How to Fish

Fishing Tip: How to Hold a Fishing Rod

More fish are lost because people don’t know how to hold the fishing rod than any other reason.

When you are holding your fishing rod, whether you are waiting on a bite or you’re retrieving line, your left hand should always be in front of the reel, no matter what.

If you’re not holding the rod this way, then you’re doing it wrong.

Now there are a couple of very good reasons that an angler needs to hold a fishing rod this way (besides not wanting to look like a fool to the guys on the boat who know how to fish). And of course, for the purposes of this discussion, we are talking about a conventional setup, not a spinning rod.

How to Hold a Fishing Rod

It’s important to have your hand in front of the conventional reel to guide the line back onto the reel correctly. If the line is not guided on straight, evenly and with proper tension, the next time you cast out the line you’ll likely backlash. Always guide the line back onto the reel evenly, even if only for a crank. If your line is in a pile, your next cast will be a backlash!

Another reason you don’t ever want to fish with your left hand behind or underneath the reel, and probably the most important reason, is it will give the fish the leverage advantage.

Why? Because if you hold the rod incorrectly, the wrist comes into play and you lose a lot of the power needed to make a solid hook-set. If your hand is behind the reel, you have to use your wrist for power. When you swing on a fish and your left hand is in the proper position (in front of the reel) the power of the hook-set comes from your forearm, shoulders, and biceps.

two speed

I have guys tell me all the time “I move my hand upfront when it’s a big fish.” What? How do you know how big the fish is when you take a swing on it? How do you wind the line back onto the reel? It just doesn’t work. You need to break that habit.

I also see a lot of guys fishing with their right thumb on the spool when waiting for the bite. Now the fun begins… They have to reach over the reel to put it in gear with their left hand when they get bit, then move (maybe) the left hand to the foregrip. Now they have to move their right hand from behind the reel to the handle to crank. After this amazing ballet, it’s finally time to take a swing and set the hook. But odds are the hand dance took too long and that fish just stole your bait, resulting in yet another missed fish.

trolling reels

Watch a good fisherman set the hook — left hand in front of the reel, right index finger on the spool, right thumb on the trigger (gear lever). When it’s time to set the hook, the lever is thrown and the right hand barely has to move to get on the crank as the left arm (not the wrist) sets the hook. Then it’s just a matter of winding in in the fish.

If you hold your fishing rod as I have described, not only will you lose fewer bites, but you will look good (like one of the pros) when you’re fishing — and everybody wants to look good.

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Capt. Dave Hansen
BD Pro Staffer Dave Hansen has been fishing Southern California and San Clemente Island for more than 30 years. He holds a 100-ton USCG Master License...
  • Avatar
    John S
  • Dec 8, 2019
Damn, that makes perfect sense! You exactly described me doing the "ballet."
Gonna work on breaking that habit.