The challenge of fighting a powerful fish can test every aspect of an angler’s ability, gear and strength. The fight can be more complicated than setting the hook and reeling in the fish. The best anglers study and perfect fish-fighting techniques not because it helps them land fish but because it’s crucial for landing trophy fish. And because it may save a valuable custom rod from being destroyed!
Have you ever thought about the physics of how your fishing rod works and how it could be working more effectively? Unlocking the power of your fishing rod requires understanding of how it stores energy.
Picture two identical rods – one fast action, the other moderate action. They each produce a maximum of 10 pounds of pull at the maximum bend. If you try to lift 11 pounds with either one, it will simply break. The fast action rod looks like a bent hook, while fully loaded, it focuses all 10 pounds of pressure in a small arc at the tip. In contrast, the moderate rod appears more like a rainbow arc, bending throughout the length of the blank.
Because of the tight arc, a fast action has a small “sweet spot” and can unload energy quickly during a fight. This means that stored energy, all the pull, is lost and transfers a lot of strain on to the angler. If the fish surges unexpectedly, the rod loads up quickly, providing limited shock absorption.
Compare that with the moderate action rod. The moderate action rod will distribute that 10 pounds of pull throughout 60 percent of the blank instead of the tip. If the fish comes toward you or takes off on a run, the moderate action rod is more forgiving because it can absorb the energy and motion without over or under loading. It makes for a better shock absorber and results in landing fish faster or not at all.
Regardless of how the rod bends, the tip is not for fighting fish. It’s for casting and sensing what is happening at the end of the line. Eliminating the tip and upper sections during fighting will produce far more pull on the fish. To do this, lower the tip of the rod enough so the majority of the bend, or the load, is in the lower portions of the blank.
I often hear fishermen say, “keep your rod tip up.” This can lead to poor fish-fighting behavior. A high tip means you can’t load the deeper, more powerful part of the blank, and you are at risk of overloading and breaking the tip. It is best to keep the rod angle between 30 and 45 degrees, depending on the action of the rod. The more moderate the action, the more the rod will point directly at the fish and be parallel with the water. If you are used to fishing with your rod tip up high, it’s going to feel unnatural at first, but practice makes perfect. You’ll get used to it.
Another mistake when fighting your fish is quickly and repeatedly unloading the rod. This action actually means more strain on your body. At the hook set and in the early part of the fight, initially load up the rod. This means energy is going into the bend of the rod but not actually pulling on the fish. Only do this once during the fight though.
Loading and unloading the rod during the fight and repeating it during the battle is another mistake. This wastes a ton of energy that the fish isn’t feeling. An unloaded rod is a rest for the fish, not you. Instead, get the rod to the proper bend and lock it there.
Pumping the rod may look impressive, but it’s not the best way to fight a fish. Hard pumping is just a waste of energy, over/under loading the blank repeatedly, risking damage to the rod, line, leader and hook. Further, if you are aggressively pumping the rod and getting the tip up high, you are relying on the tip to fight the fish and provide shock absorption. The rod is not properly loaded in the high and low positions of the pump, and it’s hard to react to the fish.
A properly loaded rod puts pressure on the fish, decreases angler effort and prevents break-offs due to sudden movements. Unlocking the rod’s power is done with a steady, consistent application of pressure. Try to load up the rod once, keep the tip relatively low and rely on the reel’s cranking power. Employ small, steady movements and land that trophy fish.