How to Land Big Fish on Light Tackle

How to Land Big Fish on Light Tackle
Light-tackle fishing is popular for sport but can be a challenging way to land big fish. Big fish require constant pressure and attention, and attempting to land one with light tackle usually takes much more time than if one were to use heavy tackle. Light-tackle fishing is a technical sport but big fish can be landed and potentially recorded as light-tackle records. Even those who set out to catch small fish with light tackle can hook a big one incidentally; every angler would do well to know how to land a big fish with light tackle. Light-tackle fishing can be done in freshwater or saltwater environments with conventional or fly-fishing tackle.


Difficulty: Moderately Challenging

Playing the Fish

Things You’ll Need:
  • Rod
  • Reel
  • Light line
  • Lures or flies
  • Landing net or gaff
Step 1
Use a light-to-moderate drag setting that will not apply a force greater than the line capacity. If the fish is making hard runs and leaping out of the water, adjust the drag to a loose setting. As the fish begins to lose energy, adjust the drag to a tighter setting. Using the drag to your advantage greatly increases your chances of landing that big fish.
Step 2
Keep constant pressure on the fish by keeping the tip of your rod vertical. Change the direction of the pressure throughout the battle, forcing the fish to move in different directions. The fish will have to expend energy countering your moves.
Step 3
Follow the fish on foot or with a boat to minimize the distance between you and the fish. Being close to the fish allows you to have control and maximize the pressure you put on the fish.
Step 4
Keep your line on the reel when using fly-fishing gear. Playing fish by stripping line through your fingers is less effective than using the drag settings on your reel. Excess line should be put on the reel to maximize the use of drag and prevent the line from tangling around your feet or other obstacles.

Landing the Fish

Step 1
Use a fishing partner to assist with the landing. Having a partner will allow you to focus on playing the fish, reducing the risk that you will lose your potential catch when you release pressure to capture it with a net or gaff.
Step 2
Stand high on the bank or boat and lead the fish in shallow water or toward the side of the boat. Lift the head of the fish just before it is within range of the net or gaff and maintain pressure until it is captured.
Step 3
Use a landing net or gaff with a long handle. Many big fish are lost just before being landed. A long-handled net or gaff allows you to secure the fish before it begins to panic and thrash in the water. When the fish gets close to you it can flop and roll, and possibly break the line.
Step 4
Use barbed hooks if you do not plan on releasing the fish, since the barbs will be less likely to slip out of the animal's jaw. Catch-and-release anglers may have to refrain from using barbed hooks, depending on their local regulations.

Tips & Warnings

Landing fish on light tackle requires patience. Do not rush and apply too much force on the fish, or it will break your line. Remain calm and map out a landing area where you can gain control.
Landing fish on light tackle is fun, but anglers must be aware of their surroundings to prevent injury. Watch your step on the bank and wear a life vest while fishing in a boat.

Article Written By Zach Lazzari

Zach Lazzari is an outdoor writing specialist. He has experience in website writing as well as standard newspaper writing. He wrote an outdoor column for the Silver World in Lake City, Colo., and articles for Lazzari is currently completing his bachelor's degree online through Arizona State University and lives in southwest Montana.

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