That dreaded moment when time seems to stand still, the huge carp you’ve been battling for the past 10 minutes is close to the net then POP the hook comes out. You stare in disbelief as the fish descends into the depths. We’ve all been there, some more so than others.
Carp fishing hook pulls used to happen to me more frequently until I researched the topic and understood some basic carp fishing concepts on how to prevent hook pulls.
How to Prevent a Carp Fishing Hook Pull?
Carp fishing hook pulls can be caused by quite a few factors. The main factor for my hook pulls when I first started carp angling was due to high test curve rods. I wasn’t used to the length and strength of carp fishing rods for big carp. This coupled with no stretch braided line cost me many fish.
Many other factors come into play with carp fishing hook pulls, this article will cover in greater detail, some aspects that most seasoned carp anglers think are commonplace. To the new angler, these facts can be crucial to successfully landing a fish. I had no idea why my new and improved carp fishing gear was causing my catch rate to suffer, that is until I took a closer look at the newfound tools I was using.
Factors that affect carp fishing hook pulls:
- Carp Biology – Soft Mouths.
- Strength of Rod – Test Curve.
- Carp Fishing Hook – Type and Size.
- Line – Type of Line.
- Reel – Drag Set Improperly.
- Location – Weed, Snags and other conditions.
- Rig – Rig Material and Set Up.
- Tactics for Properly Fighting a Carp.
Carp Have Softer Mouths Than Other Species of Fish
The main factor why carp anglers have more hook pulls than any other angler. Carp have very soft mouths, especially at a young age, much unlike bass, pike, perch and walleye that use their bony mouths and sharp teeth to catch and hold their prey.
Carp have a soft tube-like mouth that is tailored to detecting, tasting and picking up stationary food items off the bottom. I’ve noticed with the carp that I catch that the older they get, the thicker and harder their mouths become.
Catching younger carp on heavier rods, bigger hooks, stronger line and powerful reels can easily result in many
Strength and Type of Rod
When I first began targeting carp here in Canada we didn’t have access to specialty carp gear. I outfitted myself as best I could with an 8-foot Salmon fishing rod and reel combo. The rod was strong enough to land big carp but had a very forgiving action.
When I ordered my first carp rods, I had no idea how much power the 13-foot rod with a 3.5 lb test curve had. Many of the first fish I caught with them resulted in hook pulls as I did not know how to properly use them.
If you’re using long rods with high test curves that have a very unforgiving action you will most likely have a lot of hook pulls. Even though it may seem like your not horsing fish in, your equipment may be exerting a lot of pressure on the fish.
Carp Fishing Hooks
A few tips about choosing the right hooks to prevent hook pulls while carp fishing.
- Hook Size – The size of your carp fishing hooks can be a significant cause of hook pulls. Be sure to size your hook properly to the average size of carp you will be targeting. A small size number 10 hook may be perfect for 2 – 5 lb carp but bigger fish will have an easier time spitting the hook before it makes contact with their mouth.
- Bait Size – The size of your bait can also be another factor of hook pulls. If you’re using large baits combined with small hooks there is a greater chance of the bait getting in the way of the hook when it is
set in the fishes mouth. The larger baits can also act as a lever to pop the hook out if they get between the hook and surface of the fishes mouth. Dull Hooks – Be sure to sharpen your carp fishing hooks before every session. Dull hooks that don’t penetrate through the carps mouth fully will most often pop out mid-fight. Your hook hold can be one of the key factors between success and blanking.
Type of Line
I would say this is the number one reason for the amount of carp I lost in my early years of fishing. I didn’t realize that braided line had practically zero stretch. The full force of my 13-foot carp rods was being applied directly to the fishes mouth.
Now that I know this is one of the main causes of carp fishing hook pulls I either set my drag very loose, play the fish gently or simply use a fluorocarbon or mono-filament shock leader to absorb some of the pressure.
Reel Set Up
Make sure that before you even cast your line out that your drag is set properly. You want the fish to be able to take line when the fighting drag is engaged on your reel. It is much easier to tighten a loose drag than to loosen a tight drag at the start of a fight.
I’ve seen many situations where anglers haven’t set their drag properly and as soon as they grab their rod and begin to reel the rod quickly buckles over and the fish is gone.
It always amazes me how powerful carp are in the first few minutes that they’re hooked.
Another main factor of hook pulls can depend greatly on the conditions of the locations you are fishing. In spring, fall and winter most anglers notice less hook pulls. This is because during the peak months in summer carp love to bury themselves in thick weed beds once hooked.
If anglers try to horse the fish out of thick weeds the added pressure usually results in a hook pull and lost fish. To combat these situations simply take the pressure off of the fish. I know this can be difficult in the heat of battle. I’ve witnessed some seasoned carp anglers put their rod back into their rod holder and reset the free-spool drag and wait for the fish to come out of the weeds and start to run again.
A tricky tactic but in my
A second location condition that adds to hook pulls are areas with lots of snags. Be it trees, branches, rocks or any other type of debris, as soon as a carp wraps your line around an object it is much easier for them to spit the hook due to the change in angle.
A few simple rig tips can be utilized to increase the chances of your hooks grabbing hold and making it harder for carp to eject them.
- Use a supple braided hook link material. Not only will this allow for greater movement and display of your bait it will also allow your hook to hinge and angle itself properly as it enters or try to exit the fish’s mouth.
- If using a stiff rig material be sure to strip off 1 to 2 inches of
stiffcoating before your hook.
- Length of hair on your rig and where it is attached to the hook.
- Overly long hairs can cause your bait to wrap around your hook, preventing it from gaining a proper hook hold. I’ve noticed there are three main points on a hook where the hair can be attached, either with a knot or shrink tubing.
- 1st is near the eye, this can cause the bait and hook to be pulled straight in and straight out, although the hook point will travel in the right direction it will be right behind your bait which can prevent it from grabbing hold.
- 2nd is on the middle of the bend of the hook. I find this to be the worst location as when the fish suck your bait in, your hook goes into their mouth backwards and when they spit it out your hook exits the mouth backwards making it near impossible to hook anything when the point is travelling in the wrong direction.
- 3rd and most optimal is to pin the hair midway down the shank of your hook. This will pull your hook into the fish’s mouth at a 45-degree angle so it has a chance of being hooked on the way in or the way out.
Tactics to Prevent Hook Pulls when Fighting a Carp
Below I will list some tactics that may seem common to most anglers but they’re targeted more at beginners. I wish to inform anglers so they do not make the same mistakes that I made and lose fish unnecessarily.
- Do not set the hook – When bass, pike, salmon, trout or walleye fishing you need to set the hook to embed it in their hard mouths. I recall one-time fishing with my dad for bass, a poor little rock bass hit his bait and he set the hook so hard the fish flew out of the water over his right shoulder!
- This can be hard to adjust to when carp angling but when running a proper carp fishing set up using rod holders, bite indicators, carp fishing rigs and circle hooks there is no need to set the hook.
- A proper set up will hook carp in the corner of the mouth automatically the majority of the time.
- Simply pick your rod up, engage the clutch and gently apply pressure. If the hook wasn’t properly set before, the added pressure will easily push your sharp hook through the carps soft mouth.
- You will note in most carp fishing videos, long time carp anglers will drag their rigs across the palms of their hands to test them, the sharp hooks always turn and dig in right away.
- Hold pressure on your rod in the opposite direction that the fish is going. If the fish runs right hold pressure back to the left and vice versa. If you’re not holding pressure in the opposite direction it can be quite easy for carp to turn and spit your hook mid-fight.
- Use the least amount of lead or weight possible. If not using a rig that dumps the lead when a fish is caught it is best to use the least amount of weight possible that you can get away with. A heavy lead bouncing around on a rig made of braided line can put a lot of pressure on the hook. The added movement can also change the angle of the hook allowing the fish to dislodge it easier.
- A final tip and most importantly is to just relax and enjoy the fight. If you’ve applied all of the tips and tactics listed above simply enjoy the battle. Allow your rod, line and reel do what they’re meant to do and don’t rush the fish in.
I know it can be easier to list these tips and tricks than to actually apply them in the heat of battle but even a few small tweaks can make a huge difference. What took me years to discover and figure out can now be applied after a few minutes of reading this article. If you’re still experiencing a lot of hook pulls always remember practice makes perfect and we learn the most from our mistakes.