The frantic fight of a hooked bass makes it difficult to land fish even with the aid of a net, but the no-net rule has caused the pros to rely on other ways to get bass into the boat.
I and other recreational anglers, fortunately, can use nets but there are times when we forget the net or it is buried in a rod box or tangled with other gear.
If you watch the pros competing in major bass tournaments, you will notice they never use a net to land their fish. In the late 1970s, B.A.S.S. instituted a no-net rule, which has been adopted by other major circuits.
Here are three practices employed by the pros you can use if your net is unavailable:
Swing For The Fences
Swinging bass into the boat lessens the chances of an angler getting finned or hooked, but this tactic has plenty of pitfalls for losing fish, such as line breakage, knocking the fish into the side of the boat or pulling it completely over the boat and back into the water.
Timing is the key to swinging bass. Try to begin your swing at the same time the fish starts to jump so the momentum of the fish and the pull of your rod lead the bass towards the boat. Hold your rod at about the 9 o’clock position to begin swinging the fish. If you start any higher you’re going to have trouble because a lot of times the fish are going to hit the side of the boat, which is the worst possible thing to have happen. Raise your rod as high as possible to make sure the fish clears the side of the boat.
Lip ‘Em and Grip ‘Em
Lipping a bass works best when using finesse techniques with light line or trying to land a big bass on any tackle. Landing a bass by hand requires grabbing the fish by the lower lip while trying to avoid touching your line or lure. If the fish keeps its mouth closed, pin it against the side of the boat and lip it.
Grab Them By The Belly
After wearing a bass down, coax the fish to lie on its side. Then hold your rod high to keep tension on the line and slip your free hand under the bass’ belly. Cradling the bass seems to almost paralyze the fish and makes it easier to lift into the boat.