If you’ve ever night-fished with a Jitterbug, you understand, but a reminder could serve you well. If you haven’t night-fished with a Jitterbug, but might try it at some point, take note!

When you are wobbling a Jitterbug along in the darkness and are lulled by its gurgle until the calm is suddenly broken by a violent splash, everything in you will want to react by setting the hook hard.

Resist!

Don’t set that hook unless you FEEL the fish.

The first time I night-fished with a Jitterbug (the 4 1/2-inch model, for giant pond bass), my buddy must have reminded me of this 50 times. He knew I knew it and understood, but being a veteran of that style of fishing, he also knew that understanding and actually resisting that reaction when a strike occurs are two very different things. Getting it right begins with a highly intentional mindset.

There are two main reasons to resist an immediate hookset. First, if you yank the lure away from the fish when it misses with the first big strike, there’s a good chance you’ll spook the fish and won’t get another chance. Keep reeling slowly, as if nothing ever happened or pause just a moment before resuming the retrieve. Chances are good that the fish will hit again and will be more efficient.

Even more importantly, when a fish misses a topwater lure, the lure remains on the surface. A big hookset can send the lure flying straight back at the boat. Since it is dark, you won’t be able to see it coming. Resisting a reactionary hookset is hardest when the strike occurs close to the boat and that’s when a hookset is the most dangerous!

In truth, a huge hookset usually isn’t best anyway. If you feel the fish, there’s a good chance it has hooked itself. If it hasn’t, a solid snap of the wrist is all it takes to drive the hooks home.

All this is easier said than done. Believe me, I know. It’s important, though!