Advanced Fishing: Secrets to Landing Bigger Catches

Estimated read time 12 min read

Many anglers dream of landing a prize catch. While the definition of a trophy fish varies, it’s generally seen as a large, rare, and seasoned catch requiring dedication and skill. This article explores what makes a fish “trophy-worthy,” introduces popular species, and offers tips to increase your chances. Dive in to boost your next fishing adventure.

Defining a Trophy Fish and Big Game Fish

Every fishing enthusiast holds a unique perspective on what qualifies as a trophy fish or big game fish, shaped by their individual tastes. Generally, a trophy fish embodies a grand, mature catch celebrated for its magnitude, allure, or uncommonness.

In the realm of sport fishing, a fish that surpasses a specific size threshold, like a 40-inch musky or a 30-inch trout, often earns the title of a trophy. Sometimes, the challenge in capturing a particular species, such as a sailfish or marlin, designates it as a trophy. Meanwhile, big game fish usually allude to marine species revered for their vastness, vigor, and combative nature, examples being tuna, swordfish, and sharks.

5 Steps for Landing Large Fish

1. Equip Yourself Properly

Before pinpointing your fishing spot, it’s crucial to arm yourself with the right tools. Consider investing in tackle specifically designed for large-catch fishing, spanning from casting to the actual act of reeling in your target.

Key fishing equipment to optimize for bigger catches includes the reel, rod, and line. Verify the weight-bearing capacity of your gear to ensure it’s suitable for your sought-after trophy fish.

Here are steps to selecting top-tier equipment for landing big fish:

  • Opt for fluorocarbon or braided lines as they boast superior tensile strength compared to monofilament lines. They are robust, resist snapping, and offer ample line length to manage big fish that might run, sometimes taking +100 yards of line;
  • When using braided lines, incorporate a thicker monofilament leader for reduced visibility to fish. A 4-6 foot section of +80 pound monofilament line serves as an ideal leader, shielding your primary line from detection. For fish species boasting sharp dentition, a steel leader is recommended;
  • Possessing saltwater fishing pliers is invaluable. It facilitates easy unhooking, especially vital when dealing with species like sharks and bluefish, known for their potent bite. Such pliers, designed for strength, are essential for managing larger species;
  • When your target is a big catch, opt for hooks specifically crafted for such challenges. Premium quality hooks, typically made from high-carbon hardened steel, are less prone to breakage or bending.

2. Choose the Right Water Body and Pinpoint the Optimal Fishing Spot

Choosing the right location is crucial for fishing success. Research prime fishing spots known for larger species and focus on deeper waters where they often reside. Darker water hues typically signal deeper areas, but using a fish finder can offer more accuracy. If fishing from shore, look for spots with a noticeable drop-off. Monitor areas where shallow meets deep, as big fish often hunt there. Remember, they can travel far in a day, so explore widely for the best results.

3. Time Your Fishing Trip Right: Season and Hour Matter

Even the perfect fishing spot won’t yield results if your timing is off, both in terms of the season and the time of day. In northern regions, for instance, fish tend to be dormant and elusive during the early or late parts of the year. Similarly, angling in the noon heat of a Southern American July might diminish your chances of a prized catch.

To optimize your likelihood of securing a trophy, always investigate the best seasons and times tailored to your selected destination.

4. Select the Right Lure and Perfect Its Presentation Based on Your Target

To attract a bite, big fish often prefer live baits like worms and minnows for their natural diet resemblance. Where live bait isn’t allowed, use larger lures like candlefish jigs or expansive spinners. After selecting bait or lure, presentation is key, with the best technique varying by species. Here are some general tips:

  • Start with a gentle presentation. Large fish are naturally cautious, so an aggressive presentation might deter them. Initiate with a subtle approach, and if it doesn’t yield results, incrementally pick up your pace;
  • Allow the fish to fully engage with the lure. Reacting too swiftly to an initial bite might pull the lure away prematurely. Wait for the fish to secure a firm bite on the lure before setting the hook;
  • Maintain a taut fishing line. When maneuvering your boat, ensure you don’t entwine your line with fellow anglers. Hooking a fish on a tangled line increases the chance of losing your catch amidst the chaos;
  • Think about using chumming techniques, known for attracting larger species. Keeping your line active through methods like trolling or casting can also be advantageous.

5. Safely Secure Your Catch During the Reeling Process

Successfully hooking a fish doesn’t always translate to a successful catch, as the phase of reeling in can be tricky. To ensure you land your prize catch, consider the following advice:

  • Adjust your drag accurately: If the fish is pulling line too rapidly, increase the drag; if your rod is excessively bending, decrease it;
  • Tactically battle with the fish, taking into account the environment—lift the fish in shallow waters, avoid underwater obstacles, and position your boat optimally in deep waters to ensure the best reeling angle;
  • Sustain consistent pressure by elevating your rod and directing it towards the fish. This technique minimizes the fish’s chances of escaping the hook;
  • Utilize a robust gaff or a sizeable net to secure your catch onboard and safely remove the lure. Without the proper tools, you not only risk losing the fish but also run the danger of injuring yourself;
  • If your catch isn’t meant to be released, ensure a humane end with a swift spike or a billy club. If you intend to consume the fish, bleeding it out properly is essential;
  • Avoid erratic movements while reeling in, as sudden jerks can create slack in the line, potentially allowing the fish to break free.

Catching Big Fish: The Most Popular Species

Anglers globally chase large fish for their challenge, culinary value, rarity, or beauty. Whether seeking a challenging game fish or a tasty catch, the preference is influenced by location, taste, and skill. Here are some top giants in the angling realm:

  • TUNA: Admired for their speed and stamina, tunas are a favorite among sport fishermen and are prized for their flavorful meat;
  • MARLIN: Known for their challenging fights, marlins are esteemed big game fish with delicious meat savored worldwide;
  • TROUT: Freshwater trout are loved for their elegance and taste, offering anglers a lively challenge. 
  • BASS: As North America’s top sport fish, bass are notable for their tenacity and versatility, ensuring great fishing experiences;
  • SALMON: Unique for their migratory life cycle, salmon are revered for their size, resilience, and delectable taste;
  • WALLEYE: A coveted freshwater catch, walleyes offer spirited battles and are prized for their exquisite flavor, especially as nocturnal hunters.

How Long Does it Take to Catch a Fish

The time it takes to catch a fish can vary widely based on a multitude of factors. Elements such as the type of fish, the fishing location, weather conditions, water temperature, and even the skill of the angler play significant roles.

 For some, a catch can happen within the first few minutes of casting their line, especially in abundant fishing grounds or when the fish are actively feeding. For others, it can be a waiting game that lasts hours, requiring immense patience as they anticipate that elusive tug on the line. Seasoned anglers often emphasize that fishing is as much about the experience and the connection with nature as it is about the actual catch. As such, while the time it takes can vary, the joy of fishing remains consistent.

How to Catch Drum Fish

Drum fish, both red and black varieties, are popular targets for anglers due to their size and the challenge they present. 

  • To increase your success in catching drum fish, it’s vital to understand their habits and preferences;
  • These fish are primarily bottom feeders, so selecting the right bait, such as shrimp, crabs, or cut bait, can be crucial;
  •  When fishing in saltwater areas like estuaries or near oyster beds, where drum fish are commonly found, using a weighted rig will help keep your bait near the bottom;
  • Casting during their most active feeding times, which is typically during dusk or dawn, can improve your chances;
  • It’s also important to use a sturdy rod and line because drum fish are known for their powerful runs and resistance when hooked;
  • Monitoring the line for subtle taps before the full-on strike can be the key to ensuring a successful catch.

How to Catch Redhorse Fish

Redhorse fish, with their distinct, cylindrical bodies and shiny scales, are a fascinating catch for many freshwater anglers. Found predominantly in clean, flowing waters like rivers and streams, redhorse favor the bottoms where they sift for insects, small crustaceans, and other aquatic invertebrates. 

  • To effectively catch them, choose a medium-light rod paired with a reel spooled with 6 to 8-pound test line;
  • Using natural bait, particularly nightcrawlers or other worms, can be highly productive;
  • Attach your bait to a small hook, size 4 to 6, and add just enough weight to ensure your bait reaches the bottom;
  • Look for areas with moderate current and rocky or gravel substrates, as these are often prime redhorse habitats;
  • Casting upstream and allowing your bait to drift naturally with the current can be an effective technique;
  •  Feel for the subtle bite of the redhorse, often a gentle tug, before setting the hook. 

How to Catch Puffer Fish

Puffer fish, known for their unique ability to inflate when threatened, present an interesting endeavor for anglers in warmer coastal waters. 

  • To target these peculiar fish, light to medium tackle paired with a small hook, typically in the size range of #4 to #1, is often ideal;
  • Puffer fish have small mouths, so baits like pieces of shrimp, squid, or small cut fish work best;
  • Fish on or near the bottom in areas with sandy or muddy substrates, as this is where puffers typically forage for food;
  • When fishing inshore, bridges, piers, and grassy flats can be productive spots;
  • It’s essential to retrieve slowly and feel for the light bite of the puffer, which can be easily missed if not paying attention;
  • Once hooked, they usually don’t put up much of a fight, so reel in gently;
  • While puffer fish can be intriguing to catch, anglers should handle them with caution due to their potential to contain tetrodotoxin, a powerful and dangerous toxin. 

How to Catch Snakehead Fish

The snakehead fish, often considered an invasive species in many regions, has become a sought-after target for freshwater anglers due to its fierce fighting ability and predatory nature. 

  • When targeting snakeheads, you’ll need a medium to heavy rod with a good backbone to handle their explosive strikes;
  • Braided line, typically in the 30-50 pound range, is often recommended due to its strength and resistance to abrasion;
  • Snakeheads are ambush predators, so topwater lures like frogs, buzzbaits, or walking baits are highly effective, especially during early mornings or late evenings when the fish are most active;
  • Casting close to vegetation, lily pads, or submerged structures where snakeheads lie in wait can yield good results;
  • When a snakehead hits your lure, wait a moment to ensure it has the bait before setting the hook firmly;
  • Be prepared for a vigorous fight; snakeheads are known for their power and acrobatics.

How to Catch Cisco Fish

Cisco, also known as lake herring, is a cold-water species found in deep, clear lakes across the northern regions of North America. 

  • When setting out to catch cisco, consider that they typically reside in deeper waters, often between 20 to 60 feet, depending on the time of year and water temperature;
  • Trolling with lightweight spoons or spinners can be an effective method;
  • If you’re vertical jigging, small jigs tipped with soft plastics or even live bait can yield results;
  • It’s beneficial to have a sonar or fish finder to locate schools of cisco as they tend to group together, especially during their fall spawning season;
  • When you find a school, be persistent and adjust your depth as needed;
  • Early mornings or late evenings are often the best times to target cisco as they move shallower during these hours to feed on zooplankton;
  • Light line, around 4-8 pound test, and a medium-light rod will provide the sensitivity needed to detect the often subtle bite of the cisco.
Silhouetted fisherman casting line by a lake at sunset, tree far away on the horizon

How to Catch a Fish in a Pond

Ponds, though smaller and often overlooked compared to expansive lakes or flowing rivers, can be teeming with a diverse array of fish. 

  • To catch fish in a pond, start by researching or observing what species inhabit that particular water body;
  • Popular pond fish include bluegill, bass, catfish, and carp;
  • Selecting the right bait is crucial; worms and live insects like crickets work well for bluegill, while soft plastics or spinnerbaits might attract bass;
  • For those targeting catfish, cut bait, chicken liver, or stink baits can be effective;
  • Casting near structures like submerged logs, rocks, or vegetation can increase your chances, as these areas often serve as hiding spots or feeding grounds for fish. 


In the pursuit of bigger catches, knowledge is paramount. From understanding the very essence of a trophy fish to arming oneself with the right equipment, every facet of the process holds significance. This comprehensive guide has illuminated the intricate strategies that seasoned anglers adopt to upsize their hauls. Whether you’re venturing into deep waters in search of a prized marlin or casting your line in a local pond, success hinges on preparation, patience, and prowess.

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