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Skill Builder: Freeing Snagged Lures

Before you start yanking, try these techniques.

By Tom Redington

Many of our favorite game fish in Texas reside around heavy cover – docks, laydowns, riprap, standing timber, brush piles and the like. While these places make great homes for our aquatic friends, working lures in these places is tricky and snags occur for even the most seasoned anglers. Instead of pulling as hard as you can and losing your lure or rushing in with your trolling motor and spooking all the fish around the snag, try these tricks to help you retrieve snagged lures.

The first and most important step is to resist the urge to set the hook or pull hard on the line when a snag first occurs. Pulling hard frees a few snags in very weak cover; however, it normally only serves to bury the hooks even deeper, possibly making the snag irretrievable.

Often you can free your lure from a distance with a "bow and arrow" line-snapping technique, without ever going in to get your bait. With the rod and reel in your left hand in the 9 o'clock position, draw back about 2 feet of line in front of the reel with your right hand, making the line almost tight. Now, let go of the line in your right hand and simultaneously snap your rod from the 9 o'clock to the 12 o'clock position. This creates a 1-2 punch down your line, and the shock releases the lure. This technique requires practice to get the timing down, but once perfected, lures often pop free on the first try.

Some snags are stubborn, so you'll need to move your boat in close, if possible. Frequently, simply moving to the back side of the snag is enough to make it come out. If the lure still won't come free and it is hooked close to the surface, simply get directly over the top of the snag and reel your rod tip all the way down to the bait and push it back out. Be careful to push gently, as aggressive actions could damage or even break the rod or its guides. If the lure is just out of reach from the boat, a nifty trick is to shoot the entire rod at the lure. In this case, open the spool or bail of your reel and grab the line between the reel and the first guide on the rod. Pull the line from the guides towards the reel, and the entire rod slides down the line and knocks out the lure. Then, simply pull the lure and rod back with the line.

In deep-water situations and for the most persistent snags, a lure retriever will pay for itself after the first few uses. A very cheap yet effective lure retriever is a 4-ounce bank style sinker. Simply attach a large paper clip to the end of the sinker, and then slip the paper clip onto your line. Get directly over the snag and hold your line tight – the impact of the sinker sliding down to the lure frees most baits. Since impact alone won't free baits that are tangled in fishing line, trotlines or similar obstructions, I prefer the lure retrievers that are available at most tackle stores. Most consist of a large weight connected to a strong rope, a wire loop to fasten on the line, and a series of mesh or chain on the end. If the impact of these heavy retrievers doesn't free the bait, the wire loop or chains tangle with the lure's hooks and you'll be able to pull it free with the heavy rope. For hassle-free use, I fasten my lure retriever to the end of a retractable dog leash. The 30-foot rope on the leash allows me to reach my deepest snags, then quickly and neatly retracts for tangle-free storage.

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