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To put it simply, a set line is a tip-up, tip-down, rattle reel, automatic hook setting device, a simple rod in a bucket – anything that you set with a dead line and don’t hold in your hands. In this video, Caleb Wistad breaks down some important factors to consider when it comes to the terminal end – or in other words, what’s on the end of the line to ensure that you get more bites, have a solid hook up, and lose less fish.

1. Always Utilize a Leader

Whether it’s mono or fluorocarbon, using a leader allows you to tweak your set lines according to what species you’re targeting and the water clarity without having to change out the main line. Wistad generally prefers 2-3ft of fluoro in a 6-8 lb test for walleye, bass, or big panfish. For large walleye, 8-10 lb test and 20-50 lb test for targeting large pike.

2. Downsize Your Rig

You can usually get away with less than you think with your rig including your hooks, swivels, and sinkers. Heavy tackle slows your bait down and makes it look less attractive. Simply sizing down can help you achieve a more natural presentation to trigger more bites.

3. Properly Set Your Weight and Distance

When targeting trout and salmon on Lake Superior, you need a longer distance between the weight (e.g. split shot) and hook so that minnow can really dart and chase around. If you’re fishing with an underwater camera, you’ll need your weight set closer to the bait so it stays within the frame that you can see. When fishing areas with heavy current (especially with automatic hook setting devices), you’ll need to upsize your weight and set it closer to your bait to reduce tripping the device with false flags. For walleye, the key is that they can run with the bait with little resistance, so sizing down your weight will help ensure that they don’t feel it and drop the bait. The biggest thing here is to make sure you are making constant adjustments to find what works best for triggering the most bites.

4. Adjust Leader Length According to Water Clarity

For moderately stained, dark water, 2-3 feet is generally all you need for your leader. In clear water, however, 6-8 ft can make all the difference in getting more bites, especially when used with braid or a tip up line setup. Sometimes, Wistad will even utilize a leader that is the full depth he is fishing so there no braid in the water for the fish to see. If you use a leader longer than 3 feet, use a braid to leader knot like the FG knot so you can reel it up into the spool and not get snagged on the end of the rod as you would with a swivel.

5. Match Hook Size to Your Bait and Technique

Utilizing a smaller hook increases the odds of hooking the fish forward in the mouth versus the back because it will slide easily into the corner of the mouth. A smaller hook also makes it easier for your minnow to swim around naturally. Just make sure that your hook is large enough that the points are far enough out to hook the mouth of the fish and upsize as needed.

With automatic hook setting devices or smaller minnows (e.g. crappie minnows), make the switch from a treble down to a simple octopus style hook in the 8-4 size range. When you hook the minnow, make sure you hook it front to back so that the hook points are aiming back toward the tail. When the fish eat it head first, this will help you hook in the front corner of the mouth and makes it more likely to keep it off the teeth as well.

For automatic hook setting devices, Wistad emphasizes that it is very important to downsize your minnow and hooks. You want the fish to engulf the entire bait and too big of a minnow might cause the device to trigger without the hook all the way in the mouth.


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