Learn to Reel in Fish Like a Pro: A Beginner's Guide to Landing the Catch

Learn to Reel in Fish Like a Pro: A Beginner's Guide to Landing the Catch

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Key takeaways

  •  Set your drag correctly, keep your rod at a 45-degree angle, and maintain steady pressure to tire out the fish.
  •  Let the fish run when needed, reel in slack line smoothly, and steer the fish away from obstacles.
  •  Hold your rod properly with your left hand in front of the reel and use your whole arm to set the hook firmly.

Reeling in a fish properly is one of the most important basics that every angler, especially beginners, needs to know. Even if you've been fishing for a while, it's always good to review these fundamental techniques. If you don't reel in correctly, you risk losing the fish or even breaking your line.

There are several key steps to successfully reeling in a fish, and we'll cover each of them in detail. These include:

  • setting the drag on your reel
  • keeping your rod at the right angle
  • allowing the fish to run when necessary
  • reeling in the slack line
  • steering the fish away from potential hazards
  • and being prepared to land the fish with a net when you get it close enough

By understanding and applying these steps, you'll be well on your way to consistently catching fish like a seasoned pro, even if you're just starting out!

Table of Contents

Setting the Drag

One of the first things you need to do is set the drag on your fishing reel. The drag is what lets the fish pull out some line when it swims away. It's important to set the drag just right - not too tight and not too loose.

You want to set the drag so it's not as strong as your fishing line. This way, if the fish pulls really hard, the reel will let out some line instead of letting your line snap. It's kind of like letting the fish "borrow" some line when it needs to swim away fast.

Rod Positioning and Pressure

When you're reeling in a fish, you should keep your fishing rod pointed up at about a 45-degree angle. This means not too high and not too low, but kind of in the middle.

Keeping your rod at this angle helps you keep steady pressure on the fish. The rod acts like a shock absorber, bending a little when the fish pulls hard. This helps tire the fish out without putting too much strain on your fishing line.

Letting the Fish Run

When a fish is on your line and it starts swimming away fast, it's important to let it take some line. This is called letting the fish "run." Don't try to reel in the fish right away when it's running, or you might break your line.

Instead, let the fish pull some line off your reel. The drag will help control how much line the fish can take. Letting the fish run tires it out, so it will be easier to reel in later.

Reeling in the Slack

After the fish stops running and slows down, you can start reeling in the slack line. Slack line is the loose line between your rod tip and the fish. Reel in the slack steadily and smoothly.

Take your time reeling in the slack. Don't reel too fast. A good rule of thumb is to wait about 5 seconds between each turn of the reel handle.

As you reel in the slack, keep a nice, constant pressure on the fish. You want the fish to feel like it's always got something pulling on it, but not too hard. This steady pressure will help tire the fish out.

Steering the Fish

As you're reeling in the fish, you might need to "steer" it away from things that could cause problems, like logs, rocks, or weeds. You can steer the fish by pointing your rod tip to the left or right, kind of like a rudder on a boat.

While steering the fish, be careful not to let your line get loose or slack. If there's slack in the line, the fish might be able to shake the hook out of its mouth and swim away. Keep the line tight by reeling in any slack as you steer the fish.

Landing the Fish

When you've reeled the fish in close to you, it's time to "land" it. This means getting the fish out of the water and onto land or into your boat. Have a fishing net or a harpoon (for big fish) ready to scoop up the fish when it's close enough.

As you're getting ready to land the fish, keep maintaining that steady pressure on the line. You want to keep the fish tired out so it's easier to net or harpoon. If you relax the pressure at the last minute, the fish might make a sudden run and escape.

Common Mistakes to Avoid

One mistake is not setting the drag right on your reel. If the drag is too tight, your line might snap. If it's too loose, the fish might take too much line and get away.

Another mistake is reeling too quickly or letting the line get loose and saggy. Reel in steadily and keep the line tight.

Don't hold your rod too high (called "high-sticking") or let the rod tip drop too low. Either mistake could cause problems like breaking your rod or letting the fish shake the hook loose.

Don't try to fight the fish too hard. Let the rod and the drag do the work. If you pull too hard, you might break the line or rip the hook out of the fish's mouth.

Be ready to land the fish when you get it close. If you're not ready with a net or harpoon, the fish might make a last-minute escape.

Proper Rod Holding Technique

When you're reeling in a fish, it's important to hold your fishing rod the right way. Your left hand should always be in front of the reel. This gives you the best control over the rod and the fish.

Holding the rod with your hand in front of the reel helps you keep the rod steady and strong. It lets you use your arm muscles, not just your wrist, to fight the fish. This way, the fish can't pull the rod out of your hand as easily.

Setting the Hook

When a fish bites your bait or lure, you need to "set the hook." This means getting the hook firmly stuck in the fish's mouth. To set the hook, reel in any loose line until you feel the fish, then give the rod a quick, firm upward pull.

When setting the hook, keep your elbows close to your body and use your whole arm, not just your wrist. Stand with your feet about shoulder-width apart and your knees slightly bent. This stance gives you power and balance to set the hook firmly.

Different fish need different hook sets. For fish with soft mouths, like trout, use a gentler, sweeping motion to set the hook. For tough-mouthed fish, like bass, you can use a harder, sharper hook set.


Reeling in a fish successfully is a fundamental skill that every angler should learn, whether you're a beginner or have been fishing for years. By understanding and applying the key techniques we've covered – setting the drag, keeping the rod at the right angle, letting the fish run when needed, reeling in slack line, steering the fish, being ready to land it, holding the rod correctly, and setting the hook properly – you'll be well-equipped to bring in fish consistently and avoid common mistakes that could cost you your catch. Remember, practice makes perfect, so get out there and put these techniques to use! With time and experience, you'll be reeling in fish like a seasoned angler, even if you're just starting your fishing journey.

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