For all you anglers out there who are curious as to how professional anglers approach the subject of netting fish with amateurs prior to a tournament day of a Pro-Am event, here is the "mini seminar" on netting I give my amateur before heading out each morning of a tournament.
First, you want a net that can extend to at least 96". If we are using a live bait technique (where the fish normally pop up close to the boat) I will only extend it about 6 feet. Then I tell the person to "choke up" on the net if the fish is coming in real close to the boat. If we are trolling, I will be netting and have the net extended the full length.
Second, I am not real big on fighting the fish a long time. If the fish hits the water (nose up) within netting range, that is when I (or my AM) will try to net it.
Every other pro angler I've talked with on this subject agrees, communication is critical. When I am fighting a fish I will yell "get it". If I am netting, I tell the Am that I will go for it when it hits the surface (again nose up). If we are bringing in a fish on a line counter reel (when trolling), I will often ask how much line is still out so I am ready as soon as the fish surfaces.
Third, when either of us goes for the fish, I tell them to "drive" the net under the fish. Once under, lift the bag straight up. Because I like aggressive netting, the last thing the person with the rod should do is drop the rod tip when the other person is netting. If that is done, the fish will get jabbed right in the side. I even tell the Am's to put a little extra pressure on the fish and hold him on the surface when I am going to net it. Of course, I don't want so much pressure as to lift the fish out of the water.
Another point many pros agree on is if the fish is missed, we pull the net back in and start over again. No chasing a fish with the net under water. Also, I tell them that whoever is on the rod is responsible to keep that fish on. If the fish is missed, or makes a sudden dive, the rod person has to keep fighting it.
Last, once netted, I want to quickly pull the fish into the boat. Not swing the net in high – but instead almost do a hand over hand maneuver and get the bag into the boat and the fish on the floor. Nothing worse than having a fish jump out of the net.
A couple of final things I talk about in the morning: if we are fishing shallow and I ask (probably yell) for the net, drop your rod and get the net (I will do the same for my partner). Remember, as soon as the fish hits the surface I want it netted.
Finally, when getting the net – or putting it away – do not swing the net overhead. A "flag" like that during a tournament can bring unwanted "friends" (tournament and non-tournament boats alike). It's surprising just how far a guy can see a net.
Remember, I believe in aggressively netting the fish. My philosophy is: the longer the fish is allowed to fight, and the longer it's in the water – the better the chances are for it to get off.