A while back a reader asked why pro bass anglers don’t use nets in tournaments. To many, a net may seem the safest and surest way to get a money fish in the boat. But the use of nets is actually a huge debate, with many anglers and tournament directors split on the decision.
It comes down to categorizing the argument three ways: what’s best for the bass, for the angler, and for the excitement. Personally, I am for the use of nets in tournaments and recreational bass fishing. That’s because I believe proper care of the fish is of the utmost importance, and quite honestly, fish care can be lacking at times without the use of nets. So these are my “pro net” answers to the three facets of the argument.
The Bass – A long fight is stressful on a bass, and hand landing a fish often prolongs that fight. Nets help cut the fight short by allowing the angler to scoop the catch on the first pass rather than risking potential misses when the bass freaks out at boatside. In my experience, netting also seems to have a somewhat calming effect on the bass. Now, let’s say the bass fishing method you are practicing involves heavy line and a heavy rod/reel combo. Perhaps you’re strong enough to flip that pig right into the boat without a net. That’s fine, but if I do flip a fish, I try to give the bass a little love by doing my best to reduce the amount of time it’s on the floor, which can remove the protective slime coat. To that end, always flip the fish toward you, get a hold of it quickly, and try to keep it off the floor
The Angler – Though it may sound funny, I’m for the use of nets for safety reasons. Some anglers have more agility and technical skill than others, but no matter how agile you are, trying to lip a leaping smallmouth with three sets of trebles hanging out of its mouth in 3-foot waves is not easy. So now, both the well-being of the angler and the fish are at risk with the lack of a net.
The Excitement – People who are against nets say they take the athleticism and excitement out of watching bass fishing on TV. I feel this is a totally invalid argument considering we’re talking about the tiniest fraction of time. Do you want to sacrifice fish care for the short-term excitement of the sport? I don’t think so. And the last time I checked, you can still miss a fish with the net…and it’s just as dramatic.