By Nick Simonson
There are many good adages that come from and apply to angling. From “wind from the north, don’t venture forth” to “ninety percent of the fish inhabit ten percent of the water,” big and little lessons alike are summed up in quick catchphrases that are easy to remember and applicable in most angling scenarios. Of all of them, my favorite is: “if you aren’t snagging, you aren’t bragging.” Taking the idea that most fish relate well to structure and look for cover and food in some of the craggiest, woodiest, and most challenging-to-get-a-bait-to-kind of spaces, the saying succinctly sums up the idea that the attempts to catch a lot and even some of the biggest fish, often comes down to putting your favorite lure at risk.
With that motto propelling many casts under docks, flipping lures into deadfalls, and trolling rigs and crankbaits along rocky substrate, snags can and do happen. There are ways, however, to get offerings unstuck and back to the boat only a little worse for wear, but able to be redeployed with a quick tweak of a pliers, or the addition of a new component such as a hook or a weight. What follows are those techniques for getting baits out of snaggy situations and back in the water catching fish.
Back It Up
When a bottom bouncer or crankbait gets snagged up while bumping along the bottom on a summer walleye troll, the best bet for getting the lure out of a bad situation is to back the boat up. Simply lighten the drag on the reel and crank the trolling motor or kicker into reverse. Many times, the bottom bouncer will pop loose when pulled from the opposite direction and there’s a good chance a crankbait will too, unless the hooks are deep into some additional woody structure or other obstruction that isn’t a rock. Give it a pass or two, making a few attempts from different angles to remove the rig or lure from the snag before giving up.
On a Wire
For bass baits rigged on a wide-gap hook or plastics fished on a jig head, utilizing a light wire hook allows an easy out when those offerings become snagged, especially in those woody places that summer largemouth and smallmouth bass relate to. By pulling with some force the wire will bend, changing the angle at which the hook point punctures wood or timber or the hook may just rip its way through the waterlogged material. Utilizing superline or braid in angling efforts allows for a stronger pull and an easier bending of the hook, so consider this added benefit the next time a decision is being made about what to spool up with. Most hooks that have been snagged and pulled loose by straightening can be bent back into shape a couple of times with a pliers before a new one needs to be used. Keep a close eye on hook points too as they come out of structure to be certain they haven’t been blunted. If a light wire hook gets too misshapen or the point on a jig gets rounded, switch it out.
Another arrow in the angler’s quiver full of unsnagging techniques is the bowstring shot. When utilizing light tackle – especially when it’s rigged on monofilament – reel down until the line is tight and lift the rod tip up so the fishing pole is bent in a good arch. From there, grab the line just above the spool and pull it back, as if drawing a bow. When the line becomes as tight as possible (without breaking it) release it with a snap. Many times, a couple of these bow shots will pop a small jig or other offering loose from an underwater obstruction. Be warned about utilizing this technique with superlines, however, as those braids may deliver a cut to fingers and hands.
Finally, for those who predominantly ply the waters with crankbaits, investing in a lure retrieval system may be a good idea, depending on the nature of the water and the cost-benefit analysis when it comes to favorite lures and their price tags. A pair of metal loops over a weighted body with a set of chains attached to it comprise the most notable lure retrievers on the market, though other variations exist and are effective. Typically priced in that 15-to-30-dollar range, if just three or four higher end crankbaits get stuck and brought back to the boat in a season, a retriever has paid for itself and will continue to do so in seasons to come. For those who spend their summer trolling multi-hooked plugs, a retriever can be worth its weight in gold.
Consider these creative ways to get out of snags and salvage an offering that could quite possibly on the next cast provide bragging opportunities for the day’s biggest fish and for some extensive skills in getting things unstuck.
Featured Photo: Back to It. Crankbaits can be pulled loose or retrieved from snags by reversing course, utilizing different angles or employing a lure retriever. Each process can help save money and get productive baits back down to fish. Simonson Photo.
Simonson is the lead writer and editor of Dakota Edge Outdoors.