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Part I


A handline is cheap and simple to construct, but making and using it, like all fishing techniques, requires skill and knowledge to achieve the best results. The difference between the novice and the experienced professional handliner depends on a combination of variable operations that in any given fishing situation the professional is more likely to do correctly than the amateur, so that the professional is on average likely to catch more fish.

These operations include selecting a suitable line, hook and sinker and rigging them together in a way that will not distract a fish from taking a suitably chosen bait. Once a handline has been suitably rigged, fishing is not simply a matter of throwing the line in the water anywhere and waiting. Other factors must be taken into account. Again, these are variables that change from case to case. They involve where and when to fish, how to encourage the fish to take the bait and once the bait is taken, how to ensure that the hook is embedded in the fish's mouth and the fish prevented from escaping.

A fish is only caught when it has been brought ashore or into a boat and cannot get back into the water. This last aspect deserves just as much attention as the basic equipment, as justified by the numerous tales of fish that “got away”. Attention to all these points will help make you a more effective handliner.

In many parts of the world handlining is the most readily available and affordable method of fishing, and it should not be regarded as an out-of-date practice. On the contrary it is not only cheap, it is also a fuel efficient and effective form of fishing, particularly when used to catch fish that are commercially important to artisanal fishermen, such as snapper and bonefish at sea and tilapia and catfish in lakes and rivers. In conjunction with a paddled or sailed dugout canoe, this form of fishing provides a relatively cheap method of entering the fishing business. The use of a canoe makes it possible to explore a larger area, to discover new places where fish are concentrated, with the chance of getting bigger catches.

This booklet provides an overall description of the method, while the finer details of fishing related to each area, whether at sea or on lakes, will be the task of the individual. This booklet can help show where to look, how to rig the handline and broad details of place and time to use the handline.


Handlining is a fishing method in which a line with a hook, usually baited, is lowered into the water from a drifting, anchored or moving boat or from a jetty, pier or rock on the shore overlooking the water. Handlining is just as its name implies — holding a line in the hand while waiting either actively or passively for a fish to take the bait. If there is a bite and a fish takes the hook, it can then be hauled in by hand. This apparently simple procedure involves a lot of forethought in order to select the hook, line and sinker that are suitable in size and strength to the fish that one intends to catch. In addition the fishing technique must be developed to ensure that fish attracted to take the bait are caught. Sometimes one may wish to catch a particular fish and exclude others, or one may want to catch a variety offish of similar size and eating habits. To do this requires choices concerning the size, strength and type of hook and bait to use, the strength and type of line, and the knots used to secure hook, swivels and sinker so that neither hook, line or knot will fail and allow a fish to escape. When all these choices have been made, there are the elements of the “hunt”, which involves knowledge of where to fish in relation to the underwater seascape and at what time of the day, night or year it is best to pursue particular fish. This last point takes into account that fishing is variable from day to day and year to year so that although there are general rules to know about when and where to go, what bait to use and so on, there will always be times when fishing practice is totally unforeseen and goes against the general rule. The answer to this is to be out fishing as much as possible because if you are not out trying to catch fish, you will never know what you missed — unless your competitors tell you.

Handlining can be carried out either in a stationary position, such as from a rock or jetty overlooking the water, or from a boat which is either drifting with the current or wind or at anchor. Handlines are also used to trail a bait or lure behind a boat that is moving through the water propelled by an engine or by sail. This is particularly effective when the handline is trailed behind a sailing dugout canoe, as the fish are less likely to be disturbed in the absence of the vibration and noise of an engine. More detail on these methods will be given in the section “fishing the handline”, which describes active techniques to attract fish to take the bait or to place the bait or lure where it is most likely to be taken.


Almost any kind of line or twine can be used for a handline. However, there are several considerations to take into account before deciding upon the most suitable type. The first action is to decide what fish or type offish you want to catch. This decision may be determined by preferred taste or commercial or sale value, but it also involves the size and power of the fish concerned.

If the target fish is large, then a strong line is needed; if small, then a line with less strength is needed. Here the problem is in choosing the most suitable line. It must be strong enough to hold the fish and withstand the combined force of its weight, swimming power and determination to escape. (Some small fish fight hard and put up a lot of resistance to being caught, while others, sometimes large, give up easily and with only small resistance.) On the other hand, it should be as thin as possible to make it less visible to the fish and less likely to distract the fish from taking the bait. A thick line is more easily detected than a thin line and may disturb the fish or make it very reluctant to take the bait. A thin line is less disturbing and less easily detected.

You should keep in mind, however, that not all thick lines are strong and not all thin lines are weak. This is particularly true of the thin transparent nylon or polyamide lines which not only are difficult for the fish to see but are also very strong in relation to their size (see Tables 1 to 3).

Generally speaking, the lighter the line the more effective it is for catching fish, while the thicker the line in relation to the size of the fish, the less effective. It is for this reason that a large, strong line should not be chosen for catching small fish. A light line is also more sensitive to feel in the hand and helps the handliner determine whether the bait is being played with, nibbled at by very small fish or taken into the fish's mouth without being swallowed. Striking the line too soon to secure the hook in the fish's mouth will lead to its escape. The feel or sensitivity of the line is important to achieving a successful catch.

Most fishermen use nylon (polyamide) for their handlines. Three main types are suitable: braided, twisted and monofilament (Figure 2).

Figure 2. Types of twine: (a) braided; (b) twisted; (c) monofilament

Figure 2

In theory, the fish weighs very little when it is in the water, and the load on the line will depend on how large the fish is, how much it struggles and the speed with which it is pulled up.

Assuming that the maximum load you expect to pull is 15 kg, then considering the jerk you give to the line and the additional force the fish will give in trying to break away, you must use a line capable of taking three times that load without breaking, i.e. 45 kg. This means that the knotted breaking strength of the line must be 45 kg in water, as it has to be knotted to tie the line to the sinker and also to tie the branch lines or the snoods to the main line. The dry breaking strength of a line is the force measured in kilograms that is needed to break the line when it is dry and is pulled straight without a knot. When the line is wet and has a knot or knots, much less force is needed to break it.

Now look at Tables 1 to 3, which give the breaking strength of several thicknesses of twisted, monofilament and braided nylon twine. The wet knotted figure should be used in choosing the twine. The tables also show how many metres of such twine should be in 1 kg, so that the correct amount of twine can be purchased.

From Table 1 you will see, as an example, that twisted twine of 210/21 denier is 0.80 mm thick and when wet and knotted has only 18 kg breaking strength or breaking load. Monofilament twine of the same thickness, 0.80 mm, has less breaking strength, only 15 kg, when wet and knotted (Table 2). You will also note that if you purchase 1 kg of 0.80 mm twine you will get about 1 850 m of twisted twine (Table 1) but only 1 670 m of monofilament twine (Table 2).

Let us take another example. Look at a thicker twine suitable for larger fish and deeper water. Twisted twine of 210/60 denier is 1.5 mm thick and has a wet knotted breaking strength of 47 kg, but monofilament of the same thickness has only 46 kg breaking strength and braided twine of the same thickness 44 kg breaking strength.

You will also note that if you purchase 1 kg of each different 1.5 mm twine, then you will receive 590m of twisted, 490 m of monofilament but 740 m of braided twine. Therefore, if there is a choice, it is advisable to check the prices per kilogram and compare the costs of the desired length before deciding what to buy.

You must also consider visibility in the water where you are going to fish. For example, if the waters are clear and you can see the bottom at 8 to 10m depth, you should consider monofilament twine, which is almost transparent in the water. On the other hand, if the waters are very dark or muddy, the thickness of the line does not usually make very much difference and you might consider purchasing cheaper, possibly locally made twine of vegetable fibre such as cotton, sisal or Manila hemp.

Table 1. Breaking strengths of twisted nylon twine
DenierDiameter (mm)Breaking strengthLength per kg (m)
Dry (kg)Wet knotted (kg)
210/ 300
210/60.409.06.06 400
210/90.5014.09.04 350
210/120.6018.011.03 230
210/150.7326.016.02 130
210/210.8030.018.01 850
210/240.9239.022.01 430
210/271.0543.024.01 280
210/301.1347.026.01 160

Table 2. Breaking strengths of monofilament nylon twine
Diameter (mm)Breaking strengthLength per kg (m)
Dry (kg)Wet knotted (kg) 200
0.407.74.46 450
0.5012.06.54 170
0.6017.08.83 030
0.7024.012.52 080
0.8029.015.01 670
0.9036.019.01 320
1.0042.022.01 090

Table 3. Breaking strengths of braided nylon twine
Diameter (mm)Breaking strengthLength per kg (m)
Dry (kg)Wet knotted (kg)


Most fishermen prefer to use more than one hook on their line when handlining. We will now show you how to prepare a line with one hook and also with several hooks. First let us look at the hook itself and then at different types (Figures 3 and 4).

Ten different kinds of hooks are shown in Figure 4. Hooks Nos. 1 and 6 are double hooks with average bend and short shanks.

Hook No. 2 has a wide gap and short throat.

Hook No. 3 has a short shank and wide bend, but still a narrow throat because of its long, bent point.

Figure 3. Hooks all of the same size but of different types

Figure 3

Hook No. 4 is different from the others as it has two slice and an inwardly bent eye, whereas hook 5 has an eye that is bent outward.

Hook No. 7 has a wide gap and long throat, with a rather short shank.

Hook No. 8 is characterized by its long, sharply inward bent shank.

Hook No. 9 has a wide gap but short throat and an outwardly bent shank.

Hook No. 10 has an old-style normal bend and throat with a long shank.

Figure 4. Hooks of various sizes and shapes (double and single)

Figure 4

When selecting a hook for your handline, several factors have to be kept in mind, i.e. shape, size and material.


As the jigging, jerking action gives a constant movement to the baited hook, the fish has little chance to sniff at it, but bites or swallows it immediately. Thus the shape of the hook should mainly be related to the size of the fish to be caught and the bait used.

Look at Figure 4. In some fisheries the most common hook shapes for handlining are Nos. 9 and 10, while hook No. 8 is widely used in others. Still other fisheries use No. 3.

All the other hooks have been used for handlining, but little is known of their catching efficiency in comparison with the more commonly used ones. However, it is advisable to use a hook with the point bent a little to either side, left or right (reversed or offset). The reason for this is simply that if the hook happens to become flat in the mouth of the fish at first snatch, then it is possible that it will be pulled or jerked out of the fish's mouth before the fish has had time to chew on it or swallow it. If there are other handliners in the area, it would be advisable to look at their results.


It is important to use not too big a hook and to cover most of the hook with the bait, whether artificial or fresh bait is used. As a very general rule the gap of the hook should never exceed half the width of the mouth of the fish that you want to catch, and most often it should be much narrower (Figure 5).


Hooks are generally made from ordinary steel (sometimes stainless steel). To stop them from rusting they are coated or plated with bronze, tin, nickel or even gold. Large hooks are galvanized or even tarred to prevent corrosion.

Figure 5. Relation between the size of the hook and the fish's mouth

Figure 5


For a sinker you can use almost anything that sinks, i.e. a small stone, a piece of steel, a bolt or nut or whatever can easily be tied to the end of your fishing line. Specially prepared lead sinkers are best. If you can get scrap lead and a mould of the size and shape you prefer (see Figure 6), then you can melt the lead and make your own sinkers.

Common lead sinkers (see Figure 7) have a rounded shape to avoid snagging the bottom, with a hole for the line at one end and sometimes a groove into which you can smear fat or grease when you need to check the bottom material in the area where you want to fish. However, it is more usual to have a separate sinker for testing bottom conditions, with a fairly large groove for grease. In strong tides or currents spare sinkers may be needed to add weight to keep the bait on the bottom or in the desired position.

Figure 6. Diagram of a mould

Figure 6

Figure 7. Various lead sinkers of different shapes. The sinker in the middle has a groove in its base for grease or fat, used to check bottom conditions

Figure 7


Swivels (Figure 8) are highly recommended at the junctions of the various elements of the handline, i.e to connect the snood to the mainline and the sinker to the mainline.

If you cannot buy swivels in your area, then take this booklet to the nearest blacksmith, show the following picture and ask the blacksmith to make a few for you.

The swivels should be made of steel, brass or copper. The main requirements are to make them strong enough and to have them be smooth where the attachment points meet for easy turning or swivelling.

To begin to assemble the handline, take the line and tie one end to a simple wind-on apparatus or a spool. You tie the line using one of the knots in Figure 9.

Figure 8. Different types of swivels

Figure 8

Next wind the twine on the spool.

Now you must find a piece of twine to use as a branchline. It does not have to be as strong as the mainline, but if you do not have a separate branchline material then you can cut three pieces off the end of your mainline, each piece about 60 cm long, and use these for branchlines.

Figure 9. Knots used to tie the line: (a) bowline knot for spun, twisted or braided twine; (b) Japanese fisherman's knot for monofilament

Figure 9

Figure 10. Tying the mainline to the sinker's swivel: (a) for spun or braided twine; (b) for monofilament

Figure 10

Next you tie the sinker to the mainline. You can use the same knots that you used when you tied the other end to the spool, but it is advisable to make two turns around the swivel eye before tying the knot. Note also that there are other suitable knots, which you may prefer (Figure 10).

To tie the line directly to the sinker, for any type of twine, use either one of the knots in Figure 11. However, a swivel is always recommended next to the sinker.

Figure 11. Tying the mainline directly to the sinker

Figure 11

Figure 12. Making loops for the snoods: (a) for twisted or braided line; (b) for monofilament line; (c) or better still use a three-way swivel

Figure 12

To make the knot in Figure 11a, simply double the line and make overhand knots with the doubled line to make a loop; then pass the loop through the eye of the sinker, slip it over the sinker and pull tight.

To make the knot in Figure 11b, form a loop with a single overhand knot. Pass the loop through the eye and slip it over the sinker and pull tight.

Now you must make three loops on the mainline approximately 40 cm apart, with the first one about 30 cm from the sinker (Figure 12).

Next you take the three branchlines and tie your hooks on to them.

Look at Figure 13 and select the knot you want to use to tie your hook to the branchline (snood). Knots a, b and c are suitable for all types of lines, but for monofilament you should use one or two additional turns. These knots can also be used for your three-way swivel, both for your mainline and branchline. Knots d and e are especially for tying twine to hooks with flattened (spade-like) shank ends; d is for twisted or braided line, e for monofilament.

Figure 13. Different knots for hooks

Figure 13

Finally, you tie the other ends of your branchlines to the loops you have already made on your mainline, choosing from the knots pictured in Figure 14. You may also use the knots shown in Figure 10b for monofilament lines.

Figure 14. Knots for tying the snoods (branchlines) to the loops: (a, b) for twisted or braided lines; (c) for monofilament

Figure 14

Now your handline gear is ready. Figure 15shows what you have got.

Figure 15. Complete set of handlines: (a) wooden spool; (b) branchline attached to mainline loop; (c) alternative branchline attachment, with swivel; (d) hook attachment; (e) sinker attached with swivel

Figure 15


In most fishing communities small fish for bait can be obtained. Sardines, anchovies, sardinella, mackerel, herring, squid and cuttlefish are good bait fish (Figure 16), but others can be used as well.

Figure 16. Various bait fish: (a) mackerel; (b) herring; (c) sardine; (d) anchovy; (e) cuttlefish; (f) squid

Figure 16

It is important to keep the bait as fresh as possible and to cut it to the right size for the hook you will use and the fish you want to catch.

Very often the bait fish is caught the evening before you use it. In such cases the bait fish must either be kept alive overnight or be well iced (Figure 17). If you have easy access to ice at a reasonable price, then you can ice your bait on board your boat and be ready to start off before sunrise the next morning. If you cannot get ice, then after killing the bait fish keep it well covered, wrapped in a large leaf and stored away from the sun.

Figure 17. Keeping the bait alive or fresh: (a) bait fish kept alive in net; (b) bait iced in boxes; (c) bait wrapped in large leaves and stored

Figure 17

Figure 18. How to cut the bait fish: (a) cut the head and tail off; (b) slice to suitable size; (c) if the bait fish is large, cut from close to dorsal fin to tail and (d) put the two sides together again and cut to size

Figure 18

The size of bait depends on the size of the hook and should range from a size that covers the gap or throat of the hook to one that covers the whole hook.

When you start cutting the bait, first remove the head (Figure 18a), then slice the fish into pieces as shown in Figure 18b. If the bait fish is a large fish, and the fish you expect to catch is of average size (grouper, snapper or croaker), then cut the large fish lengthwise first (Figure 18c) before cutting the bait to the preferred size (Figure 18d). Insert the knife into the fish close to the dorsal fin and cut forward, and keep the knife as hard against the backbone as possible.

Baiting the hook

We just showed you how to take care of the bait and how to cut the bait. Now you will learn how to bait the hook.

Live baits. Figures 19 and 20 show you how to attach the live bait to the hook.

Dead baits. Always put the point and barb of the hook right through the bait in such a way that the bend of the hook surrounds the backbone of the bait (Figure 21a). If you have split open the bait fish before cutting the bait to size, then the pieces without backbone must be threaded on the hook by putting the point and the barb twice through the bait,always with the barb on the skin side, as shown in Figure 21b.

If you are expecting to catch large fish and are using large hooks connected to the mainline with wire snoods, then small fish like anchovies or sardines can be threaded on the hook in one piece. First put the hook through the head of the bait fish and then through the centre of the body near the backbone or through the eyes (Figure 22a). A similar method is used with squid or cuttlefish (Figure 22b).

Figure 19. Some ways of rigging live bait

Figure 19

Figure 20. Rigging other live baits

Figure 20

Figure 21. Baiting with pieces of fish

Figure 21

Figure 22. Baiting with fish or squid in one piece

Figure 22


Natural bait can be caught in most coastal areas, but bait capture can be time consuming and may only be possible at certain times or in certain seasons. In addition, natural bait has to be replaced almost every time a fish is caught. However, most fishermen agree that natural bait is more effective than artificial bait or lures. On the other hand, the latter can be used repeatedly and for a long time. It is therefore worth trying to make a few lures and to compare the catches taken with lures to those taken with natural bait.

As you may know, lures are more and more commonly used in handline and troll fishing. The main reason for this is that it is possible to create a vibration with the bait or lure and the larger fish (the predator) can be tricked into striking or attacking the source of the vibration, especially when the shape and possibly the colour of the lure make it look like live bait.

Feathers, plastic, nylon and light metal can all help create the right vibration needed to trick the predator. You must always keep your line moving up and down if you are using a lure when handlining in order to let the lure simulate the movements of live bait as much as possible.

Various varieties of jigs and lures are available in most fishing communities (Figure 23), but you can also make them yourself. Some of the materials you can use to make lures are shown in Figure 24.

As an example, take a hook similar in shape to hook No. 10 in Figure 4.

First, take a piece of cloth and wrap it around the shank and tie it with thin electrical wire, string or nylon (Figure 25a).

Next cut small pieces of coloured nylon twine, untwist them into threads and tie over the cloth as shown in Figure 25b. Finally, tie a few feathers on top of the nylon thread and your lure is ready (Figure 25c).

You can also use wool or cotton yarn instead of nylon, or plastic strips instead of cloth as a first cover.

There are other types of synthetic lures. For example, you can cut out a strip of tyre tube or a piece of plastic, wrap it around the shank leaving a good piece extending below the bend and tie the other end firmly to the shank and the eye. You could also glue it together to form a long tube which you thread onto the hook and tie well (Figure 26).

Figure 23. Various types of artificial bait or lures

Figure 23

Figure 24. Materials that can be used to make lures: (a) wool or cotton; (b) rope fibres, possily coloured; (c) strips of cloth; (d) feathers from different birds; (e) plastic strips, preferably coloured; (f) twine or thin wire; (g) tyre tube or piece of thin rubber or plastic sheet

Figure 24

Figure 25. Assembling a lure

Figure 25

It is advisable, when using artificial lures instead of live bait, to smear the liver from the first fish caught on the lure or hooks. You are now ready to go handline fishing with gear made by yourself. Good luck!

Figure 26. Lure made of a piece of plastic or tyre tube

Figure 26


You probably know where the best catches can be taken in your area. However, here are a few points to pay attention to:


Birds often fly in flocks and follow schools of small fish near the surface (Figure 27). Quite often large fish also follow the small fish in midwater and near the bottom to feed on them.

Figure 27. Look for flocks of birds near the water surface

Figure 27


Schools of dolphins or porpoises or even a single whale often indicate the same as flocks of birds, and often where mammals are feeding there are birds too (Figure 28).

Figure 28. Look for dolphins, porpoises or whales

Figure 28

Floating objects

All floating or drifting objects in the open sea become a kind of fish aggregation device (FAO). You can learn all about this in another FAO Training Series booklet called How to make and set FADs. If you see an old tree or branches of trees floating on the surface, try your luck nearby, as very often small fish take shelter there and then the big fish come to feed on the small fish (Figure 29). You should try fishing at various depths, not only near the surface, because the bigger fish tend to swim deeper.

Figure 29. Look for a floating object

Figure 29

Ripples or change of colour on the surface

Look out for changes in the colour of the sea and ripples on the surface indicating merging currents or changes in current; these often indicate areas where small fish and plankton are abundant and where large fish are actively feeding. For example, look at Figure 30. The tide current that passes around a small island or reef meets again on the other side and forms a kind of turbulence in the water. This can be seen as a disturbance or ripples on top of the water. Always watch and check the flow of the current.

Bottom material

Using a sinker as shown in Figure 7, and regularly check the material of the bottom where you fish. You will soon learn that certain fish species prefer a rocky uneven bottom, others a sandy or muddy bottom and still others a bottom with coral or seaweed.

You will also learn that some species that prefer a rocky or coral type bottom may move from this area for an hour or so on every slack tide for feeding (Figure 31). This is because some aquatic animals living in an area with a sandy or muddy bottom become active and visible only during the slack tide, and the fish move to feed on them.

Moon and sun

Always pay attention to the moon and the relation between the moon and the strength of the current. The stronger the current, the nearer to full or new moon.

As a general rule, the best times for handlining are early in the morning and late in the evening.

Figure 30. Current flow around a small island

Figure 30

Figure 31. Fish moving from a rocky area to a sandy or muddy area for feeding during the slack tide

Figure 31


We have so far examined in detail all those factors that are involved in preparing the handline to fish. These included the selection of materials to make bait, the handline and the time and place to use it, but what we have not considered are those activities that could be collectively described as fishing. On land the same activity could be called hunting; this involves similar judgements about time and place, but the big difference is that the handline fisherman cannot see below the surface of the sea and cannot see where the line has settled nor whether there are fish on the seabed. The handliner has to guess where the fish are and test whether the guess was correct by feeling for fish feeding activity through the handline. This often requires a great deal of patience. A fisherman who simply lowers the handline into the water and passively waits for fish to come would catch some fish but would probably not be a very successful fisherman. Let us now consider some of the options open to the handliner who is “actively” hunting for fish.

Handlining from the shore

Changing positions along the coastline or along a jetty or outcrop of rocks might produce better results. Other influences include season of fishing, time of the day of night, water temperature, tides, currents and wind strength and direction.

On the other hand, changing position during the search for feeding fish too often may lead to catching less fish than patiently waiting in one spot (Figure 32). With experience the handliner will learn to judge how long to remain in one spot before moving on. One may also learn to identify those conditions that are not right for fishing and may learn when not to waste further time and effort on persisting to fish. Perhaps at such times the handliner can do something more productive such as making up some new fishing gear or even gardening.

Handlining from an anchored canoe

The handliners in Figure 33 have chosen a spot near some rocks where they suspect fish may be found. The following activities are appropriate for handlining in this type of situation:

Figure 32. Handlining from the shoreline

Figure 32

Figure 33. Handlining from an anchored canoe

Figure 33

Note that moving the line up and down may bring the bait to the notice of the fish and may lead the fish to make a hasty bite at the bait as it moves away. On the other hand, jigging may disturb the fish. Experience will determine which approach to use.

For midwater fishing in very deep water, a sea anchor (drift anchor) can be used in place of an anchor. Instructions for making a simple sea anchor, appropriate for use in handlining as well as in squid jigging, are given in Part II (see Figures 73 to 75).

Handlining from a drifting canoe

From a drifting canoe (Figure 34) the following activities are suitable:

Figure 34. Handlining from a drifting canoe

Figure 34

Trolling from a sailing canoe

The handliner in Figure 35 can see shoals of fish on the surface. They would be suspected swimming under and well under the surface as well. If fishing for shark, splashing the water may help to attract them.

Note that the distance between surface and sinker can be altered to suit the depth at which the handliner sees or guesses the fish to be feeding. The bait used should be fairly close in size, shape and behaviour to what the target fish are feeding on, otherwise it will be ignored.

Figure 35. Trolling from a sailing canoe

Figure 35


Fishing includes a knowledge of when to strike to set the hook firmly in the mouth of the fish. Figure 36 gives an interpretation of what happens underwater when the fish encounters the bait.

First the predator approaches the live bait (Figure 36a). Next the predator immobilizes the bait fish with a bite to the backbone (Figure 36b). Note that the hook is nowhere near the fish's mouth, but the handliner will feel this as a bite. Then the predator flicks the bait fish from its mouth to take it again from the head on the turn (Figure 36c). The predator now swallows the bait fish (Figure 36d); the dorsal fins lie down and do not stick in the predator's throat. Now is the time to jerk the line to catch the fish. If you strike at b or c, the fish will escape.

Know how your fish will take the bait in order to jerk the line at the right moment. You will learn more about each particular fish by looking at where the hook is embedded.

Other ways fish will take bait:

Figure 36. Fish taking a live bait

Figure 36


Figure 37 illustrates how to handle the line. Note the half turn on the hand for a firm hold on the line, which is still easy to release when you start to haul back the line. Once the fish is hooked, pull the line as steadily as possible until the fish is near the surface. Then if the fish seems to be loosely hooked or if it is a large fish, use a fish gaff or a landing net (scoop net) to lift the fish out of the water (Figure 38).

Remember that a fish with very sharp teeth will try to turn its head to cut the line, so the line must be kept tight. Keeping the line tight will keep the head of the fish up and help to stop the fish from sawing through the line. Allowing slack line will also enable the fish to throw the hook from its mouth.

The net and gaffs illustrated in Figure 38 are easy to make. The netting you weave yourself or cut to shape from any net webbing with suitable mesh size. The iron rod of 6 to 8 mm diameter is easy to bend, but if you use a thicker rod, of 10 to 12 mm diameter, then you must heat the rod to bend it. The (wooden) handle for the gaffs and a groove for the shank of the hook are easy for you to make, but your blacksmith should make the hook for you. Alternatively you can use a large fish hook, but with the barbs cut off.

Figure 37. Handling the handline

Figure 37

Figure 38. (a) Landing nets; (b) gaff for small fish; (c) gaff for large fish

Figure 38


It is always important to take good care of your fishing gear no matter how simple it is. Never leave a line or hooks lying around on board your boat or anywhere else. Hooks and even loose lines can cause serious injuries. Find or make a spool to wind your line on, i.e. a piece of thick bamboo, a piece of wood that you can smooth with your pocket knife, a self-made small wooden spool or an empty plastic bottle or container (Figure 39).

If you do get a hook accidentally into a finger, remember not to try to pull the hook out the same way it entered. The correct way to remove the hook is to cut the eye and line away from the shank and push the hook and barb right through the finger and out the other side. This is very painful and is better avoided by paying proper attention to safety precautions.

Figure 39. Simple spools on to which to wind and store your line: (a) cut from piece of wood; (b) plastic bottle; (c) wooden spool; (d) wooden stick; (e) flat spool

Figure 39


A reel is a device on which we wind and store our fishing lines. The design and dimensions of the reel may vary according to the type of fishing, the size of line and the fishing depth we use it for.

We will now show you how to make two kinds of easily constructed handreels.

Wooden handreel

First we shall show you how to make an inexpensive simple handreel of wood or preferably hardwood. You will need the following materials (Figure 40):

Figure 40

Figure 40. The wooden handreel

Preparing the reel. Make sure the flanges (Figure 40b) and the hub (Figure 40c) are well and equally rounded. Smooth the edges with a flat file and mark out the centre. Then drill a 20 mm diameter hole right through the centre of all three pieces, one by one, by using a square to check the vertical (Figure 41).

Now use a round steel file to smooth and widen the 20 mm diameter holes until the 20 mm diameter bolt (Figure 40d) goes through easily and turns easily inside each of the holes.

Pass the 20 mm diameter bolt through the holes in the flanges and hub, with the hub in the middle. you will screw the flanges to the hub using the 16 flatheaded screws (Figure 40k), eight on each side. To do this, mark the positions for the holes as shown in Figure 42 and drill with a 4 mm diameter bit for easy insertion of the screws. The reel is now ready (Figure 43).

Figure 41

Figure 41. Using a square when drilling centre holes

Figure 42

Figure 42. Marking and drilling the holes for the 5 × 60 mm flatheaded screws (note: figure is not drawn to scale, i.e. hub is 300 mm and flange is 400 mm in diameter)

Figure 43

Figure 43. The finished reel

Handle. Next you put the handle (Figure 40f) on the reel, as shown in Figure 44.

First drill a 12 mm diameter hole through the wheel exactly 250 mm from the centre. Again use the square to check the vertical (see Figure 41). Now thread the 240 mm long, 12 mm diameter bolt (Figure 40e) through the hole without damaging the thread, making sure it fits. Then make a groove to sink the nut on the inner side of the reel.

Put washers on both sides of the handle before screwing the nut on, but still make sure the handle turns freely.

Figure 44. Fitting the handle on the reel

Figure 44

Guide block, boom and brake. Take the main post, 10 × 10 × 200 cm (Figure 40a), and measure and mark the positions for holes exactly as shown in Figure 45. Drill the holes, using the square to check the vertical.

Now fix a fastening for the tyre tube (Figure 40j) on top of the post. You can tie a rope of your own choosing or use an eye bolt, or simply cut the head off a large nail, bend it to form a U and nail it on top of the post.

Figure 45. The main post

Figure 45

Next, take the boom, 4 × 4 × 80 cm (Figure 40h), and round off one end as shown in Figure 46.

Mark the position for the hole on the centre line 4.5 cm from the rounded end. Now drill a 12 mm hole using the square for straight drilling. If you have a bolt suitable for the small block then drill a hole for it at the other end of the boom; if not, use a rope or large nail as you did before when you prepared the top end of the main post.

You are now ready to assemble the different parts.

Assembling. Figure 47 shows a cross-section of the assembled reel, boom and stopper. The assembly is carried out as follows.

Figure 46. The boom

Figure 46

Figure 47. Assembling the handreel: (a) main post; (b) flanges of the reel; (c) hub; (d) 20 mm diameter bolt with nut; (e) 12 mm diameter bolt with nut; (f) wooden handle, 13 mm central hole; (g) 20 mm diameter bolt with two nuts for brake; (h) 4 × 4 × 80 cm boom; (i) 12 mm diameter bolt with nut; (j) washers; (k) brake

Figure 47

First you put the reel on. Place a washer (Figure 47j) next to the bolt's head (Figure 47d), four to five washers between the reel and the main post and one or two washers before the nut (Figure 47d). Tighten the nut without hindering the smooth turning of the reel and add a locknut if necessary. Next, put the boom on (Figure 47h), using washers to fill up the space between the main post (Figure 47a) and the boom until the boom is aligned with the hub of the reel (Figure 47c). Tighten the nut well (Figure 47i). Finally put on the stopper bolt (Figure 47g) as shown, but before you thread the bolt through the hole make a small groove on the inner side of the post to sink the nut. Also make sure the thread is long enough; if not, use a 20 mm die to lengthen it.

Figure 48. Installing the handreel on a small boat

Figure 48

All that is left now is to cut to size the car tyre inner tube and put it on the top ofthe main post and boom (see Figure 40j).

You can now take your handreel on board your boat and position it in such a way that you can operate it easily (Figures 48 and 49). Clamp it or bolt it against the bulwark and the side frame of your boat. It is a good idea to arrange the fastenings in such a way that the handreel can be easily removed when you are not fishing.

Figure 49. Installing the handreel on a canoe

Figure 49

Another example of a handreel

Another example is a handreel made of wood or marine plywood, but with a supporter and base made from stainless steel, bronze or galvanized steel.

Hub and flanges. First you make the hub (Figure 50a). You must have a piece of hardwood or plywood that is 70 mm (7cm) thick and wide enough to make a round piece like a wheel 300 mm (30 cm) in diameter. You can also make the hub from pieces of plywood put together to reach these same measurements. In this case you must smooth the edges to make sure that all pieces are exactly of the same size.

The flanges (Figure 50b) you make of the same material, i.e. plywood or hardwood, but larger and thinner than the hub. Each of the two flanges must measure 400 mm in diameter and be 15 mm thick.

Figure 50. (a) Hub and (b) flanges

Figure 50

Now you assemble the hub and the flanges as shown in Figure 51. Use 16 flatheaded screws 5 mm in diameter and 60 mm long, eight screws on each side. After screwing the hub and the flanges together drill a hole 20 mm wide right through the centre for the shaft. Then drill another hole of 12 mm diameter at any point exactly 230 mm distant from the centre hole. Use the same technique as shown before to mark out and drill the holes.

Handle shaft. To make the handle shaft use a 12 mm diameter stainless steel, bronze or galvanized steel bar. If possible have the thread turned on a lathe, or use a 12 mm die (Figure 52). Alternatively, use a galvanized steel bolt with head.

Figure 51. The drum of the handreel

Figure 51

Now you make the handle (Figure 53). It must be made of rounded hardwood 120 mm long and 35 to 40 mm wide with a central hole of 13 mm diameter.

To complete the handle assembly you need:

Now you are ready to assemble the handle shaft.

Figure 52. The handle shaft

Figure 52

Figure 53. The hardwood handle

Figure 53

Reel shaft. To make the reel shaft (Figure 54) you need a 20 mm diameter stainless steel, bronze or galvanized steel bar. As with the handle shaft, have the threads turned on a lathe, or alternatively use a 20 mm die. You can also use a galvanized steel bolt, if you can find one long enough, and then turn the extra thread required using a 20 mm die. Then drill a 4 mm diameter hole close to the head of the bolt for the split pin, and remove the head with a hacksaw.

Washers. Now you must make several steel or fibreglass washers by cutting and drilling to the size shown in Figure 55. Remove all sharp edges with a file.

You may use plywood washers for spacers, but metal or fibreglass washers must be used on each side of the plywood to reduce wear and friction. The plywood washers, if used, should be larger, 150 mm in diameter.

Figure 54. The reel shaft

Figure 54

Supporter and base. The supporter consists of an L-shaped stainless steel, bronze or galvanized steel rod on which you weld a 130 mm long, 20 mm diameter steel bar (Figure 56). The L-shaped rod is 80 mm wide and 10 mm thick. The height is 240 mm, and the shorter part of the L is 90 mm. The hole for the reel shaft must be 20 mm in diameter.

The base is made of 24 mm galvanized steel pipe as shown on the drawing. Both the stopper screw and the bolt fastener must be of strong, solid material.

Now we are ready to assemble the handreel.

Assembling. Figure 57 shows a central cross-section of the assembled reel.

Thread the reel shaft through the wheel and pack out the shaft with washers (Figure 57c), then put the split pin (Figure 57e) in position. Put the wheel (Figure 57a) on the supporter (Figure 57h), pack out with washers (Figure 57c) and put both 20 mm diameter nuts (Figure 57i) on. The inner nut works as a brake on the wheel when tightened and the outer nut as a stopper. Use a fixed spanner to tighten and loosen the nuts for braking and releasing, and keep it on a string or rope tied to the base (Figure 58).

Figure 55. Washers

Figure 55

Figure 56. The reel's supporter and base

Figure 56
Figure 57

Figure 57. Cross-section of the reel assembly: (a) wheel; (b) main shaft, 20 mm diameter; (c) steel plate or fibreglass washers, 24 mm thick; (d) three nuts, 12 mm internal diameter; (e) split pin, 4 mm diameter; (f) handle shaft, 12 mm diameter; (g) hardwood handle, 120 × 35, 13 mm diameter; (h) supporter, 240 × 80 × 10 mm; (i) two nuts, 20 mm internal diameter

Figure 58. Assembled reel and base

Figure 58

After winding your line with hooks and swivels on your handreel (Figure 59), you can mount it on your boat and you are ready to go fishing.

Figure 59. The reel ready for fishing

Figure 59

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