How Big of a Fish Can You Catch with Ultralight Gear

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Catching the Big One with Ultralight Tackle: Is it Possible?

You’re prepping for a great day of fishing and you want to bring home something impressive. Beginners just transitioning to ultralight fishing and seasoned anglers alike may be tempted to pack their strongest gear, thickest braided line and biggest bait. But is that the right approach?

Not necessarily.

It’s perfectly possible to catch a nice-sized fish with ultralight tackle, which is loosely defined as a light-action rod set up with 2- to 6-pound line. It takes more finesse and a much more sensitive touch, but you can do it. According to Bass Resource (1), some anglers report regularly catching bass over nine pounds with ultralight gear, and Field and Stream(2) reminds us that Rip Collins set a record in 1992 by catching a 40-pound, 4-ounce brown trout on a 4-pound line. The question is, if catching big fish with heavier gear is easier, why choose the gossamer stuff?

Why Choose Ultralight Tackle?

Don’t make the mistake of thinking ultralight tackle is for beginners. Quite the opposite. It takes more effort and more restraint to fish with ultralight gear. But that’s precisely the point: fishing with light gear ratchets up the level of the sport. With a limber rod and light line, you can feel every wriggle and tug of the fish on your hook. Once you’ve got a bite, it’s a battle of wills between you and the fish to get to the finish line. If you can hold out the longest, you’re the victor, but if you get impatient and try to be aggressive, you’ll snap your line and set the fish free.

It’s also arguable that lightweight lines and lures are better at imitating a fish’s natural prey. According to Live Outdoors(3), freshwater fish like perch, crappie and rock bass are all more likely to go for small lures than large ones.

How to Reel One In

Yanking your rod skyward when you feel a fish nibbling is usually a good way to set the hook. Not with this gear. Instead, use hooks that are piercingly sharp. When you feel activity at your bait, withdraw your rod in smooth, sweeping motions to set the hook gently. Then, keep tension on the line but let it out when the fish swims away. The key is to let the fish tire itself out until you can reel it in without a fight. It’s a delicate balancing act that takes skill but can be very rewarding once mastered. Once mastered, you’ll be more than happy to leave the bulky equipment behind.

Where to Use Ultralight Fishing Gear

Ultralight gear works best in freshwater but can also be used in saltwater, provided you’re in the right location. Fighting against the surf will be a losing battle, but fishing off a jetty or other structure that tempers the buffeting from the sea can prove successful.

HUK Gear(4) recommends casting upstream in freshwater. In fast-moving water, cast upstream across the current near a large rock or structure and let your hook sink before drawing it back into the calmer water behind it. Relying on your reel’s drag may be all you need. If not, skip the drag and switch to manual by reeling back just enough to keep the line tight while simultaneously letting the fish pull extra line out.

Got a fishing day planned soon? Then give lightweight gear a try. You may surprise yourself by having more fun — and bringing home bigger fish — than you thought possible.

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