11 Mistakes That Cost Anglers Fish

Sometimes it's not what you throw at a fish, but how it is presented.

shutterstock_61494316 You can have the best fishing boat and the most expensive fishing gear made, but if you don’t know how to present the lure or bait, the fish won’t be impressed. It’s not just faulty techniques, either. Sometimes the “right” presentation in the wrong situation is … well, wrong.

Tackle
1 / Having the wrong tackle is a common problem. Unfortunately, that means you sometimes have to own a lot of different rod and reel setups, each designed for a specific job, whether that’s to cast longer or throw a super light or heavy bait. Braided line helps you make longer casts and also helps fight the abrasion of a rock or piling. — Capt. Mike Holliday

2/ Anglers always seem to want the latest and greatest tackle. Then they end up fighting their tackle instead of the fish. Most people wouldn’t consider buying a car without test driving it and yet often buy rods and reels without trying them first. Test before buying. Then, before you actually go out on the boat, practice casting. When purchasing or selecting tackle to use, think about what bait you’ll be using and try to match tackle to bait. — Capt. Barry Brightenburg

Technique
3/ Fish are inherently lazy and don’t like swimming into the current. Never reel your bait upstream. Drift it downstream instead. Predators face into the current, just waiting for prey to get carried their way. — Capt. Fred Robert

4/ Anglers are often not alert. The best fish of the day can swim up to you at any time. You have to be ready, and when it happens, react quickly. The second you spot a school of cobia or tuna, you should be reaching for a rod and a bait, so when you’re close enough, you can cast. Sometimes, the first glimpse of the fish is the only one you get. — Holliday

5/ Here on the West Coast, I’d say 95 percent of fishermen use baitcasters or conventional reels whose physics dictate that it’s harder to get the spool moving and releasing line than with a spinning reel. Many fishermen just can’t get the bait away from the boat far enough, probably fearing a backlash, especially with braided line. The most common mistake I see being made is the casting motion itself. Many anglers try to throw the entire rod forward with their right hand (assuming they’re right-handed). In fact, the technique should be to use the right hand as a pivot point while pulling back and down with the left hand. This moves the rod tip rather than the entire rod. Plus, once you cast your live bait, actually peel line off the reel and let the bait swim unencumbered instead of just free-spooling.
Capt. Jimmy Decker

6/ If you fish with a guide, don’t step off the boat without at least one new nugget of knowledge. Ask him to show you something. How does he tie that knot? Bait that hook? Time that retrieve? Most lures work better with loop knots, but others need clinch knots. — Brightenburg

7/ Take a deep breath before casting when you see a fish, and try to relax. Anglers often suffer an immediate adrenaline spike, similar to “buck fever” in hunting. It screws up their timing. Instead of getting the bait or lure out to the fish, they end up with a huge bird’s nest on their reel — bye-bye fish. — Brightenburgshutterstock_245803069

Bait
8/ You should always scoop just a few of your precious baits rather than a whole net full. Pick one and hold it as gently and loosely as possible, to avoid knocking off the scales. And fi nally, learn where and how to hook the bait. — Decker

9/ Anglers need to work harder at keeping their baits healthy. If I put a live bait on your hook, it needs to go in the water immediately, so it can breathe and be fresh. The very last thing you do before you cast is take that bait out of the water. Standing there holding the bait in the air while you ready your reel just leads to a weaker baitfish. — Holliday

10/ When fishing live baits, many people start reeling the bait back in when they miss a bite, instead of free-spooling, which just pulls the lure away from fish that want to strike it. When a predator strikes live prey, it will be stunned and just sit there. When fishing artificials, anglers often rear back on the rod rather than wind the reel and swing the rod tip up or to the side when they get a bite. Sometimes reeling a lure faster, with a twitch, simulates a panicked, fleeing baitfish. — Decker

Location
11/ The key to proper presentation is to know the habits of the fish you are targeting. For instance, flat fish such as halibut and flounder lie on the bottom, particularly in sand or mud. So don’t fish over rocky or coarse bottom, because these fish don’t like it. If you have a wide open bay with a sand bottom, look for areas that are holding baitfish. The flounder will lie underneath the baitfish schools hoping one of them gets close to the bottom. Get your bait down to the bottom. Around bridges, bait tend to hold close to pilings where they can get out of the current, so get your bait or lure as close as you can. —Holliday

To the Web
• Capt. Mike Holliday (captainmikeholliday.com)
• Capt. Barry Brightenburg (alwaysanadventurecharters.com)
• Capt. Fred Robert (fishing-guy.com)
• Capt. Jimmy Decker (fishingwithdecker.com)

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