Learning to catch your own bait with a cast net is one of the most valuable skills that a catfish angler can learn. It will allow you to put the freshest bait on the end of your line to draw in big cats. Fresh live and cut baits are absolutely the best bait available to catch large catfish. Commonly, cast nets are used for catching rough fish such as shad, carp, and skipjack but can be used to catch a number of other species that are also great bait. Cast nets can be difficult to get the hang of without a little guidance so we will show you all the parts of a cast net, some tips for choosing one, and how to throw one.
Cast nets are available in a variety of diameters and mesh sizes. Be sure to check your local regulations on netting bait fish to be sure the net you choose meets the requirements.
Parts of a cast net
Handline – a rope which is attached to the swivel on one end, with the other end attached to the caster’s wrist.
Swivel – two metal loops or rings attached together, that turn at both ends.
Horn – a ring with an indentation around the center, where the top of the net is tied.
Braille Lines – lines attached to the swivel at one end and to the leadline at the other. Their function is to gather the net, thus trapping the catch.
Netting – made from nylon or monofilament to form the desired mesh.
Lead Line – a rope with sinkers attached. This rope is at the outside perimeter of the net to sink it.
Weights – sinkers evenly spaced along the lead line to allow the net to sink quickly.
Choosing a Cast Net
Choosing a cast net can be a little difficult because there are so many choices. The first thing to consider is the radius. The smaller the net, the easier it will be to throw. If you are new to throwing a net, its a good idea to start with a smaller net until you hone your technique. I recommend a 4 foot radius to start. This will be easy to throw and still yield a good amound of bait.
The mesh size of a net refers to how tight or loose the weave of the netting is. For catching bait for catfishing, a net with 1/4 to 1/2 inch square mesh will be ideal. As I stated above, make sure to check your local regulations as many of the laws are concerning mesh size.
Weight per foot will determine how fast the net will sink. Heavier nets sink faster trapping more bait but, they can be more difficult to throw. One pound per foot is a good place to start.
Throwing a Cast Net
If you ask 10 people how to throw a cast net, you will likely get 10 different answers. If you do some searching, you will find many different techniques that work well then, just find one that works well for you. I throw very similar to the illustration other than how I like to gather the rope. Before you hit the lake, spend some time practicing in your back yard. Once you can get the net to open fully, then you can focus on distance and targeting.
After you are comfortable throwing and can get the net to open up, its time to hit the lake and start collecting bait. If you end up with more bait than you need for a trip, KEEP IT! Many bait fish freeze well an having some at your disposal can mean the difference between catching and not catching fish. See Prepping Bait for Freezing for info on prepping and freezing bait.