Six Crit­i­cal Fight Tac­tics


Saltwater Sportsman - - Table Of Contents / Departments - GEORGE POVEROMO

Hone your fight­ing skills and win the tough brawls.

Scor­ing tro­phy fish is the di­rect re­sult of hav­ing learned the habits, mi­gra­tions and idio­syn­cra­sies of your tar­get. Yet ac­quir­ing such knowl­edge is only half the for­mula: One still has to fight the fish. Fall short on skills here and you’re left with some ver­sion of the one that got away. Prac­tice th­ese six key tac­tics and you’ll re­act ac­cord­ingly when faced with piv­otal sit­u­a­tions dur­ing ev­ery fish fight.


It’s dis­heart­en­ing when half your reel’s spool is still empty and progress is mea­sured in in­cre­ments of a foot or two of line gained through hard pump­ing and wind­ing. But as long as line is be­ing re­claimed, no mat­ter how lit­tle, you shouldn’t in­crease the drag or be­gin hors­ing the fish in an at­tempt to gain line more quickly.

Com­po­sure and rhythm even­tu­ally beat a tough fish, so stay fo­cused, no mat­ter how tir­ing the fight be­comes.

Should a bit more drag be war­ranted, sim­ply cup the spool, or press the line against the rod’s soft fore­grip. That way, if the fish sud­denly charges off, you can in­stantly re­lease the added pres­sure.


A com­mon trolling mis­take of slow­ing or stop­ping the boat af­ter hook­ing up is a bad prac­tice. Do­ing so im­pedes solid hookups, and as the rest of the baits cease to splash and swim, so do the chances for dou­ble or mul­ti­ple hookups.

On the strike, keep the boat head­ing in the same di­rec­tion, and main­tain the same speed for about 30 sec­onds be­fore pulling back on the throt­tles. The boat’s for­ward mo­men­tum and the fish run­ning in an op­po­site di­rec­tion should take most of the stretch out of the monofil­a­ment line; this re­sults in a firmer hook­set. Also, the rest of the spread re­mains ac­tive and vul­ner­a­ble to a se­cond or third fish.


Ad­vanc­ing the drag to stop a hard­charg­ing fish inevitably re­sults in ei­ther a snapped line or a pulled or straight­ened hook.

As the di­am­e­ter of line on the spool shrinks, drag pres­sure in­creases. In ad­di­tion, the in­creas­ing amount of line drag­ging through the wa­ter gen­er­ates ex­tra pres­sure. There­fore, on a long-run­ning fish, you should slowly de­crease the drag to off­set in­cre­ments re­sult­ing from a shrink­ing spool di­am­e­ter and ex­cess line drag. Don’t worry, there will be enough pres­sure on the line to keep proper ten­sion on the fish.

When the line on the spool nears the half­way point, give chase and close the gap. Keep­ing the fight con­fined within a third of the line’s ca­pac­ity en­ables you to ap­ply plenty of pres­sure and al­lows the fish to run and tire it­self.

Se­cure a poly ball or fender to the end of the rode when at an­chor. If a hooked fish keeps truck­ing to­ward the hori­zon, toss the float over the side and fol­low. Then re­turn to the spot af­ter the catch, re­claim the float and an­chor rode, and go back to fishing.


Fish are most of­ten lost at the be­gin­ning and the end of the fight, so don’t get anx­ious when lead­ing a fish to the net or gaff. Ap­ply­ing ad­di­tional pres­sure to fin­ish the job sooner is likely to change the fight rhythm. And even a slight change in rhythm may spook a fish into charg­ing for­ward, cre­at­ing slack and shak­ing off the hook.

The endgame is all about re­main­ing calm and fo­cused. Main­tain your rhythm and pres­sure. The helms­man can as­sist by hold­ing the boat in a straight line and oc­ca­sion­ally shift­ing in and out of gear. This slight for­ward mo­men­tum helps an­glers main­tain their rhythm while also keeps fish away from the mo­tors and hull.

Once the fish is sub­dued, you can re­lax and cel­e­brate.


A good an­gler re­mains al­ways in tune with a hooked fish. An out­stand­ing an­gler an­tic­i­pates ev­ery pos­si­ble move the fish may try to get free.

Con­sider all the sce­nar­ios where a fish could earn its free­dom, and mind bridge pil­ings, deep wrecks and boats, in­clud­ing your own. When hooked up, con­cen­trate on the fight and be ready to counter ev­ery move. Al­ways know the fish’s where­abouts and how much line is out.

Should the fish run to­ward the bow when an­chored, a split-se­cond de­ci­sion may be re­quired to avoid the an­chor rode. If the fish darts be­tween the boat and rode, quickly pass your rod un­der­neath the rode. If the fish passes be­yond the rode, pass the rod over it in­stead.


Too many an­glers rear back on an air­borne sail­fish or tar­pon. Per­haps they be­lieve it’s an ideal op­por­tu­nity to horse the fish to­ward the boat while it’s out of its el­e­ment. What­ever the rea­son­ing, that’s a great way to lose the fish.

The surge a fish gen­er­ates when it launches it­self out of the wa­ter, cou­pled with vi­o­lent head shakes, re­sults in rapid and in­tense shocks on the line. Rather than rear­ing back on the rod, ex­tend it slightly to­ward the fish to re­lieve ex­ces­sive ten­sion dur­ing the jump. You still want a taut line, just to a lesser de­gree.

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