To Quickly Fight Or Slow Play The Fish?
Updated: Feb 12
There is a large debate in the fishing community between upsizing gear to land fish quickly and using lighter gear to give the fish a fighting chance. While there is certainly no one size fits all answer to this question there are a few things we would like anglers to consider when making their decision.
The main reason the "light gear" community side is against using heavy gear is they do not believe there is much sport in catching fish if there is no chance that it can get away. On top of this the thrill of having a fish fight, peel drag, and almost get away is something you can't get anywhere else! Team light gear is all about the experience.
On the other side of the fence is team heavy gear. They believe that using more beefy gear and getting the fish in as quickly as possible is the way to go. Usually this has to do with the catch being the overall goal as opposed the fight.
Aside from the personal goals above here at New Wave Fishing Academy we would like you to take the fish's health into consideration. We promote a conservation first style of fishing so that the sport can be enjoyed for years to come. When using heavy gear anglers can get the fish into the boat more quickly meaning that they do not stress out as much. When using lighter gear the fish is able to fight much harder and can tire themselves to dangerous levels; especially really large fish! Using heavier gear will result in fewer instances of delayed mortality once the fish are released. Using too light of gear also risks breakoffs and having lures stuck in the fish mouth can impact their feeding habits and lead to death if they are not able to remove it.
Now from the paragraph above it may seem that using heavier gear is our opinion but there is a lot of grey area here. We do believe in ensuring the fish health is a primary consideration but there is a middle ground for what gear to use. From our experiences the smaller fish (panfish, bass, walleye) are less susceptible to delayed mortality and are much tougher fish. This means you can use lighter gear, let them fight hard, and still have no issues. The bigger problem comes when targeting larger more predatory fish like muskie, pike, and lake trout. These fish are used to being at the top of the food chain and will get away or die trying. These fish are a lot more susceptible to delayed mortality from a prolonged fight.
If we were to draw a line in the sand we would suggest to use as light of gear that still allows you to get a fish in quickly if you need to. Loosing off the drag is one way to let the fish fight a bit more and if the fight has been prolonged for too long anglers can tighten it back up and get the fish in quickly.
To learn more about selecting the right rod, reel, line, and other gear for the job at hand check out module B4 from our Zero To Hero Fishing Masterclass at the link below or on our Youtube channel: