All of us who like to fish have a story or two about the one that got away, right?
Invariably, the story involves catching the fish of a lifetime and losing it to unforeseen circumstances or mistakes.
Believe me, I’ve made my share of mistakes when it comes to prized big game fish.
Undoubtedly, these stories, even embellished, can be devastating for those with a passion for mooring lines.
For so many wild and crazy happenings that can’t be avoided when you lose a big fish, there are a lot of things you can control to make sure it doesn’t happen, especially when taking a newcomer to fishing with our Take ‘Em Fishing. Challenge.
Here are a few tips to go a long way in successfully landing this bonafide monster.
Come on, who really sharpens his hooks? Anglers who successfully catch big fish sharpen their hooks. Dull hooks are one of the main reasons anglers lose fish, especially if they are not lip hooked. You have two options to avoid losing fish to dull hooks, either invest in a hook sharpener (they are very cheap and compact) or buy new hooks more often. For catch and release purposes with large fish, single circle or barbless hooks are the way to go. They drastically decrease the deep snagging rate and this is well documented in studies.
Have you replaced your old fishing line? With this modern era of “high performance” fishing, a lot of anglers seem to be switching from old monofilament lines to newer braided lines. As the name suggests, the braided line is a kind of aggregate of smaller lines braided together, much like a rope. Although it tends to fray and make knots more difficult, it generally lasts longer than monofilament and doesn’t break as easily when fighting a giant line break.
Metal swivels and leaders
Are certain pieces of hardware necessary to catch big fish? Using the right metal swivels and leaders can be the difference between a successful trip targeting big fish and one that ends in complete disappointment. Yes, metal swivels and snoods are so important, especially for larger specimens of the pike and catfish families, but that depends on the scenario. Metal swivels and branch lines are often two of the most overlooked pieces of equipment anglers own.
soft, longer, one-piece upper
What is the right rod to use for catching master angler sized fish? Stiff fishing rods often put more pressure than necessary on the stress points between you and the fish you’re fighting. Using a more flexible rod will allow the line to “give” a bit more and prevent it from breaking when pressure is applied. Also, longer one-piece rods can be harder to carry, however, they provide greater leverage and won’t come loose when landing large fish.
Adjust your slip settings
Do I really need to mess with my reel’s drag settings? Yes. Surprisingly, anglers are often completely unaware of their fishing reels’ drag settings, and it’s doomsday. Therefore, it equates to a lot of fish lost on the water. A light to moderate drag setting (which will not apply more force than the line’s capacity) should be used. If the fish makes rough runs and jumps out of the water, set the drag to a loose setting. When the fish begins to lose energy, adjust the drag to a tighter setting. Using the drag to your advantage greatly increases the chances of catching that so-called “hog”, “toad” or “lifetime megalodon”.
How important are well-tied knots? Quite significant. I would say that just about every angler at one time or another has tied a knot too early and ended up losing a big fish because of it. At a minimum, take the time to practice the two most popular crochet line knots: the Palomar knot and the Improved Clinch knot. Over time, you’ll be able to tie them quickly and confidently when out on the water.
Hook laying rule
Fishzilla took your bait or snatched your lure presentation, now what? Remember that a great rule of thumb for placing a hook on a pez muy grande (very big fish in Spanish) is to do it twice, as in what is called a “double tap”. When the fish first takes your lure or bait and you feel the tension on the line, pull hard and repeat.
Tilt rod up, maintain pressure
Are the tactics during the battle to land the fish so important? Once this bender is hooked up, maintain constant pressure on it keeping the tip of your rod vertical. Change the direction of pressure throughout the battle, forcing the fish to move in different directions. As the fish moves, try bending the rod in the direction the fish is swimming and lowering the rod slightly to tighten the angle. The fish will have to expend energy to counter your moves.
Keep your line tight, no slack
It is crucial that you always maintain firm tension on the line after setting the hook on that big fish. If there is slack, the fish will be more likely to cast the hook and you will end up with a huge disappointment. (Although you might have a good story, but it’s not worth it.) Maintain pressure on the line by keeping the tip up and winding it in with a smooth, steady motion.
Raise, lower, repeat
What is the proper method or move to bring this monster to the boat or shore? Keep in mind that when you’re carrying a super lunker, you can’t just roll up, roll up, roll up and hope to get that sucker fast. Instead, you should lift the tip of the rod with a gentle, firm motion, bringing the fish closer to you. When you drop the tip of the rod, it’s time to pull up the line. Take it slow, be patient, and you’ll catch more fish and you’ll have plenty of Master Angler awards to prove it.
Let it run, but not near the structure
Can I let the big fish run or not? If you have a big fish that decides to run away, the worst thing you can do is try to hold it down. Believe me, I know this from experience. By battling his runs, all you’re going to do is increase the chances of your fishing line breaking and your winnings blowing away. Instead, set the drag so the fish can get the line out while getting tired. This will exhaust the fish; their runs will eventually become shorter, less aggressive, and less frequent. There is, however, an exception. If a fish heads for a submerged or partially submerged structure or cover such as logs, rocks, docks, boat storage sheds, flooded trees, etc., steer it away. When the fishing line is wrapped around this structure or cover in the water, it is under great pressure and snapping normally ensues. If your trophy fish is headed for a snag, do everything you can to keep it out of there.
Tracking large powerful fish you have hooked on foot along the shore or with a boat on the water is vital to minimizing the distance between you and the fish. Being close to it gives you better control and helps maximize the pressure you put on it.
Should I go fishing with a partner? Absolutely. Use this fishing buddy to help you land this huge specimen of fish. Your partner can direct you to a shallow water landing area or help you into a boat. Having a fishing buddy is safer on the water and will allow you to focus on effectively catching big fish. It will also reduce the risk of losing your potential and memorable catch. By having a partner who observes and helps, the tendency to make mistakes and “winch”, “horse” or “beach” the fish should also be reduced. In addition, your partner serves not only as a “fileteur” but as a witness, photographer or even videographer of your catch. Plus, fishing with a partner is a lot more fun.
Finishing, rubber net,
What should I remember when I finish the take? If you see him, he can see you. Get ready for one last evasive maneuver by this whopper. If it dives under the boat, plant the end of your rod in the water. Do not enter the line. Stay focused and keep that big fish off balance. Use a long-handled, wide-mesh, rubber or rubber-covered landing net to immobilize the fish. Make sure you bring him into the net head first. Keep in mind that landing nets with rubber mesh should be used as other nets which have knots or netting can be very harmful by damaging the mucus coating or protective mud of the fish and are more bulky and prone to tangle, not allowing quick capture. Release. Wet rubberized gloves also work well for handling large fish and do not cause damage to them. It is also suggested to use European style landing pads that are wet.
Clamps, quick photo, video and release
I landed it, now what? Keep in mind that hook removal tools are essential. A pair of needle-nose or long-nose pliers will serve you well for getting the hook out of this fish’s mouth. Planning to release the water monster you landed (and you should)? Do it as soon as possible. You may have just been fighting the fish for 15 minutes or more; this fish is now exhausted and extremely stressed. It can’t afford to stay out of the water for very long, so take a quick photo or video, maybe a quick measurement, then release the fish back home. You’ll help maintain a healthy fish population and hopefully give another angler the chance to enjoy a big catch.