13 Common Fishing Mistakes

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When you lose a lunker it hurts—for a long time. That’s the impetus behind this humble article. Let’s jump right in so you can avoid these costly and time-consuming slip-ups:

Portable digital scale


Not using digital scales to set your drag

Pro Anglers use digital scales to correctly set their drag level. A good rule of thumb is to set it to about 20-percent of the line strength.

For example, if you’re using 12-pound-test fishing line, your drag should be set to about 2.5 pounds.

When you set your drag to more than 25-percent of the fishing line’s strength, the chances of line breakage increase. If you go below 20-percent, fish can run with your line and easily tangle it.

Setting your drag too tight

When the drag is too tight, big fish can break the fishing line. It often happens when your fish is only five- to ten feet away from you. It can happen in a boat or on the bank.

When a lunker makes its last surge, the pressure is too much for the line —and snap—there goes your trophy largemouth bass.

Setting your drag too loose

While it’s important to have enough slack to tire out the fish, you have to be careful. Too much room to run allows fish to wrap the line around stumps and underwater structures.

Some anglers prefer to go under 20-percent because it makes the fish feel heavier and more fun to catch.

Although purposely setting your drag to less than 20-percent of the line strength can make a smaller fish feel like a lunker, you’re taking a chance on losing fish and backlashing your line.

Fishing Hooks Tackle

Using the wrong-size fishing hook

Lots of novice anglers make the mistake of buying the wrong size hooks.

The right hook should easily fit into the fish’s mouth, and properly fit your lure or bait. If it looks strange or is too big, you’ll scare away more fish than you’ll catch.

To make sure you’re using the right size fishing hook, ask yourself two simple questions: First, “How big are the fish I’m targeting?” And, “What kind of bait am I using?”

For example, If you’re fishing for a mess of bream using worms or crickets, you may want to go with a size 8 hook.

If you’re targeting bass with a plastic worm, then you’ll want something bigger and stronger like a size 5/0.

Using old, dull fishing hooks

A sharp fishing hook will quickly pierce a fish’s lip or jaw when you set the hook. Having one makes all the difference in the world.

Dull hooks can scathe a fish’s mouth rather than pierce it, which means more missed fish and wasted bait.

Make sure your old hooks are sharp. If they feel or look dull, break out your hook sharpener. You’ll be glad you did.

Fishing Lure Assortment

Using the wrong fishing lures

You might be surprised how intelligent fish actually are. They know when something seems odd or out of place.

That’s why pro anglers use lures that mimic live food in the fish’s natural habitat.

For example, using a bright green plastic frog in a murky brown pond with no lily pads would probably spook the fish. Whereas using a brown- or pumpkinseed-colored plastic worm would appear more natural.

It’s also smart to make your lure mimic the natural conditions of the water.

For example, if you’re using a top water lure on a windy day, then you should make it splash a bit to stay consistent with the ripple level. And on a very still day, with no ripples, be sure to cause far less commotion with your lure.

Being impatient with your lure selection

Switching lures or baits too frequently can spook fish and ruin your chances of hauling in a lunker. So give your lure a fair shot before making a switch.

Instead of changing up your lure, try fishing different spots on the water. Maybe there’s a fallen tree or log to target. Or maybe there’s a stumpy recess with top-feeders lurking.

Fishing your lure too fast

Fishing a top water plug, plastic  worm, or jig too fast is a common fishing mistake. It pays to take your time.

When you’re working a plastic worm through a fish bed or popping a hula popper beside a lily pad, relax and give the fish time to strike. Don’t rush, make it appear natural.

Fishing reels and rods

Using the wrong fishing equipment

Make sure you know what size fish you’re targeting. If you’re going after big gamefish for catch-and-release, use a longer rod and stronger fishing line.

If you’re aiming to catch a string of small sun perch for dinner, then go with a smaller rod with a weaker fishing line.

Most anglers prefer a rod that’s 6-feet long when targeting smaller fish. For bigger gamefish, pro fishermen prefer a rod that’s 7- to 10-feet in length.

Using worn fishing line

This is the best way to shoot yourself in the foot before you ever make your first cast. Using old, frayed fishing line causes anglers to lose lures and catches every day.

It’s a good idea to give your fishing line the eye test. If it looks dark, frayed or worn, it should probably be replaced.

Having a poorly-tied fishing knot

Believe it or not, this may be the most common fishing mistake made by rookie anglers. When your knot is poorly tied, it will slip and come loose.

So it doesn’t matter how expensive your fishing line is, or if you’re using a top quality fishing hook. A poorly tied knot will cause you to miss fish and lose lures.

Take the time to do it right. Use a proven fisherman’s knot. A Palomar knot, a uni-knot, or and improved fisherman’s cinch knot all work well.

Fly fisherman catching trout

Trying to bare-hand your catch

Fish are strong, slick and sort of like a bucking bronco. You’d be surprised how many fishermen lose their catch at the very last moment.

Use fish-handling gloves. A fishing net works well, too—especially if you’re not used to grabbing a thrashing lunker by the lip.

Fishing natural structures

Missing the hottest fishing spots

Knowing where fish hide is the key to catching them. Newbie anglers often avoid sweet spots like grass beds, lay-downs, stumps and fallen trees.

Natural structures like these are where you’ll likely find the most fish, perhaps even the biggest. So, don’t be afraid to cast your lure into cover. It could pay dividends.

Remember, fishing should be fun and enjoyable. There’s no reason to make it hard and frustrating.

Keep these fishing mistakes in mind next time you hit the water. You’ll be glad you did.