Hung up - Major League Fishing

Hung up

November 12, 2000 • Frank McKane Jr. • Archives

Anglers find unique ways to get lures unstuck

Today’s high prices mean many anglers are prone to spend a small fortune for fishing tackle and lures. Tournament anglers are especially vulnerable to spending woes as they buy loads of crankbaits, spinnerbaits, jigs, high-quality hooks and hand-poured worms.

The high cost of lures makes losing one hard on the wallet. Your fishing days get quite expensive after you lose three or four lures to trees, rocks and boat docks. Several years ago, anglers didn’t mind losing some terminal tackle. Back then, they simply broke the lures off. Dime hooks and dollar crankbaits were commonplace. That is no longer true.

To minimize the loss, more and more avid bass anglers are going to great lengths to retrieve their stuck lures. They developed several methods that get snagged lures unstuck. Manufacturers have also jumped to the rescue by producing specialized lure retrievers. All the retrieving methods will help anglers save money – and their favorite bass catching lures.

From the hip
Many people believe that if you’re not getting hung up, you’re not fishing in the right place.

The rod tip is the most common place for your lure to get stuck. Most of us frantically shake the rod hoping the darn lure will straighten out. In the end, you drop the rod and untangle the lure by hand.

There is a simpler solution. Hold the rod parallel to the water at waist level. Then place your free hand below the rod just in front of the rod’s handle. A few sharp raps on the underside of the rod usually pops the lure free from the rod tip.

Bow shots
Now untangled, you are ready to cast. During that first retrieve, the lure finds something to latch onto. The easiest way to retrieve a lure is with vertical finesse. First, position your boat directly over the snagged lure. Strip off several feet of line from the reel and pull the line from the rod tip. Set your rod down.

Now pull the line tight against the stuck lure with one hand. Take your other hand and grasp the tightened line between the lure and your other hand. Pull the line upward and snap the line like a rubber band.

The shock often slingshots the lure off the bottom. The technique works well on hard bottoms and when a lure is stuck in wood.

Another similar method is the “bow-and-arrow” technique. Again, position the boat over the stuck lure. Crank the line tight against the lure. Grasp the line in front of the reel and pull it back as if you were shooting a bow. When you “shoot” the line, the rod snaps back and often jars the lure loose. With both of the above methods, it may take several attempts to loosen a stuck lure. Be persistent.

Boat docks are popular bass fishing covers, but lures tend to stick to docks far more often than they stick in bass. Anglers should always try to retrieve lures from boat docks because dock owners take dim views of stepping on lost hooks.

The easiest way to get a snagged lure off a dock is to crank the line in until the rod tip rests against the snagged lure. Then, a little jiggling should free the lure from the dock. This technique gives you about seven to eight feet of reach.

Unfortunately, some lures get stuck beyond the length of your rod tip. Under these conditions, some professional anglers resort to another, rather unusual, method. The daring pro shoots the entire rod down the line to the stuck lure. The technique sounds strange, but it works.

To perform the technique, strip several feet of line from the reel and disengage the baitcasting reel or flip the spinning reel bail. Just above the reel, pull the line tight against the lure so the rod tip points directly at the stuck lure. Using the tight line as a guide, send the entire rod down the line until the rod tip knocks the lure off the dock. Once the lure is free, the rod drops in the water. From here, simply retrieve the rod with the fishing line.

Lures don’t always get conveniently stuck on boat docks. Instead, they frequently find deep-water structures to stick in making the above methods ineffective. For deep-water snags, you may need help from a “knocker” type lure retriever.

Before using any knocker retriever, it is important to get your boat directly over the snagged lure. This boat positioning allows a straight path between the stuck lure and the plug knocker.

The basic knocker retriever is merely a heavy weight, which is sent down the line to “knock” the lure free of its captor. Plug knockers work best on crankbaits and jigging spoons. They are not very effective with small lures, such as jigs and worms.

You can make a plug knocker from an old spark plug. Place a snap swivel over the gap arm of the spark plug. Then hammer the arm down to hold the swivel in place. When you snag bottom, tighten the line and clip the swivel onto the line between the rod tip and the lure. When you let the spark plug go, it sinks down the line to “knock” the plug free.

Free falling knockers are expendable. If the lure doesn’t come free, you will have to break the line and lose both the retriever and the lure. Fortunately, used spark plugs are cheap.

An alternative to the free falling knocker is the stringed knocker, which can be slowly lowered to the stuck lure on a rope or string. These knockers usually have a large side ring to attach the knocker to the line. Some designs have hooks, chains or rings hanging off the bottom to help grab the snagged lure.

String retrievers require their users to spend time trying to get snagged lures back. Often, much more time than the tournament angler wants to spend. Therefore, you may not want to fool with the stringed knockers. But if the lure is one-of-a-kind, the string knocker may be your only hope.

Lures have a mystical tendency to get caught in rather awkward places. They may get stuck on stumps way back in the weed patch. Or, they could hang up under boat docks where you can’t get at them. Sometimes the wind takes the lure way up into a tree beyond your reach. Under these circumstances, you will need a pole retriever.

Pole retrievers usually come equipped with collapsible aluminum poles. Many of these poles can reach out beyond 12 feet. Attached to the end of the pole, there is either a hook, a spring-shaped coil or a specialized plug knocker designed to pull the lure free.

In a pinch, your landing net can pull double duty as a pole retriever. The net’s mesh is very good at grasping lures, too.

With pole retrievers, you almost always get the stuck lure back. However, the line often remains wrapped around the tree branch or dock piling. After you get the lure back, cut the line and then retrieve the empty line back. Be sure to remove the damaged line before retying your lure. Pole retrievers take some time to use, but they are very efficient at retrieving stuck lures. When an expensive lure is retrieved, it is time well spent.

Fishing can be an expensive hobby. Losing lures just adds to the cost. The above techniques are designed to save both lures and money. Plus, you may just salvage your favorite bass catching lure from the kidnapping lake bottom.