When to use a shooting basket

A shooting basket offers assistance when making that first, most-important cast...

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Q: I fish primarily from a flats boat and am wondering if a shooting basket is advisable. It seems like it's clumsy and might get in the way.

-via email

A: It's a great idea but not utilized as much as some think. A shooting basket offers assistance when making that first, most-important cast to a bonefish, tarpon, permit or redfish. That is the cast that's so often ruined - the line snags, and the opportunity is lost. Fly lines can be safely stored in the basket while an angler's standing on the bow waiting for a shot at a fish. On windy days, the leader can be stored there too. It certainly helps if the fly line is retrieved into the shooting basket. But the assurance of being able to execute that initial cast is most essential.

There is another reason for using a shooting basket on a flats boat. Baseball legend Ted Williams had the first one I ever saw. It was made of a heavy round rod and thick sail canvas. Ted hooked a nice tarpon off Long Key Point, in Florida, and the fish immediately got behind the boat. With the extra line secure in the basket, Ted was able to run around me and across the boat and finally landed the tarpon. Without the basket, I doubt that fish would have been caught.