How To Use a Fishing Net Step by Step

By Alycia Downs

Apr 12, 2018

Live bait makes for charged up fish! Here’s your step by step guide for how to use a fishing net to catch your own bait.

Live bait makes for charged up fish! The best way to catch live bait is by fishing with a net. In this post, you’ll learn how to use a fishing net called a cast net. A cast net is an essential fishing gear item and it’s easy to learn how to fish with one. A 6’ to 8’ net is perfect for your recreational fishing needs. With plenty of practice on land, you’ll know how to use a fishing net on the water in no time. There are many ways to throw a cast net, but this method is great for beginners and doesn’t require you to put the net in your mouth.

How to Use a Fishing Net Step-by-Step

First, you’ll need to know the parts of a cast net. The rope is called the ‘handline’ and has a loop on the end to secure to your wrist. The ‘horn’ is the circular plastic piece at the top, separating the ‘braille lines’ that run through the net. The weighted line at the bottom is called a ‘lead line’ which helps the net sink quickly.

Step 1: Clear the Cast Net

If the net is tangled, it will not open properly. Lift the net vertically and pull through it in sections, removing any tangles. Check the lead line to ensure it’s not flipped over the braille lines.

Step 2: Load the Rope and Cast Net

Loading the net properly will ensure it fully opens when you throw it. To catch plenty of bait when fishing with a net, you want the net to open completely, creating a pancake shape.

  • Place the loop around the wrist of your back1hand (non-dominant hand).
  • Coil the handline in your back-hand, creating large loops.
  • Coil the net in your back-hand. Grip below the horn, make one large coil, then grip the net just below your waist.
  • With your arms at your side, the lead line should be resting on the ground with no slack in the net.

The size of the net determines how many times you coil it. For an 8’ net, you will only need one large loop. Once the handline and net are coiled, you should be holding all of the cast net in one hand.

Step 3: Load the Weights

With the cast net in your back hand, hold the net off the ground and load the weights. 
  • With your free hand, grab the lead line straight down from your back hand thumb (not from the front or back).
  • Toss two strands of lead line over your back hand shoulder.
  • Reach under the net where the weights descend from your shoulder and gather half the net in your free hand.
  • Grasp the section of gathered net using your middle, ring and pinky fingers and pinch the lead line with your pointer finger and thumb.

Step 4: Throw the Cast Net

With the net in both hands, turn your body sideways so that your dominant hand shoulder is pointing to your target and your back hand shoulder is pointing away from your target.

In a controlled manner, swing the net away from the target moving both hands together, then back toward the target, releasing the net in an upward motion. Use the weight of the net to create momentum. When releasing the net, continue pinching the lead line in your dominant hand for a split second longer.

If all steps are followed correctly, you should end up with a “pancake” where the net opens into a perfect circle. Practice your cast net skills in your yard until you feel confident with the technique. Then get out and catch your own bait! Visit our Fishing with Live Bait section for live bait fishing techniques.

Alycia Downs
Alycia Downs
Alycia Downs is a freelance content creator and avid sportsman who contributes to numerous publications promoting tourism, fishing, and outdoors. Alycia is a member of the Florida Outdoor Writers Association and is actively involved with conservation and fishing non-profit organizations. Visit her personal blog at or on Instagram @tideandtale.