Largely overlooked in the rush to learn new techniques, uncover fish-holding locations, and stock our boats and tackle boxes with the latest lures and gadgets, fishing nets are the extra-point kickers of the fishing game. You can do everything right to hook the fish of a lifetime and fight it boatside like a champ. But if either net or net-minder falters at the moment of truth, your well-played engagement inevitably ends as an epic fail.
For example, I’ll never forget the fateful afternoon I spent hours baking under a hot July sun on Minnesota’s famed Mille Lacs Lake with my father. I was about 12. The walleyes weren’t biting. But finally, mercifully, my bobber went down. I set the hook on a dandy ’eye. After a short, sweet battle, my prize was at boatside. Dad deftly dipped the net under the fish and scooped it up. But when he hoisted it above the waterline, the well-seasoned mesh bag opened like a trap door and my walleye plopped back into the lake. With a flick of its tail, it was gone.
Thankfully for today’s fishing faithful, netting and other components are better than ever. Each season, net-makers render a host of fine options for corralling catches great and small. Consider the following picks as you upgrade your arsenal, to make sure your endgame is as deadly as the rest of your presentation.