Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Fighting a Fish – How to Fight a Fish

After you hook that fish, what do you do to make sure you get it into the boat?
Fighting a Tarpon

You've bought your tackle, spent money on bait, and actually convinced a fish to bite your hook. He's hooked and running - now what do you do? Just how do you fight a fish? Lots of anglers don't catch a lot of fish because they don't know some simple procedures for fighting a fish. You need to use very tool you can when fighting a fish. If you do it right, the size of fish you can actually land on light tackle will amaze you!

Use Your Tackle

You have fishing tackle for a reason. While in a number of places anglers still use a hand line, we have rods and reels to help us.
  • Rods
    Your rod can be the most important part of your tackle when fighting a fish. The rod bends and gives when the fish runs away from you. You can move the rod, drop it down, lift it up, and let the bend in the rod give and take the shock off the line when a fish is fighting.
  • Reel Reels - even inexpensive reels - have a drag system. That drag system is designed to allow line to be pulled off the reel. Adjustments on the drag will change the amount of pressure required to pull line off that reel. A properly adjusted drag will feed line when a fish runs and prevent the line from braking.
  • Line
    Speaking of your line, it actually plays a part in the fish fight as well. You need to know and understand what your line is going to do under pressure. Monofilament and fluorocarbon line have stretch in them - an amazing amount of stretch. That's not a bad thing; it is simply something you need to know. You can use that stretch to your advantage. That stretching coupled with the reel's drag system will prevent your line from breaking as the fish fights.
    Braided line, unlike monofilament, has virtually zero stretch. That lack of stretch will cause a break if you do not know how to handle a fish on braided line.

    Use Give and Take

    What do I mean by "give and take"? I mean that sometimes when fighting a fish you have to give and sometimes you have to take. If your tackle is set up right, when the fish runs away from you, give; give to him; allow the rod to drop a bit; let the drag do its job and give him some line. But if the fish is moving toward you, take! Take up any slack line and reel to keep a tight line!

    Pump and Wind

    This is the process of pulling back on the rod and moving the fish toward you. When the rod get's high in the air, begin reeling as you let the rod back down. Pump up with the rod and wind down with the reel. The key here is to keep the same amount of pressure on the fish. You have probably had someone tell you to "keep the line tight" while you are fighting a fish. They are exactly right. With a small amount of practice you can learn to keep that line tight and pump and wind - and you can learn it right in your own yard:
    • Tie the end of your line to a tree trunk or a fence post - anything solid that won't move.
    • Let line off the reel and move as far away from where you tied the line as you can - maybe 100 feet or so.
    • As you stand far away from the tree, reel the line onto the reel and get a tight line to the tree or fence post - no slack and no drooping.
    • Notice that as you lift the rod, the rod develops a bow or bend in it. Also notice that if you pull back hard enough, the reel's drag will begin letting line out. You want to be able to apply pressure to a fish right to the point that the drag will almost run, but no more.
    • Since you can't move the tree to you as you would a fish, you can simulate all of this practice by walking toward the tree. Walk slowly toward the tree as you lift the rod to that special pressure point. Stop lifting when the rod gets vertical.
    • As you continue walking, reel line in, making sure to keep that same amount of pressure. If the reel's drag runs at the same time that you reel, it means that you are applying too much pressure.
    • Continue walking, using that pump and wind motion, making sure you keep the same amount of pressure on the tree.
    • Now imagine that this is a fish, and instead of you walking to the fish, you are actually moving the fish toward you every time you lift the rod.
    This is the basic pump and wind mechanism, but there are some things to watch out for and things to NOT do:
    • If the fish is running away from you, do not reel. NEVER turn the reel handle when the drag is running out. It will only twist your line.
    • Never reel while you are lifting your rod. Always try to reel your rod back down after you have pumped it to a vertical position
    • In all the pump and wind motions, it is easy at first to allow your line to go slack for an instant or two. This is not acceptable, and will result in the fish coming unhooked. ALWAYS keep a tight line!
    • Always pay attention to your reel. Most reels have some sort of clicker or noise generator on them that will indicate when the drag is running. I said most, because some reels don't have one, or the mechanism is worn or broken. So watch your reel to see if line is being run off by the drag. I sometimes like to keep a finger on the line next to the reel. It helps me feel whether the drag is running or not.


    I bought a pair old, old bait casting rods and reels when my two boys were in grade school. They worked well, but were inexpensive and basically disposable if they broke. I took the boys out in the front yard, gave them a few instructions on casting and then stood back and watched. They would practice for hours chunking a small sinker at the base of a tree. That practice paid off, as they because very proficient using a bait casting outfit. The same situation is at play when learning to fight a fish. Go in the yard and practice. Steady pressure; pump and wind; applying enough pressure to move a fish but not move line off the reel with a running drag.

    You Can Do This!

    Yes, you can! Practice in the yard will help you learn to keep a steady, solid pressure on the fish, which will in turn help prevent the fish from coming unhooked. The more times you catch that tree or fence post, the better you will be at fighting an actual fish!


    You can read more about catching that fish. Fighting the fish to get him in is one thing. Landing him is another task you need to learn. 

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