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Tough Fishing Lessons Learned – The Landing Part

That one little thing we don't think about while on the water, it's what separates the men from the boys.

Tough Fishing Lessons Learned – The Landing Part
(Image courtesy of Game & Fish Magazine)

Shane and his father went fishing one hot afternoon in August. Figuring the bass would be in cooler water, Shane’s father pointed the johnboat toward an old, partially submerged fence line shaded by willow trees on the familiar farm pond’s bank.

In unison both father and son casted at a fence post and let their Texas-rigged worms sink to the bottom. Almost simultaneously they felt taps on their lines. Shane reared back to set the hook, but his effort was met with the unwavering firmness of the rusty fence. He instantly and hopelessly knew he was hung. Meanwhile his father hooked a small one and quickly brought it to the boat. Just after he released the fish and began retying his line, he swiveled toward Shane.

“There for a second I thought we had ourselves a double. What happened, son?” he playfully teased. “Didn’t you learn anything when I expertly landed that brute?”

“I must’ve missed it, Dad. Or maybe it was so small I just couldn’t see it!” Shane replied. “Now can we go fetch my line?”

Shane’s old man eventually obliged and eased the little boat close to the fence. After many jiggles and a few mighty pulls, Shane finally popped the hook free. His plastic worm, however, was gone.

“I knew it!” said Shane. “No doubt a 10-pounder wrapped me around the fence—as the big ones often do. Anyone can catch small fish, Dad. If you’re not gettin’ hung, you’re not fishin’ for the big ones like I do.”

Shane’s father grinned at his son’s well-rehearsed trash talk and pointed the Minn Kota toward another spot.

“Well,” piped the father, “anyone can get lucky and hook a biggin’. It’s the landing part that separates the men from the boys. By the way, son, you better check your line. I’ll bet it’s frayed like dental floss from all that fence ropin’ you’ve been do—”

But before he could finish, Shane had already casted and hooked a fish. Moments later the young fisherman reeled in a little bass that couldn’t have weighed more than a pound.

“That’n’ will probably go at least three!” declared Shane.

“I’d say more like six!” his father crowed back.

The pair caught fish, drank Cokes and joked with each other for the rest of the afternoon like they usually did. As they neared the dock at dusk, Shane skipped his topwater close to the bank and gave it a chug. Suddenly the water exploded as a behemoth bass inhaled his Pop-R and ran toward deeper water. Shane’s face showed panic as he tried to stop the fish by tightening his drag, but just as he did the fish turned and shot toward the surface.


“Get the net!” Shane screamed to his father as they saw a boil and glimpsed the head of an enormous largemouth right along the side of the boat. Shane’s father already had the landing net in the water, and for a brief moment there was joy and pandemonium … until they both heard a sickening pop and saw Shane’s line go slack.

Shane lurched back in his seat and reeled in his empty line that had snapped just above the hook. He slammed his rod down in frustration and slumped over with his hands on his hat. He almost wanted to cry.

“Son,” said his father, who was still holding the net in the water, “did you learn anything today?”

“Please Dad,” said Shane, “I don’t need a lecture right now.”

“Just tell me one thing you learned, quickly son.”

“Dang it Dad, I should’a checked my line for frays when you said to,” Shane said flatly.

“Nope!” said Shane’s father as he hoisted the bulging net over the side of the boat. In the bottom of it a bass of at least 7 pounds slung water everywhere. “You should’ve learned that when it comes to landing fish, your ol’ daddy is the man!”

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