How to Hook Up a Shiner to Avoid Injury

When you hook up a shiner, the idea is to get him on the hook without injuring him. This gives you a lively bait for attracting a customer…Mr. Bass.

Start by firmly gripping the shiner without squeezing him. Think of a shiner like a squirming baby. If you grip him too tight, you’ll squeeze the breath out of him. If you don’t hold him firm enough he’ll squirm out of your hand and hit the deck…ouch! You must get a good grip on his head because you’re going to start by running the hook through his lower jaw so it comes out just in front of his nostrils.

There are two theories on how to hook up a shiner:

  1. Rig the shiner so the hook comes through the nostril port
  2. Rig him so the hook comes out just in front of the nostril

I believe in the latter because you want the hook to rip out of the shiner when you set the hook. If you go through the nostril, your hook is circled by bone making it harder to get the hook to release the shiner when you set. Why is this important? How many times have you hooked a fish on a crankbait, Rattle Trap or some other bulky bait and watched him come up shaking his head and all you could say was “Oh Lord”! It’s the same thing with a shiner. I’ve seen fish come up, that were so heavy, the only thing they could get out of the water was their head. There was the shiner being flung back and forth like a crankbait and all I could say was “Oh Lord! When the hook is set you want it to 1) rip out of the shiner so the hook point is free and can penetrate the fish and 2) prevent him from using the shiner as leverage to throw the hook.

When I go through the lower jaw,to hook up a I feel for the edge of his skull just in front of his nostril port and then punch it through. Your shiner is not going to like this and this is where you want to make sure you have a good grip on him. If he manages to get free from your grip at this point, he’s going to tear a hole too big for your hook to hold him. At this point you must use his nostril to keep him on the hook. When you lip hook a shiner it’s especially important to make a sidearm lob cast as to not sling the shiner off.

Steps to Properly Hook Up Your Shiner :

Hook Up a Florida Wild Golden Shiner

Start by firmly gripping the shiner, especially his head. As you can see in the picture, I have my index finger supporting the back of his head. On the really large shiners I’ll use my thumb. If you just wrap your hand around his body and don’t brace his head, you may injure or even break his little pea pickin’ neck. When you do this, they tend to swim funny…like upside down! In the first image, notice where the hook point is. When you hook up the shiner, hold him in a sideways position, so you can see where your hook point is aimed in relation to his nostrils and where you eventually want the point to pop out.

Hooking Up a Florida Wild Golden Shiner When you punch through the top lip, again make sure you’re holding the shiner firmly because this is when he’ll really start wriggling around trying to get free. I’ve never tried this on myself but it’s really got to smart (the P.E.T.A. people really have a field day with remarks like that). You only have one shot at this because you only want to puncture a small hole, the size of the hook shank. If he flops and gets out of your hand you’ll probably see a horizontal tear right along the contour of his lip. Now you’ll have to use his nostrils to keep from slinging him off the hook when you cast.

Florida's Wild Golden Shiner This is what it should look like when you’re done. While we’re here, look at the hook point. Notice the lighter coloration in relation to the rest of the hook. That’s because it has been sharpened. There’s no doubt that sharp hooks help you catch more fish. It also makes it much easier to hook up a shiner. If you have your hook points as sharp as you can get them, they punch through much easier also making the job faster. Anything you can do to make the job faster and easier, the less chance there is of injuring the shiner during the hooking process.

Hooking Up with a Golden Shiner The last step is to hook up your weed guard if you’re using a weedless hook to pull a grass line. Make sure, before you start to bait up with a shiner, that your weed guard is already shaped. I always run my finger inside the loop to spread the wire apart adding maximum protection to the hook point. This helps the hook to “sort of” bounce off the heavy stems of kissimmee grass, reeds, lily pads and cattails. Then I adjust the length by putting more or less bow in the wire guard or by bending the “v” in the looped end back towards the eye of the hook or out towards the barb. If I can straighten out the wire guard to where the loop slips over the barb, I won’t use it. If the guard can reach past the barb, it acts like a latch and protects the hook point…the last thing you want!

How to Hook a Wild Golden Shiner The time it takes to hook up a shiner should take no more than 30 seconds, or less, to complete. The quicker you get the job done, the less time the shiner spends in your hand and out of the water. After you hook up your shiner, reach over the side of the boat and, on a slack line, either drop or place the shiner in the water. If you let the shiner dangle on the end of your line, he’ll wriggle violently ripping his lip. Keep him in the water right up until the time you’re ready to cast him out with an easy lob cast.

Important Bait Accessory

Bait Net for Dipping Wild Golden Shiners

Your most important tool you’ll have in your boat for shiner fishing is a small dip net...Don’t leave home without it! These are just a few bucks and you can pick them up anywhere you buy your shiners. When it comes to dipping shiners out of the livewell, it’s a must and an invaluable tool when it come to positioning the shiner in your hand for a good hook up. I’ve had shiners torpedo out of my livewell and clear everything. While that’s the mark of good lively bait, they don’t do you any good if they’re swimming free without a hook in their lip. Shiners are way too expensive to use as chum. With a net, you simply crack the lid wide enough to get your net in, grab a shiner and get out.

We’re talking about putting a shiner on the hook. When it comes to getting the right grip on him so you can put a hook through his lip, your shiner net is the key. Once you get a shiner in the net it makes your task a whole lot easier to get a good hold on him and positioned in your hand so you can quickly get a good hook up. Remember, the quicker you get him out of the livewell, hooked up and into the lake, the livelier your baits going to be. The livelier the bait, the better chance you have of attracting fish. I can’t stress enough how important it is to your success, to have good lively bait. I’ve seen it happen too many times, boats setting side by side and one is catching all the fish simply because they have the healthier bait. Oh there are other factors that come into play of course but I feel strongly that lethargic bait is the #1 reason people have bad days when the fishing is good.

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