It seems that we have to work harder all the time for a day on the water that includes catching fish. That’s after actually having the chance for a day on the water fishing. It’s a fact for most anglers that those days are far apart and it’s all too easy in our haste to just grab our gear, put it on the boat and head for the water. All too often we forget to check some of the most basic things that make the difference between fishing and catching a fish. A little forethought and preparation will help assure that you turn your opportunities into success.
It’s a good idea to have a checklist to follow before you ever make the first cast. These are the major reasons why we lose fish and with some due diligence, it can be easily avoided.
A sharp hook is obviously one of the most important components of an effective rig. It’s also one of the easiest things to forget to check. A hook can be razor-sharp the last time you used it and can become dulled with contact to the rub rail of the boat, objects in the water, guides and many other things. Test it every time you step to the bow and you’ll have a better chance at catching that fish you searched long and hard for. I like to check the hook on my fingernail. If I put it there and it doesn’t slip, I know it’s sharp enough. Still, it’s a good idea to have a hook sharpener on hand and touch up the point several times during any outing.
Knots are probably the second leading reason fish are lost. Even the best-tied knot will break if it’s not tightened well. You may tie perfect knots, but there’s a chance they could loosen between trips. Always make sure you moisten knots before tightening them and draw them up very tight. The first place a line will break is at a knot when it slips.
Checking the drag is, of course, one of the most important things you can do. I would suggest having the drag set so you don’t have to touch it while fighting a fish. Make sure your drag is smooth. You’ll know it needs attention if there’s any jerking motion when line leaves the spool.
Checking leader and line for nicks and abrasion is another must. It’s easy to cut off a small section of leader and re-tie than to lose a good fish to an imperfect line. Fly anglers can avoid a lost fish by always stretching their fly line. Fly line has memory and will come off the spool in small loops that can tangle easily, causing you to break off a fish. Strip off the line you’ll be casting, make a cast and gently stretch it as you retrieve it. On hot summer days, it’s a good idea to wet the line occasionally to keep it from getting hot and sticky.
Each time you step to the bow make sure you check all the components that lead to success. You’ll find it will make a big difference at the end of your fishing day. On the days when you get the opportunity to catch a fish, you don’t want to end up with pulled hooks or a break-off because you didn’t check your drag or leader.
While you’ll always lose fish even when everything is right, you’ll definitely have a better chance at success if you’re prepared when the opportunity presents itself. Sharp hook, smooth leader, properly set drags, stretched line and tight properly secured knots. Tight lines!
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