Get ‘Em in the Boat

A lot of time, effort and preparation go into catching trophy fish.  We scout our terrain, put time in on the water, study weather patterns, and ultimately arrive at a plan.  Many times our plans come together and if everything goes right, a big fish hits and the next thing we know he’s in the net.  Other times it’s not so easy.

One major difference between good fishermen and great fishermen is that great fishermen don’t let the big one get away.  So what do you do when you’re fighting a big fish and he does everything to keep you from landing him?  Here’s how to handle some common problems:

The fish heads for structure to break you off.  An old football coach once told me ‘where the head goes the body follows’ and the same is true with fish.  You can keep fish from getting into the structure by changing the angle of your rod tip.  If the fish suddenly heads left, drop your rod tip to the left.  If it heads away from you, drop your tip to the right.  You can also move your rod tip above your head or below your knees to gain leverage.  When you do change direction move your tip slowly and deliberately and keep tip bouncing to a minimum.  Frequent tip changes and lots of bouncing wears holes in the fish’s mouth, meaning, hooks pull free.

The fish gets in the weeds.  First, relax, you’ve got a few moments to figure this one out.  Then, gradually reduce the tension on your lure.  Frequently the fish will swim out of its protection on the other side.  If that doesn’t work then try the opposite approach.  Lift your rod to increase the tension on your line.  Then, pluck the line like a banjo.  Continuous plucking oftentimes drives fish crazy and they bolt out of their protection.  If either method works, soften up your fight.  You may have picked up weed or kelp on your line, which adds drag and can cause you to drop your fish.

Shock leaders.  When fishing around rocks, ledges, gravel bars, or pilings add a heavier section of monofilament as a shock leader.  Use an Albright knot to connect your line to your shock leader and a loop knot to attach your lure.  The extra strength reduces break offs and gives you the abrasion resistance to get that fish in the net.

Work your fish towards you.  A common way Western anglers handle fish stuck in weeds is to work the fish towards them.  First, wade upstream into a position directly above the fish.  Then, start to reel down to the fish until your line and leader is short and your rod is almost straight.  A perfectly straight rod easily snaps tippets, so keep a slight bend.  After you’re in position, slowly walk backwards.  Slow movement is important and if done right, the trout will swim out towards you.

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Tom Keer

Tom Keer

Tom Keer is an award-winning writer who lives on Cape Cod, Massachusetts.  He is a columnist for the Upland Almanac, a Contributing Writer for Covey Rise magazine, a Contributing Editor for both Fly Rod and Reel and Fly Fish America, and a blogger for the Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation’s Take Me Fishing program.  Keer writes regularly for over a dozen outdoor magazines on topics related to fishing, hunting, boating, and other outdoor pursuits.  When they are not fishing, Keer and his family hunt upland birds over their three English setters.  His first book, a Fly Fishers Guide to the New England Coast was released in January 2011.  Visit him at or at