with good success, but rarely a Brushhog or jig/craw. Gonna have to rig up properly to winch out a biggun from the timber!


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Originally Posted by Snipe
Some of the circle hooks are Nickle-very undesirable to leave/cut as the digestive system will not process this material.
In my opinion it is best to mouth hook the bait. Large fish may grab sideways but quickly turn the bait headfirst. You can then set the hook fairly quickly.
Just my 2 cents.

Good point, if you'll pardon the pun. I'll have to check this!


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I would just de-barb the hook you're going to use and have at it.

I use those red plastic stick-like things with a smaller and larger ball on either end with grooves in them.

Easy to get out a hook that's beyond the 'gullet' when the hook is barb-less.


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Thanks, Sunil. I know the device and if it saves the life of even one lunker, it will be well worth it!


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Underneath it all, we have a limited time to enjoy the fruits of our labors. Unfortunately, we can't know how much time that is...


Excerpt from Robert Crais' "The Monkey's Raincoat:"
"She took another microscopic bite of her sandwich, then pushed it away. Maybe she absorbed nutrients from her surroundings."

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My sidekick use circle hooks all the time for bankpole fishing for catfish on the river, theoretically there is a smaller chance of them getting off after they get hooked, my theory is theres also a smaller chance of them getting hooked in the first place.

I think you will find a huge learning curve in fishing technique when using circle hooks versus regular, as several mentioned before. I've never tried it on bass but have tried it pole and line fishing for catfish, set the hook too soon and it will slide right out of their mouth, as you can see by looking at the shape of the hook, you can almost pull it out of your closed hand without hooking yourself. also trying to remove a circle hook with the tool that Sunil is talking about, I would think, would be more complicated for a circle hook.

I have almost completely quit using a Texas rigged plastic worm for catching bass because of the amount of them that get gullet hooked, seems like they bite the tail first and you have to wait to set the hook till they swallow it, which way too often results in a deep hook, a lot of times, a big one, will fight enough bringing him in to do damage to his gullet, even if you did cut the line or found a way to remove the hook.
Have had extremely good luck with a Craw on a basket ball jighead and skirt, seldom get a deep hook, and it has a weed guard so you can pretty much drag it right over brush and the bottom.


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In the musky fishing world, cutting the hook is the gold standard on any hook semi-difficult to remove. First reason is the thought it will dissolve. Second, it is imperative to swiftly remove the other large hooks in case that large fish decides not to cooperate and thrash (hooks imbedded in your hand/other parts of the body are no fun, especially if still attached to a thrashing fish). Third (and most important for the fish) - quickly identifying the need to cut the hook helps minimize the time out of water. Ideally, this can even be done in the net with the net still in the water if you have a deep net.

Every hook type will have pros and cons. Circle hooks seem like a "safer" type of hook to the fish, as do barbless hooks, but also may impact catch rate. I think bottom line in general is to have proper release tools to minimize damage to fish and minimize time out of water. This includes deep nets with at minimum rubberized coating that reduces hooks getting caught in net, reduces damage to fish, and allows you to keep the fish in the water for as much time as possible. Pliers, jaw grippers (not to hold the fish vertically, but to help hold the jaw while the fish is in the net in the water), and last resort - hook cutters. Articles have been written describing proper handling of trophy fish (horizontal hold supporting that large belly) once it is unhooked. I only bring this up as the goal is cause the least amount of damage to your trophy fish as possible and hooks are just 1 piece of the equation.


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Excellent points, Drew. For me, killing a true lunker is worse than losing it due to lack of a barb. Sucks, for sure, but if it escapes then there's always hope to hook it again some day. Besides, I want to keep those genes in the pond. Ten pound plus LMB are so hard to grow!

In addition to supporting big LMB by the belly, I think it's important to use wet hands. Dry hands can take off protective slime, increasing odds of infection. Also, I try to reoxygenate the fish by moving it through the water until it revives, then releasing.

Fascinating subject. Giant fish of any type are special and we should treat them with respect.


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Drew, great advice! The biggest trick to using circle hooks is to NOT set the hook, just reel down to put pressure on the fish. That helps ensure that the hook is set properly in the corner of the mouth.


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CB100 is correct on not setting the hook when using circle hooks. We use them when saltwater fishing reefs and most of the time the hook set will be in the corner of the mouth. Hardest thing to teach a bass fisherman going on a saltwater trip is “Don’t set the hook right away”.

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3/0 Kehde hook texas rigged 11 inch plastic worm caught 17 inch LMB this evening. Hooked nicely in jaw, no damage to fish. I did bring hook through plastic, but then barely brought it on the side, so didn't have to pull it through main body of the worm to set hook. Tomorrow I will see if there's a bigger customer out there!


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Nice!

Let's see, you caught a 17" bass on an 11" worm. A 10#+ bass will probably be 26", or so.

Therefore, I believe tomorrow you should fish with a 16.8" worm. QED. grin

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