Big Boat Angling Tips

Here are 10 tips that will change the game for inexperienced anglers on bigger boats.

At first glance, 90% of you will assume this doesn’t apply to you. Angling advice may feel like the last thing you need. I don’t doubt that many of you are great anglers. What I do doubt is that any of you have perfected the art of coaching anglers. Why am I so skeptical? As a Deep Sea Fishing Charters Captain I have spent 1,000 days on the water in the last 5 years and my coaching skills are still improving every day. Here are 10 tips that will change the game for inexperienced anglers on bigger boats.


1. As an angler, it is important to stay calm.

Relaxed vibes create a positive atmosphere, which helps amateur anglers focus on the fish without fear of constant scrutiny. If you put excess pressure on an angler by rushing or micromanaging them, they are more inclined to make mistakes such as increasing drag or jerking the rod which will result in more missed opportunities.

2. Follow your Fish!

A majority of the anglers in the United States grew up freshwater fishing. Lake and stream fishing usually involves small boats and shorelines where hand-eye coordination is a must. What many anglers lose sight of is, however, the importance of footwork.

In addition to establishing sea legs, getting around a bigger boat comes with obstacles such as other anglers, a whole spread of rods, and outriggers. On center console or walk around boats, it’s imperative that the captain and crew work together to create space for the angler who is fighting the fish. Maneuvering the boat so the angler can fight the fish off the bow definitely reduces room for error. When fishing from a convertible sportfish, it helps to move anglers to the corner of the cockpit and keeping the other rods out of the way. This requires the crew to be on the same page. Successful anglers must move their feet, follow their fish, and pay attention during multiple hookups. 


3. Help the Gaff Man

Proper gaffing requires teamwork between the angler and the gaff man. Anglers have a tendency to horse fish when they get near the boat. Most of the time, the gaff man gets all the heat when it’s actually the angler making things difficult. Toward the end of the fight, tensions are running high and the angler is usually pretty worn out. In desperation to end the fight and land trophy fish, anglers have a tendency to do the opposite of what the situation requires toward the end of the fight. If your fish is 3 feet from the boat and you high stick him for example, it will either splash like crazy or jump out of the water. This makes gaffing nearly impossible and will result in more pulled hooks, tip wraps, and lost fish. 

As an angler, you should pull the fish gently on its side and lead it to the gaff. If the fish isn’t ready, play him carefully until he is.


4. Don’t let the fish go under the boat.

If the fish goes under the boat, lower the rod. Most anglers see a fish going under the boat and think “OMG, the Fish is going under the boat, let me lift the rod up to pull him out!” This is the opposite of what you need to do. Rods average 5-8 feet in length. If a fish goes under the boat and you pull the rod up, you increase the likelihood of breaking him off by decreasing the angle between the rod tip and the hull of the boat. Instead, use the rod to increase the distance between the rod tip and the boat. To do so, make sure your legs go against the gunnels and you lower your rod. In emergency situations, it helps to lower your rod tip all the way and sometimes even into the water.


5. Watch the anglers’ wrists.

Inexperienced anglers commonly knock conventional reels into free spool while fighting fish. This is usually attributed to frantic reeling and disregard for form. Knocking a reel into free spool can easily cause backlashes, pulled hooks, and broken line. To avoid this, make sure the angler stays calm, reels slowly and make sure their wrists don’t hit the lever while cranking.


6. Don’t reel against the drag.

Reeling against the drag is a favorite pastime for most googans. This causes the line to twist on spinning rods, which can lead to tip wraps, difficulty casting, and broken line. Reeling against the drag with conventional tackle is simply a waste of energy.

To prevent this from happening, have the angler keep their eyes on both the rod tip and the reel. Have them cross check between the two to make sure they are gaining line when they reel and judging the fish’s behavior.


7. Have your anglers wear a belt.

Don’t ask anglers if they need a belt; this should be a rhetorical question. People will instinctively deny help (it shows weakness). Instead of asking, give the angler a belt. This will help their form and make them more comfortable during longer fights.



8. Short pump for the win.

Many anglers like to take ten cranks for each pump when they are first learning to fight a fish. Most rods and reels have high gear ratios with 3 feet per crank pretty common nowadays. With this being said, each time you pull the rod up, 1 crank is plenty when reeling back down. Slow but steady wins the race. Not only will you catch the fish quicker with short pumps, but you’ll also waste less energy while doing so.

9. Be careful with drag management.

Drags should be preset for inexperienced anglers. Any adjustments to the drag should be very careful and incremental. “Lower the lever” could mean slamming it into free spool to some people. Exercise caution with what you tell an inexperienced angler.

10. Only use 1 or 2 people to coach the angler at a time.

If everyone is yelling at the same time, it’s harder to pinpoint areas of improvement. It also adds tension to the situation and makes a fun experience stressful. It should be the captain and/or first mate’s job to coach the angler. If there is no real structure on the boat, assign the job of a coach to the most experienced or willing person to help.

Captain Nick Gonzalez

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