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July 12, 2005

10 Ways To Lose A Trophy Fish

You, too, can lose that big fish! Just follow this experts list of 10 Deadly Sins.

2. Let Your Line Get Tip-Wrapped

"I watched a 700-pound marlin swim away after a young man (who shall remain nameless) picked up an 80-pound conventional outfit and tried to knock the line out of the outrigger. The slack line wound up around the tip - and the rest is bad history."
- Capt. Richard Stanczyk, Bud 'n Mary's Fishing Marina, Islamorada, Florida Keys

Stanczyk worries a lot about twisted memories. While that might make him sound like a character in a Stephen King novel, it's not his memory that concerns him but that of the line on his anglers' reels. The veteran Keys guide relies heavily on spinning tackle, notorious for retaining twist in the line (especially after novice anglers have been reeling against the drag, but such twist can and does beset the best of us). Then, the slightest bit of slack - and this takes us right back to the No. 1 key to fish loss, slack line - results in your mono instantly doing its best to recreate a DNA helix around the rod tip.
 
When that less-than-endearing trait of monofilament occurs at hook-set time, watch out. "When the fish runs with the line around the tip, the line snaps - usually sounding like a gunshot and sometimes feeling like one, too!" says Stanczyk.

Of course, one can try to untwist twisted line (or strip and refill a spool), but often some twist creeps in during fishing. To allow for that, Stanczyk asks anglers to follow one simple rule: "Crank before you yank." The guide wants to see anglers' rods in a good bend before they whip back to set hooks.
 
But as Stanczyk's anecdote about the large marlin shows, the trauma of tip wrap is hardly limited to spinning gear. Capt. Tom Yust, who fishes Panama's Coiba Island and environs from a 31 Bertram and a 22-foot Mako center console, has lost more than one trophy fish (and rod) to anglers grabbing a rig after an outrigger line pops - and drops around the rod tip. But more often, Yust says, line gets a wrap around the tip when anglers fighting a big fish fail to keep up on the reel as they drop the rod (see "Let Your Line Go Slack").
 
Even at the end-game moment, says Nielsen, tip wrap costs some fishermen great bragging rights. "When the deckie, wiring a fish, has to let go suddenly and slack line has wrapped around the rod
tip - kapow!"