The Highs and Lows of Fighting Fish
Updated: Nov 4, 2021
How to fight and land a fish.
After the initial hookup, there are many little tricks that can be used to give the angler higher odds of a successful catch. Changing the level at which you hold the rod during the fight is just one of them.
When fighting a fish, it's common for a lot of folks to just keep the rod at around the same level the entire time. In many instances this might be adequate, but throw more variables into the mix and it can be helpful if not absolutely critical to change rod positions as the battle wages on. In this post I'm going to touch on the when and why of using both high and low rod angles to give you a better shot of successfully landing more fish.
High Rod Angle If you've fished for any length of time, undoubtedly you've heard the command "keep the tip up!" used by someone. This usually just means to keep the rod angle pointed upwards around the optimal 45-degree angle which helps maintain a good bend in the rod and pressure on an active fish. No doubt this is important, but it's not what I'm specifically talking about here. In the case of this section, I am talking about putting the rod up high...as in extending your arms so the entire rod is above eye or head level. Why on earth would the rod need to go way up there while fighting a fish?
By fighting a fish with the rod so high up, the angle of the line entering the water is increased which helps elevate it over hazards both above and below the surface. The rod may only need to quickly be lifted so high to clear something like a boulder or tree limb between you and the hooked fish, or it can be more extreme. For example, if fighting a bonefish on a shallow flat full of little mangrove shoots, most of the fight may be done with the rod elevated to keep the line as high as possible which lessens the chances of it catching on something. It can be an awkward way to do battle, but a necessary one.
Low Rod Angle
On the flip side, there's fighting fish using a low rod angle. For this technique, the rod tip is held at about the water's surface (or even below at times) and typically to either side so a proper rod bend can be maintained. Keeping the rod tip so low or even in the water lessens the line's angle drastically. I can't remember ever using this technique for any prolonged period during a fight, but it really comes in handy sometimes.
The first instance I'll drop the tip is when I'm fighting a fish and it goes to run under something. Whether that's a floating dock, a thick floating mat of moss, or a docked boat, I use a low rod angle anytime I want to keep my line free of any hazard on or just under the surface. Inexperienced anglers may tend to keep the rod in the standard position and just pull harder to keep a fish from shooting under an object, but dropping the rod tip and pulling harder is often the better call.
Another time a low rod angle comes in handy is when trying to keep a fish from jumping. It's awesome to see a fish skyrocket, but fish are often lost on those violent skyward head shakes. Dropping the rod tip at or especially below the surface while stripping or reeling fast can make it harder for a fish to jump as high or even jump at all. Ever watched a professional bass tournament? You'll often see those anglers fighting a fish with the rod very low saying "please don't jump please don't jump" especially when using treble-hook baits. They are trying to keep steady pressure on that fish while also keeping its head down.
Be vigilant during the fight. Maintain proper tension, play the angles, and always be on the lookout for obstacles that can stand in the way of a successful fish catch!
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