If You Teach a Guest to Fish

9 August 2011 By Jonathan Crawford

Having your charter guests stand on the sidelines as you reel in fish is a sure way to rob them of a true fishing experience. After all, there’s nothing quite like the adrenaline rush that comes with the feel of the rod bending and shaking, the line so taught it springs beads of water and  the onlookers cheering as you pull and reel with all of your might. With a little guidance, you can prepare the greenest guest to land a fish and provide them with a hands-on experience that'll last a lifetime.  

Instructing the guest to maintain constant tension on the line when reeling in a fish is critical, says Whitney Reiter, seasoned fisherman and captain of M/Y Themis. Any slack in the line, particularly if the hook is not properly set, gives the fish an opportunity to spit it out. A visual aid to ensure there’s sufficient tension, Reiter says, is a bend in the rod.

For reeling in the fish, especially if it’s a fish of substantial size and weight, Reiter says guests should be taught to “pump and wind.” Pumping and winding refers to the practice of lifting the rod slowly and then reeling in the line as you lower the rod back to the starting point and repeating. Ideally, guests should crank the reel two or three times for every lift. For maximum power, guests should keep one hand high on the fore grip. The fish, essentially, is being lifted, and weakened with every pump and wind.

Another important technique to teach the guests is how to hold the rod properly when they have a fish on the line. Reiter says when the rod is held at an angle beyond 90 degrees to the fish, you lose leverage and the rod is more susceptible to breaking. Conversely, by holding the rod at an angle below 90 degrees to the fish, you can exert more leverage against the fish, tiring it out faster. It's in this zone where the rod’s so-called “backbone” is strongest. As a matter of practice, when the fish is on the surface, the rod should not be held too far past vertical. But if the fish is on the bottom, the rod should not be held above the head.   

As the line is taken in and the fish gets closer to the boat, it’s important to properly brief the guest on how to prepare the fish for being gaffed. If too much line is taken in, the fish’s head will come out of the water, which will excite it and cause it to shake its head and possibly spit the hook, says Reiter. Rather, the fish should be kept horizontal with its head in the water where it will tend to be less agitated. Keeping the fish in a horizontal profile also gives the gaffer a larger target to strike.

When it comes to gaffing the fish, Reiter says guests should steer clear to avoid coming into contact with the fish’s sharp teeth or an exposed hook.

To keep guests interested and engaged, and increase their chances of success, politely instruct them to be alert for telltale signs of fish and baitfish, says Reiter. Guests should be told to look for ripples or changes in water color which indicate a current, where baitfish tend to concentrate, weed lines and flotsam, breaching fish and birds.

Related topics:

Rigging The Yacht

Fishing Hot Spots

More from Dockwalk