Improving Your Fish Landing Ratio

Every year I try to improve my number of fish in the cooler. Some days you can do everything wrong and still end up with a decent number in the cooler. Aggressive fish hammer the lures and stick well and there are days when most of the fish are off by the time you get to the rod. Several things I do now that seem to be working for me I know will put more fish in the cooler for you.

The number one most important change to make to keep the fish on the line are good quality hooks. This may sound obvious, although some anglers do not pay attention to this detail. I look for 1x, 2x, and 3x or in some cases 4 extra strong hooks. Strong sharp hooks are a simple answer with immediate results. Most manufactures of fishing lures cut costs by using a cheap hook.

Cheap hooks may get the job done the first time but don't count on it. Your time and other expenses are large compared to replacement hooks. All hook manufactures offer standard and premium grade hooks. Look for the best extra strong extra sharp they have to offer. Go with the same size that is on the lure when purchased.

After you have landed a fish take your time not to bend the hook removing it from the fish. A common problem is the hook gets caught in the net and it is bent out of shape. Never! Never! straighten a bent hook. Buy yourself a split ring pliers and replace the bent hook. You should carry plenty of spare hooks on board.

Always inspect your hooks for sharpness and shape before you put them in the water.

I always hear stories of the big one that got away. The line breaks, a snap opens or some other failure of the terminal tackle. Please allow me to explain how to correctly set and maintain your drag on your reels. The correct amount of drag is measured in pounds. You find the correct number by dividing the test weight of your line by four or 25% of the line breaking value.

All line sold will have the line weight marked on the package. An example would be 20-pound test divided by four would have a drag setting of 5 pounds. To get this setting run the line through all the rod eyes as you normally would and connect the line to a spring scale. The other end of the scale should be connected to a fixed object. Pull on the line with the rod bent over and adjust the reel drag to allow it to slip as a 5-pound measurement is obtained on the scale. Where this may feel a little light to some anglers, it will allow the fish to be played without pulling the hook out of the fish. The rod should play the fish and not the reel. Do not crank up the drag to pull the fish in with the reel. This will only lead to lost fish and disappointment.

To me there is nothing more vital to my success on the water and satisfaction of my customers than a high ratio of fish on to fish in. I am sure there are some that will disagree with a procedure I use. I pull my lines and stop the boat on all of the fish over ten pounds or at least that's my goal. Occasionally, in the heat of the battle, a larger fish will end up close to the boat before we can clear lines. Then I will take the boat down as slow as we can to avoid getting the fish around my other lines. The longer you drag the fish around the more time they have to get off. Over the years I have found that the harder you pull on the fish the harder they fight and more likely they will come off. This also allows me to run smaller terminal tackle and lighter lines both of which improve presentation.

I will wrap this up with one more of many small details that help to put the fish in the cooler. How you play the fish is an art of which, when done correctly, will go a long way to your success. I am a firm believer in not pumping the rod to high or too fast. As you remove the rod from the rod holder it is your option to set the hook or not. I personally don't do it. When you have twenty pounds of salmon tearing line off the reel and you pull to set the hook something has to give. Bend a hook, open a snap, break a line or rip the hook out of his mouth all of which are not good. Just maintain the bend in the rod and use a moderate pumping motion raising the rod to the one o'clock position and lowering it to the three o'clock position. On the down stroke reel in the line on the reel. When the fish is running there is nothing you can do just enjoy the fight. During this time reduce your boat speed and or pull lines to reduce the pressure on the tackle.

I guarantee you will loose less fish when you follow these guidelines. Good Luck Captain Jim. Let's go fishing!! Jim charters out of Milwaukee, WI. with Blue Max Charters. He can be reached at 414-828-1094 or visit his web site at
Copyright 2006, James J. Hirt, All Rights Reserved

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