Captain Blair Wiggins’ Advice for Saltwater Fishermen

Learn how to play out your catch and what gear you’ll need to do so for maximum success on the water with these saltwater gear and technique tips.

Saltwater and freshwater fishing might seem the same — casting your line in hopes of hooking a trophy fish — but that’s where the similarities end. From the water conditions, to the fish species, to the gear, comparing the two is like night and day.

Newcomers to saltwater fishing can experience a bit of a learning curve when locations change from lakes and streams to shorelines and open water. Pro saltwater fisherman Captain Blair Wiggins has some insightful tips to help get novice anglers started in the currents. By switching up your fishing equipment and better understanding how to actually handle saltwater species, you can give your fishing skills a helpful boost between the buoys.

PACK THE RIGHT GEAR FOR ALL-DAY ACTION

The equipment needs of a saltwater fisherman can vary depending on their fishing style. So, what’s the best saltwater fishing rod to choose?

Anglers looking to troll or fish the bottom of open water should probably opt for larger, heavier boat rods built to handle massive game fish. For inshore fishermen looking to target smaller species like trout and snook, you should take a different approach.

“You want to make sure that you have a nice light rod and reel in your hands that you can fish with all day,” Wiggins says, nothing that a light rod and reel combo will not only be more comfortable than a bulkier setup, it can also aide in getting smaller, lightweight baits to their perfect position for catching the big one.

Wiggins also emphasizes that you don’t want to be too harsh on your drag with saltwater fish. “They’re very strong fish,” he says. “You have to let the rod do the work for you.”

Lastly, Wiggins recommends using a rod with a solid bend in it so the fish can pull, fight and tire itself out without too much strain on your equipment.

LEARN TO FIGHT YOUR FISH

Once you have a rod that’s going to work in your favor, you have to know how to fight your catch. When you hook into a saltwater fish, you shouldn’t try to get them in the boat as fast as possible.

“You don’t want to bring them to the boat ‘green,’” Wiggins says, meaning that you don’t want your catch to be full of life when it’s on your boat. Instead, your best option is to fight the fish in the water and wear them down, a tactic known as “playing them out.”

“In playing them out, you’re just making them good and tired enough to come in where you can grab them,” Wiggins says. “A lot of these fish have big teeth on them, so you really don’t want to stick your hands in there and grab.”

For more angling tips on toothy fish, discover our advice on How to Handle Toothy Fish.

To tire the fish out, get in a comfortable, secure stance and allow the fish to run. Keep the tip of your rod bent by angling it slightly upright (about 10 o’clock). This can help ensure there is steady pressure on the hook as you reel in line. A good rhythm is key when bringing in saltwater fish, so remember to lift up and reel down as you retrieve the fishing line.

Stash these tips in your tackle box for your next saltwater fishing trip. Through packing the right saltwater fishing gear and learning how to effectively fight your fish, you’ll be on your way to a successful catch.