It’s a timeless angling axiom: If you don’t occasionally get snagged, you’re not fishing in the right spots. In skinny water, most anglers free hung-up baits by reeling down to the rod tip and poking it free. However, when water depth and clarity limits your options, you might need a more strategic approach to lure retrieval. Consider these techniques—old and new, all tried and true.
1. Bump Your Bait
Start by pulling a few feet of line off your reel, as you would if you were flipping. Grab the line between the reel and the rod’s first guide so that the rod dangles just above the surface of the water. Loosen the drag, and pull the line backward with the hand that’s closest to the first guide and shuttle the rod down into the water toward the bait. Play with the angles and you’ll quickly establish a rhythm for easily bumping baits free. This is a great technique for shallow water, docks, and low-hanging limbs, and is best used when fishing braid.
2. The Pole Position
Retriever poles—either a multi-piece or telescoping model—allow you to reach 15 feet or more to dislodge submerged baits. You can make your own with a telescoping pool-net handle. Drill a hole through the tip end, insert an eyebolt, and lock it in place with a nut on opposite sides of the pole. Open the eyebolt just wide enough to slip it over your line. Reach as far as necessary to bump your bait off the snag.
3. Knock It Off
Lure knockers are probably the most commonly used snagged-lure solution for crankbaits, heavy jigs, and big spinnerbaits. Homemade models run the gamut of creativity, but the most popular commercially distributed knocker is made up of a lead weight (often fish-shaped) with metal arms or pigtails that wrap over or around the fishing line with sufficient clearance to pass above terminal tackle. To use, simply let the knocker slide down your line—the impact usually jars the bait free. Dangling chains affixed to the knocker will grab treble hooks should a stubborn snag require a good tug. Tie about 30 feet of stout cord to the knocker and attach it to the main line with a carabiner.
4. Slide It On
For lighter baits—like Texas-rigged worms, shaky heads, and finesse jigs—a free-sliding knocker works the same as a full-size retriever. Attach a snap or heavy-duty paperclip to the swivel eye on a bell sinker, clip it to your line, and let gravity do the rest. Use various weights to match your depth and lure size. In a pinch, spark plugs and stainless-steel bolts can sub for lead weights.
5. Crack the Whip
Known as the bow-and-arrow, this technique uses line shock to jolt a snagged bait loose. It is especially effective if you’re hung up in rocks. Instead of poking, bumping, or pulling the lure free, grab the line between the reel and the first guide, pull it to the side to increase tension, and then quickly release or snap the line as you drop the rod tip. It might take a couple of whip cracks to free badly hung-up lures.
6. Get the Net
Ever had a crankbait snag your landing net? Well, reverse this by fitting one edge of a handleless net’s mesh with lead strips (attached with zip ties) or slip sinkers. Affix a carabiner to the mesh and secure a pull cord to the end opposite the weights. When snagged, clip the mesh device to your line and send it toward your lure. When it grabs your bait’s hooks, pull the bait free.