Common mistakes with fishing tackle

February 14, 2020

I fish everywhere from the beach to the inlet to head boats, charter boats and private boats, and have been doing so for many years. During this time, I have observed people using tackle that was less than suited for the task at hand. The following observations are some of the mistakes I have seen over the years. If you find any of them apply to you or you have friends who fall into any of these categories, please take action to make the necessary changes.

One of the biggest mistakes I see are reels half full of line. I don’t know if the angler kept cutting back because he or she kept getting hung up or just didn’t fill the reel because they ran out of new line on the spool. Whatever the reason, a half-full reel will not work correctly because you have diminished the circumference of the spool.

Spinning reels won’t cast well because of the added friction of the line against the rim of the spool. Casting distance will also be lost on conventional reels as well as the amount of line retrieved on each turn because of the smaller diameter of the spool.

If you use monofilament line, it is an inexpensive task to keep the spool full. Braid is more expensive, but you can cut the cost by using a mono backing, then filling the reel the rest of the way with braid. Those who fish inshore for flounder, black sea bass, blues, trout, tog and croaker can get by with 100 to 150 yards of braid.

Sticking with the same subject, fishing line, I have seen folks using line heavy enough to tie up an aircraft carrier. You don’t need any line heavier than 20-pound test for fishing inshore. The heaviest I use is 17-pound Hi Seas monofilament, and that is on my surf reels.

I do use a heavier braid because lighter braid does not have enough abrasion resistance. I have 30-pound on my surf reels and the same on my bottom-fishing reels. Both are backed up with 30-pound Fluorocarbon leaders.

And then there are knots. The ones I have seen, while not very effective, were certainly creative.

Fishermen only have to master a few knots. The clinch knot, for tying things on the end of the line or leader. The Albright knot, for connecting the running line to a leader. The perfection loop, for the loop on the end of a bottom rig. The surgeon’s loop when tying bottom rigs. I used to use the dropper loop and I used to snell hooks. I don’t do that anymore. I use the surgeon’s loop when tying bottom rigs and either tie it with the hook inside or add the hook by pushing the loop through the hook eye, then pulling the hook back through the loop.

Don’t even ask about fly fishing. Those guys would rather tie knots and flies than eat.

In today’s world, you can access videos on how to tie any of these knots by going on the internet. Grab a spool of line, sit down at the computer and take time to learn how to tie good knots.

Those who fish offshore will have to learn how to tie the haywire twist among other special knots in both mono and wire. Rigging baits is an entirely new subject and once again, you can find instructions online.

Circle hooks are another subject of concern. I have good friends and good fishermen who complain that circle hooks don’t work. I have been using them since 1989, and I know for a fact that they do work on almost every fish with the exception of tog. The trick is allowing the fish time to get the bait inside his mouth before coming tight on the line.

What I have seen is anglers who want to set the hook at the first sign of a bite. That won’t work. If you are quick on the trigger, try putting the rod in a holder with a light drag setting and let the fish move off with the bait before coming tight on the line. A fish-finder rig will help with this cause.

The powers that be are convinced that circle hooks are the way to go for better release mortality numbers. This will result in mandatory use of circle hooks when fishing with bait, so it will be a good idea to learn how to use them correctly.

Fishing report

Tog remain the only draw for the saltwater crowd. The head boat out of Fisherman’s Wharf has been catching some decent fish when the weather allows them to sail. The same is true for the Morning Star out of Ocean City, Md.


  • Eric Burnley is a Delaware native who has fished and hunted the state from an early age. Since 1978 he has written countless articles about hunting and fishing in Delaware and elsewhere along the Atlantic Coast. He has been the regional editor for several publications and was the founding editor of the Mid-Atlantic Fisherman magazine. Eric is the author of three books: Surf Fishing the Atlantic Coast, The Ultimate Guide to Striped Bass Fishing and Fishing Saltwater Baits. He and his wife Barbara live near Milton, Delaware. Eric can be reached at

Subscribe to the Daily Newsletter