3. Don't Get Rocked
When fishing in tight to structure, it's inevitable that you will get "rocked" - a term commonly used by fishermen when an aggressive fish grabs a bait or lure and buries its head in the rocks, weeds or kelp. Before you give up and resort to snapping the line, there are a couple of proven tricks to try.
Before pulling hard and possibly fraying the line against sharp structure, drop the rod tip and let the line go slack. By relaxing the pressure for a few seconds, a fish will sometimes respond by swimming out from the protection of its cover. For fish that are slow to respond to this approach, slowly bring the line tight, and as you ease back on your rod tip, start strumming the taught line like a guitar string. This works best in shallower water and seems to drive some fish crazy, often bolting to escape the annoyance.
If these methods fail and you can pull the boat's anchor, try maneuvering around the structure. Pulling from different angles will sometimes allow you to work free. Where kelp is the culprit, a sustained pull with monofilament line will sometimes pay dividends by cutting through the supple vegetation and allowing you to resume fighting your fish.
4. Break a Giant
Setting the drag on a 50-, 80- or 130-pound stand-up outfit is a pre-game ritual. Knowing how to use it will keep you on top of the game when you encounter an adversary capable of really challenging your tackle and skill.
To break a big fish fast, you'll want three clearly marked settings. First set "strike" at 33 percent of the line's breaking strength. Then locate a "pre-strike" position at 25 percent, usually about a finger's width before "strike." Mark it with a piece of colored electrical tape on the reel frame. This is done so that when you push the lever to "full" it should generate approximately 50 percent of the line rating.
Why three? Beating big fish is as much about breaking its will as tiring it out and you can do it by continually increasing pressure as the contest unfolds. On the fish's initial run, the drag is at "pre-strike." The line should always be moving either in or out. When the fish stops, you pump. When it runs, you rest. When it turns and makes another run, push the drag up to "strike," lean back, enjoy the ride. It stops, you pump. If it makes another run, go to "full" and lean back hard against the drag pressure. Use this method and you'll find that you can break virtually any fish.
5. Run an Inlet in Heavy Weather
Running a rough inlet can be a nerve-wracking affair, but you can make it less so if you keep the following in mind. Know the depth, width and the exact location of any adjacent shoals and jetties. This will help you develop an understanding of what the seas are likely to do within the confines of the inlet.
If you're unsure about how to exit a rough inlet, hang back and let a few other boats pass. Watch each vessel as it enters the inlet and note how the waves break on its bow and the skipper's chosen course. Once you're comfortable with the pattern, accelerate toward the inlet, slowing once you reach the chop. With the bow raised and angled slightly off-center of the waves, throttle up just enough to breast the first wave, not hop over or plow through it. Throttle back slightly as you approach each wave, then accelerate right before it meets the bow in order to gain power and lift. Use enough throttle to maintain control and keep the bow raised.
Running an inlet with a following sea that's too high to run over requires careful handling and throttle work. Accelerate until the bow is just behind the backside of the lead wave, and use just enough throttle to maintain your position. Don't overrun the wave or let the one behind you catch up.
A shallow inlet, in which the seas are breaking over shoals and forming large rollers, calls for you to time the wave patterns prior to sneaking between a pair. Take a compass heading and, if possible, choose the straightest angle in. Take note of any boats heading out and keep behind your lead wave until it subsides enough to pick up the pace.
Once you make the commitment and enter the inlet, follow through, even if you're having second thoughts. Stay calm and maintain headway. If you feel the seas are too high and wish to turn back, proceed through the inlet until you can veer offshore to calmer water and then turn around.
Prior to running a very rough inlet, you and your crew should don lifejackets. Also, keep a long dock line handy and make sure the anchor is easily accessible. If you lose power in the middle of an inlet, deploy the anchor and be ready to toss the line to a rescue vessel if necessary.