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Player or Fighter?

871 Views 19 Replies 19 Participants Last post by  Flush Release
I posted this on the main board but I am more interested in the Dog's opinions:

Mike Mc, Salty Walty, Ron, Skein, Pilar, Ocean Blue, Id Painter, Kujo, Puffin, Stoyjun Princess, Keta, Flush, Popeye, Mr. Fisherman, Anybody?


Years ago, I had a friend who was a guide on the Deschutes. Gene Blackwell is (or was) his name. Gene taught me more about fishin than anyone before or since. Man, did we have some fun while I was getting educated.

We mostly fished the Deschutes and the John Day for steelhead. He also was a pro with sturgeon in the Columbia and we whacked a bunch of Tillamook nooks back when 35 pounders were the average. If there were fish to be caught, Gene was usually right in the middle of them.

He was a much better fisherman than I and he obviously loved to fish. But, I loved and still love fishing every bit as much as he did. To rephrase that, I never met anyone who loved fishing more than Gene except for me. For many years, Gene and I were fishing EVERY weekend. This was pre-wives, mind ya.

So here are these two people pretty much dedicated to the hookset back then. And what brings a chuckle to me is the completely different way we played a fish once the hook was set.

I danced with (played) the fish. Gene wrestled (fought) the fish.

I was never in a hurry to get the fish to the boat. I guess I figured I had worked so hard to put myself on the boat or river and spent so much to get that hook in the fish’s lip that I wanted to now relax and really, really enjoy the moment. Light tackle, light lines and light drags were the tickets. Getting spooled was always a probability. I had done this enough to know how much drag I could apply without the light line snapping. I may need to run up the riverbank or Gene might need to fire up the kicker and chase (my idea - rarely happened) – whatever it took, I was going to enjoy every minute of this foxtrot, polka or Riverdance. My rod would be bent and the line would be screaming and I would be loving every minute of it.

Gene had a different plan. He attacked the fish.

Gene would always have twice the bend in the rod than I would have. His drag was always to the absolute max for the line we were using. One wrong move and the line would snap (my fear – rarely happened). And while the rod was bent in half, he would be doing everything he could to get that fish closer to the boat or bank. When he was at the apex of his pull, he would throw the rod tip forward and reel like his life depended on it. Then, the rod would be bent in half again. For Gene, it was like a race against time. It was like he had somebody on the end of a rope who was drowning. He had to get it to the boat NOW! I never understood this attitude but I would always run for the net when he set the hook because I knew he would have that fish to the side of the boat ASAP.

Now, here is another thing I never understood. While he was doing this, profanities were echoing up and down the river. As best as I can tell, he was sincerely angry with the fish! “You BLEEPING BLEEP!” he would holler when the fish would make a run. The more runs, the madder he got.

Is there a psychologist in the house?

What was up with that? Why would this awesome fisherman react like that when he had a fish on? And remember, Gene LOVED to fish! He did it whenever he could…WHENEVER HE COULD! Nobody made him do this. In fact, he dedicated his life to this!

I would ask him, “Gene, what’s up with the cussing. What’s up with the anger?”

And he would pause and say, “I wanna wrestle. I don’t wanna dance.”

I knew a little of Gene’s upbringing and it could have been prettier. Maybe that was part of it. Maybe he had a distorted concept of love. Maybe love to him meant profanities and muscle flexing. I don’t know. We never went there.

And maybe I’m a wuss. Maybe this dancing and playing thing is overrated. Maybe it really is about you; the fish; and the battle. Is that it? Have I missed the whole boat here?

So, let me wrap this up and then I’ll ask a question. The last time I saw Gene, he was selling everything. I couldn’t afford his boat but I did end up with most of his tackle and his kicker motor. He was headed for Alaska. He said he felt a powerful calling to guide up there. Months later, he called and was repairing refrigeration units on boats in Sitka. This was part of his plan – just a stepping stone on his way further north.

He was calling to tell me of a moose hunt he had lined up and wanted to know if I was in.

I was married. Two kids. Mortgage. Dog. Old boat that needed repairs. I told him “No.”

I never saw nor heard of Gene again.

Anyway, my question is this:

Are you a player or a fighter when you hook a fish?

And, of course, I want to know why.
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Anyway, my question is this:

Are you a player or a fighter when you hook a fish?

And, of course, I want to know why.
Phil I enjoyed your post and I want to tell you that I'm both a player and a fighter. I use lighter salmon tackle to enjoy the "playing" but I hate to lose a fish so in that respect I'm a fighter. Although, the harder a fish fights me the more forgiving I am if it gets off. I guess I respect the fishes desire to survive and am thankful that the fish gave me the rapid pulse rate for a few minutes. Does that answer your question or just skirt around the edges?
Fighters almost always evolve to become players and rarely do players regress to become fighters.

It's the natural order of things!

Player. I fish because I enjoy it so much and love the dance on the other end of the rod. I am not in a hurry while playing a fish.

Now a seal, sea lion or a shark may change the mood, but I have not had that happen yet.
I'm a player. A dancer. The fish and I are bonded, momentarily or longer, by the thread that stretches between us. He is wiley and smart and fast - and to a certain extent I am too. I rarely catch a fish I don't make a "he's beautiful" comment about. I rarely spend a day on the water that I don't make a "it's beautiful" comment about.

It's a dance.


i also enjoyed your post ..and story about gene - enough to try to Google him up..no luck w first ten pages of hits w name + sitka ak..bummer..

anyway, I have a saying:

There is two kinds of time: fish-on and other

why hurry the moments? they are so few in reality, even when we fish a ton. I use very light tackle and never am unhappy when "the worthy adversary" wins. Release the good ones for the gene pool and eat the wimps, they taste the same...

I like the fight to last a while. I too, spend too much time getting out to the fish to horse them in. Thats what i think about salmon and steelhead, and im also one of those who are totally thankful for the fish i do get to see and harvest with the wild life shows mother nature is kind enough to put on for my crew and I.

Most of time you can pull like hell with tuna, and still wonder whose gonna win.
Nice insight .
I too am a dancer but with wrestler blood .
I love the fish the fight the out doors.
I also love the flesh of the quarry.
So, as Im working a fish Im always trying to win the battle ,I like putting meat on my plate. At the same time I use tackle and gear that set the stage for a wrestleing match .
I find myself working pretty had mentally and physically to win.

Example. Lip and myself were each hooked up on tuna and after about 20 minutes my fish decided to take a run around the boat , as the muscle bound 35 lb. wrestler made its dash I may have been calling him names ,,," uh oh now teh @#$%$%#$ wants to head around the $%#@ boat "as I jump onto the cooler and raise my rod tip to clear teh VHF antena ,just in the nick of time.
Not really mad or angry inside just wrestling the little #$%@!#$.
I always fish as light of gear as possible , because I love to wrestle.
I love the fish and love the fight , I love the out doors ,,, But I get pretty serious when in the heat of battle.
I cant help but see Mr. fish as a big yummy dinner , and I want him.
id. p.
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Phil, you're observant and perceptive. I enjoyed your story.

While I want to put fish in the boat, I also like to enjoy playing it (dancing!) and while I don't want to get the fish so tired it's about to die, I don't like bringing them to the boat till they are about ready for the net. Fish is great food, one of my favorite things to eat, but it's being out there that I reallly love. Not much beats a day on the ocean and there's even less that beats a great day fishing on the ocean. Lots of folks talk about getting tuna in the boat ASAP so they can get another one, but for me it's not about the tally for the day or the season, it's about enjoying the experience. If all I wanted was the fish, I'd be better off to sell the boat. When I even think about computing the cost per lb. for the fish I get, well, I know it'd be so high I don't wanna know what it is. But the experiences I have out there, ah, that makes the cost of the boat worthwhile and I get to share the boat experience with other folks too. Great way to make new friends.

Now if the ocean would lay down, maybe I could go dancing!
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i agree with id painter.
i use medium to semi-light gear(not counting my avet wincheminreel) i like getting the fish to the boat ASAP, then kill it like it deserves and do it again,I'm not one of those guys that says its a beautifull day to be on the water. nice days are better than crappy days, sure. But my intent as soon as i leave the dock is to kill as many tuna as i can. sure it was nice to meet new people and old freinds but i came here to kill fish. and thats my sole intent. if i want to just shoot the bull and make freinds I can think of better spots than 50 miles offshore.

if i need a relaxing fishing trip i will take my girl out for trout, and then you might hear me say,,"it was just nice to be out here"
Now remember you are asking salt water fisher people here that question. I love to play a fish as much as the next guy but I hate losing a fish more. So for salmon we are using barbless hooks and often have sharks in the water so get the fish on the boat now. Bottom fishing can be more playfull unless you are needing fish and the weather is turning. Again get the fish on the boat. Tuna is always a fight. Get then on the boat now so we can get back to fishing. Now steelhead in the river or kokes in the lake. Now that is all about the dance. So for me it really depends on the fishery and the timinig. I tend to lean more to the fight side however as I said I hate losing fish. More important is to go home with something for the table.

Great post kinda different for a change. :cheers:
I love to play fish and I'm always worried about my line breaking (constantly playing w/my drag) however this has cost me 3 of the biggest steelies I've ever hooked. I do love to fight salmon, especially when I know that they're not huge.
I must be more of a fighter than player. I like to work with the lever drag type reels. They are easy to adjust during the fight so the fish can still make nice runs but wear himself out doing it.

When fishing is Baja, no choice, fight or lose the fish in the rocks. It is not the fish I hate losing down there, it is the tackle that is impossible to replace. No tackle shops near by. I can always hook up another nice yellowtail, grouper or whatever. I set the drag to max., double thumb the spool, and step on the line if I can reach it. You have got to turn those bad boys before they make bottom. :smash:
I can hear it now ,,,over the VHF salty dog channel 78.
" Got to go dance with another fish"
"cant come to the mic too busy dancing with fish.
" Double's dancing."

You all are "fighting " a fish not" dancing "with it.
Hiho. id. p.
I enjoy playing/fighting a fish as much as the next guy, probably even more than most. And I don't like it when I feel "overgunned" with too heavy gear, so I am a lighter gear man myself.

However, many feel (and I am one of them) that the longer that fish is "on", them more time he has to get off. This may be the reason for the "wrestling".

So, with that said, I love to dance (with fish anyway), but I want that dance to be as short as possible. (plus, you get back in the water as soon as possible for the next dance, especially since the dance music often only plays a breif time).

LOVE to hook them
LOVE to fight them
So So on eating them (LOVE to eat fresh canned tuna and fresh spring salmon)
HATE to lose them.

Fighter (and according to my mate and fishing partners, a tantrum thrower). More, faster, cuss, and love at the same time...definately a fighter. I never understand when someone brings in a fish in less than minimum time!
Dave...but I am lovable too :smile:
Phil, my short answer is...."it depends".

It depends on what I'm fishing for, the mood I'm in, who I'm with, how the day is going.....

At the "player" end of the spectrum....like on shallow water rockfish, it's always just messing around.

But on a wide-open tuna bite, it's usually yard 'em in as fast as humanly possible for the given gear.

And everything in-between. So no one answer.
Great post! Here's my take. I am a self confessed "Drag geek." I almost always set my drags with a scale, and set strike at 1/4-1/3 tensile line strength (except 80# halibut gear, which I pretend is 50#). Full usually winds up around 1/2 tensile strength.

Star drags get set at 1/3 line strength.

Hence, I'm usually "playing" large fish, and "Fighting" small ones. One exception to this analogy was my larges fish to date. That was about an 850 lb. Black Marlin, caught on 120# braid with a 120# mono topshot, and something like 33 lbs of drag! That was no mistake a fight, and I cursed at that fish plenty.
Phil, my short answer is...."it depends".

It depends on what I'm fishing for, the mood I'm in, who I'm with, how the day is going.....

At the "player" end of the spectrum....like on shallow water rockfish, it's always just messing around.

But on a wide-open tuna bite, it's usually yard 'em in as fast as humanly possible for the given gear.

Totally agree with Mark.....BUT...I have to add....The older I get, I guess the more I dance....Only out of respect as to what I'm doing, and how long I've done it! :cheers:

And everything in-between. So no one answer.
I never saw nor heard of Gene again.

Anyway, my question is this:

Are you a player or a fighter when you hook a fish?

And, of course, I want to know why.
Boy thats a tough one :shrug:

Depends on the situation and what you have on the other end of your line. Salmon, Silvers and the smaller ones get them in fast and let them go if they aren't bleeding.
Saves them from getting hi levels of lactic acid built up in their system and can survive a release better.
I don't think there is any way you can "fight" with a 250# Halibut and the old gentle pressure works the best:bigshock:

Trout and Steelhead I was taught young not to wear them out cause they would die if you let them go but back in those day's we chose to eat them instead of playing with them like the current laws say you must do:hoboy:

Then again it's all a matter of whats on the other end on which is the best method to "play/fight" a fish :shrug:
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