Let’s Talk Landing Nets
By: Mark Romanack
Round aluminum handle landing nets like this are not a favorite of the author. Extending these nets can be tricky as both pieces of the handle have to be perfectly aligned.
A landing net is an essential piece of equipment in just about any fishing boat. While bass anglers may get by “lipping” their catch, the majority of fish species are going to require a quality landing net to finish the deal.
The fishing industry is littered with countless companies that produce landing nets. In over 40 years of fishing, rarely have I found models that are trouble free or worth investing in.
The handle on a fishing net is more important than most anglers realize. Handles made from tube aluminum are a problem because extending them requires having the two pieces perfectly aligned. This seemingly simple task is anything but simple when a big fish is on the line and the net must be extended quickly to land the fish.
Net handles made from octagon shaped aluminum are far better designed to allow the handle length to be extended or shortened quickly and efficiently. Also an octagon net handle is stronger and better able to sustain tough use over time.
Fiberglass handles are another option. Most fiberglass handles are round in shape and heavy compared to aluminum handles. A heavy landing net may be more durable, but they are a poor choice when it’s necessary to be quick and accurate with a dip scoop.
Some years ago Frabill built an extendable fiberglass net handle that was light, strong and easily adjusted. Sadly these exceptional nets are no longer produced. The two I had were lost in a barn fire a few years ago.
Push button style extendable handles such as found on the Ego series of nets have also left me less than impressed. The problem is these net handles are built using stock that is too thin and not capable of avoiding bending once a big fish or two has been landed. Once these handles bend, the push button feature for extending and shortening the net handle no longer works.
The Whisker Seeker brand push button style landing nets are somewhat heavier duty than the Ego brand nets. They are built with big catfish in mind, making them also a good choice for salmon and trout fishing.
The Ranger net pictured here with a deep rubber bag is about as good as it gets in affordable landing nets. While the rubber bag will wear out quickly, they can be easily replaced.
Different kinds of fishing call for different net bags. For bass, walleye, trout and many other species, I favor a deep rubber net bag. Shallow rubber nets are a problem because fish can literally catapult right out of the net and back into the lake!
Rubber nets are by far the best for getting fish and hooks out quickly. Nothing else, including coated nylon bags even come close.
Unfortunately, rubber net bags don’t last long and they are not suitable for big fish such as salmon, trophy lake trout, pike or musky. For these species a deep nylon net bag is the answer.
Nylon net bags will drive you crazy when it’s time to get a fish or lure out of the net. A struggling fish will often twist these nets into one holy hell of a mess. This is why many experienced anglers will net their fish, but keep the net and fish in the water while unhooking the fish. This practice limits the fish’s ability to twist in the net and makes it easier to unhook and live release the fish unharmed.
Also, avoid nylon nets that feature webbing reinforcements. The webbing tends to catch hooks and it can be very difficult to get the hooks out of this webbing material.
Braided nylon net materials like found on the RS Nets are also horrible when it comes to keeping lures from tangling in them. Also, because braided nets are thicker, they are tough to move in the water making them a poor choice for most fishing situations, especially trolling situations.
Clearly the author has had a lot of experience with landing nets and most of it has not been good. The market is flooded with landing nets that for one reason or another are a poor choice.
If a landing net is going to fail, it will usually break at the yoke or the part where the rim of the net connects to the handle. This is where all the stress is applied and not surprisingly this is also the weakest link.
Nets that feature tubular aluminum yokes are going to break at some point. Aluminum is pretty tough, but it can only take so many flexes before it fails. The worst nets are those that feature screws holding the net loop into an aluminum yoke. Nets that feature a solid aluminum, plastic or nylon reinforced yoke tend to be tougher and longer lasting.
Bass fishermen like collapsible nets because they fit nicely into a dry storage box. My experience with these products has also not been good. They simply are clumsy to operate and prone to breakage.
THE GOOD, THE BAD, THE UGLY
Unfortunately in the world of landing nets, most are going to fall into the bad or ugly category. For the money, the Ranger brand made right here in the good ole USA is about as good as it gets. Some new players like the Bubba and Whisker Seeker are interesting, but very expensive. To my way of thinking, a landing net is a critically important piece of fishing gear. Poor quality nets that are going to break at the worst possible moment dominate the products available on the market. That’s a shame, but it’s the cold hard truth about landing nets.