Know Your Backing

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Photo by Louis Cahill

Photo by Louis Cahill

By Jesse Lowry

Seeing your backing on your first bonefish trip is a pretty awesome feeling.

You’ve hooked into a fish that can swim nearly 40 mph and your reel is singing a song I would gladly listen to all day. After your reel has been singing for a bit, that awesome feeling can turn into a bit of a panic as the possibility of getting spooled crosses your mind. While getting spooled can happen when you hook into a double-digit bone, getting a little too excited and making some poor decisions can cause you to lose some good fish long before getting spooled is a real issue. Generally, your first instinct is to reach for the drag, or palm the reel to try and put the brakes on the fish. These can both be good ways to break off a fish or straighten your hook, which is heart breaking especially when it’s a double-digit fish. I know this as I’ve been guilty of both of these sins, but there are a few things you can do to keep your calm when you’re getting into your backing and prevent these situations from happening to you on your next trip.


Know your gear:

Screen-Shot-2018-05-09-at-12.22.50-PMHave a good idea of how much backing you have on your reel, for bones and permits; 150-200 yards is plenty. I like to put markings on my backing with a sharpie so I know how deep into it I’m getting. A line every 50 yards and then a dotted warning at the 20-yard line. If you don’t want to go through the process of doing this, the clever folks at Scientific Anglers have come up with a solution with their Tri-Colored backing, which alternates color every 50 yards. I switched to this on my new rod this year and found it to be a pretty handy tool as the sharpie marking system can get missed if you’re distracted, solid color changes are not as easy to miss.


Pre flight check:

1) Hooks sharp

2) Knots seated tight

3) Leader in good shape—no nicks, no wind knots

4) Drag set to a reasonable resistance. Your guide can always help you out with this, but it shouldn’t be real easy for you to strip line from your reel. On my Sage reels I’m a 7 out of 10.

5) Kaliks in the cooler on ice


The first big run:

Be calm, fight the fish and enjoy the ride. If the dotted 20-yard line goes screaming through your guides, open the cooler and grab a Kalik as you’re going to have a hell of a story to tell when you get back to the lodge.

Jesse Lowry
Gink & Gasoline 
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