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Learning how to play and land the fish is essential to being a good angler, and if you’ve never done this before it’s easy to get caught in the moment and lose control.

However, you just need to keep calm and follow these tips. Note: this article assumes you’re familiar with lures and baits already. If not, check out this post first.

Setting up the Hook

The moment you feel the fish on the line, start reeling the slack in and set the hook. In fishing lingo, setting the hooks means the fish has been hooked on the mouth.

To set up the hook you just lift the rod tip firmly and quickly, and remember that the action has to be on your elbow and wrist. There’s no need to put the rod arm above your head as a fast snap is all that’s required.

Don’t set the hook too early because you’ll pull the bait or lure from the fish’s mouth. But you don’t want to set the hook late either because you’re going to gut hook the fish, and that’s something you want to avoid especially if you’re going to release it.

Light hook setups are not ideal either because the fish will get away, but you don’t want it too hard as it’s likely to tear the hook off, allowing the fish to escape.

Playing the Fish

Playing refers to the actions you do to bring the fish in. Don’t yield to the temptation of cranking the reel to bring the fish up because the fish will probably get loose.

Instead, it’s better to tire the fish out without the hook getting torn out or the line snapping. Here’s how to do it:

  1. Before you have any fish, make sure the drag is properly set.
  2. The rod tip has to be up. The rod can be vertical or near vertical but it must not be over your head.
  3. Keep the line tight with no slack.
  4. Keep the fish far from anything that could entangle your line. The fish’s head can be steered by moving the line, but do not turn the handle.
  5. Reel the slack in if the fish is moving towards you.
  6. Do not reel in if the fish is moving away from you and let the drag do its work.
  7. When the fish stops, reel the slack in.
  8. Pump the fish in provided it’s not pulling the line.

How to Pump and Land the Fish

Follow these steps.

  1. First, the rod tip has to be lifted to pull the fish near you.
  2. To create slack, the rod tip has to be lowered.
  3. Reel in quickly: speed is of the essence here since it’s going to take the slack in.
  4. Repeat the steps and keep pumping the fish until it’s close enough for landing. Landing the fish (meaning it’s out of the water) is usually done with a net.

How to Net a Fish

sockeye-492258_640There are basically five steps to follow.

  1. If the fish is still making runs, let it be until it’s tired out.
  2. Move the fish towards you.
  3. Place the net in the water; don’t put it near the fish.
  4. Starting with the head, pull the fish into the net, using the rod to steer.
  5. Lift the net up quickly and pull the fish out of the water.

Chasing fish with the net isn’t a good idea because the fish will just run again. This will tire the fish and lessen its chances of survival if you’re going to release it later.


If you’re using a jig or other weedless lure, you might need to set the hook a bit harder. For hollow bodied frogs and other jigs, the hook can be set upward so that in case the fish spits the lure out, it’s not going to hit you in the face. You should also wear protective goggles just to be on the safe side.

Learning how to play and land the fish isn’t that hard provided you take the time to learn the fundamentals. All it requires is patience and of course, understanding the basics of fishing.