Cast Nets

Catching bait fish is essential to catching many types of sought after game fish in both salt and fresh water. Catching bait fish that predator fish are feeding on will greatly increase the chances for a productive day of fishing. Having the correct cast net for the type of bait being targeted is very important. I have thrown many cast nets over giant schools of bait and caught zero fish.

In general you want the largest diameter net you can throw with heavy round sinkers between 1-1.5 pound per radius foot. The mesh netting should be small enough to catch the targeted bait but large enough to sink quickly. This is most important when catching fish that are in deep clear water. Most nets work in shallow water because there is little time for bait to escape.

Learning to throw a net is the first step. There are dozens of great techniques depending on the size of the net. Practicing in grass or in water where the area can be disturbed is a great idea. You don’t want to be next to a school of bait you need to catch and be wondering if the net is going to open. It is best to start out throwing a 4 foot radius net for kids and a 5 foot radius net for adults. If you try for a hour or more without any luck try a different technique. I can not throw a net the way my brother does but that method works great for him. Below I will list the 5 best types of cast nets but realize this varies based on user experience and type of bait fish being targeted.

Calusa Cast Nets

This is high end cast net that is big, heavy, quality and expensive. This is not a good net to buy if it is your first cast net. If you are proficient at throwing a cast net and need to catch bait in medium to deep water this is a great choice.  If it is your first cast net you should learn how to throw and retrieve with a smaller lightweight low cost net first. These are easier to throw and practicing will help teach you how to not damage an expensive net. Nets can getting snagged on the bottom or other objects in the casting area. Learning how to throw and cast net can take time and be frustrating especially with a bigger net but it is worth the effort as this is a fun and productive way to catch bait.

Calusa Cast Net with a 10 feet radius with 3/8 square mesh and 1.5lb of lead weight per radius foot. This net has a fast sink rate and is good for shallow to medium depth waters. Has a 1 1/4 inch horn opening which enables the net to lay flat. This net it built with 100 pound monofilament bail lines. Good for catching bait 3 inches and up.

Calusa Cast Net with a 10 feet radius with 1/2 square mesh and 1.5lb of lead weights per radius foot. This net has a fast sink rate and is good in most water depths. Has a 1 1/4 inch horn opening which enable the net to lay flat. This net it built with 100 pound monofilament bail lines. Good for catching bait 3 inches and up.

Calusa Cast Net are know to be one of the most quality cast nets that are commercially available. The nets are hand tied from 6 panels in Thailand. This is how custom nets are made and allows them to lay much more flat when thrown. These nets are very similar to custom hand tied nets that can only be purchase locally in the USA. Purchasing nets locally is still the best way as these experts can make custom nets to match the exact users need. However if you need a net quickly and do not want to wait or do not know of a local net maker this is a great way to go. These nets come in 3/8, 1/2 and 5/8 mesh size all mesh sizes can have 8, 10 or 12 foot radius. There is another net make by the same company called a Cracker cast net that would be good for lower budgets but these net are not built with the top notch quality of a Calusa net.

If was told I could only have one net I would probably get an 10 foot net with 3/8 mesh as this net can catch almost any kind of bait such as pilchards, ballyhoo, bunker, shad, pinfish and mullet. If I had two nets one would be a 10 foot net with 1/2 inch mesh for deeper and large schools of bait fish and a 7 foot 3/8 inch mesh net that I can easily place on fish in shallow water. Really the size of net depends on depth of the bait, size of the bait, strength of the person using the net and the amount of open space available to throw the net. In many boats it can be difficult to properly place a large cast net.

The cast net I used in New Jersey to catch bunker was a locally made custom Percy cast net that I picked up from Mr. Percy who was very helpful and showed me an easy way to thrown a large net. The net was  made from 1 1/4 inch square mesh which is 2 1/2 inch in length when stretched.  The net had 1 1/4 pounds of lead per radius foot made form hand tied evenly space 1 ounce ball sinkers. This is good for baits larger than 7 inches. Really this is a net specifically used for bunker or deep Mullet. He makes a 1/2 inch nets for smaller peanut bunker.

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Bait Buster Cast Nets

Bait Buster Professional Grade Cast Net with 3/8 Square Mesh. Net come in 5 ft to 12 ft radius sizes.  This cast net has 1.5lb or lead weights per radius foot. This net is built with 100 pound monofilament bail lines and a 25 feet poly braided hand line. Come with a 3.5 gallon bucket for net storage. Good for catching bait 2 inches and up in shallow to medium depth waters.

Bait Buster Professional Grade Cast Net with 1/2 square mesh. Net come in 5 ft to 12 ft radius sizes.  This cast net has 1.5lb of round lead weights per radius foot. This net is built with 100 pound monofilament bail lines and a 25 feet poly braided hand line. Comes with a 3.5 gallon bucket for net storage. Good for catching bait 3 inches and up and in most depth waters.

Bait Buster Professional Grade Cast Net with 5/8 square mesh. Net come in 5 ft to 12 ft radius sizes.  This cast net has 1.5lb of round lead weights per radius foot This net is built with 100 pound monofilament bail lines and a 25 feet poly braided hand line. Comes with a 3.5 gallon bucket for net storage. Good for catching bait 3 inches and up in most water depths.

Bait Buster Professional Grade Cast Net with 1 1/4 square mesh. Net comes in 6 ft to 12 ft radius sizes.  This cast net has 1.5lb of crimped bar lead weights per radius foot. This net is built with 100 pound monofilament bail lines and a 25 feet poly braided hand line. Comes with a 3.5 gallon bucket for net storage. Good for catching bait 7 inches and up in medium to deep water depths.

The net with 1 1/4 inch mesh is intended to catch deep mullet. When catching mullet there are darker areas in sandy or grassy bottoms that are actually giant schools for bunker. If a lightweight cast net with small mesh is used it is very unlikely that any bunker will be caught. There are always exceptions to the rule but this cast net is great choice when targeting mullet or bunker. I prefer round weights to bar style weights but depending on the lead line stiffness round weights do not always work good with 1 1/4 mesh and I do not know of a commercial available net with this option.

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Betts Cast Nets

Betts Old Salt Premium Cast Net with 3/8 monofilament mesh. Net come in 4 ft and 6 ft radius sizes.  This cast net has 1.0lb of lead weight per radius foot. Good for catching bait 2 inches and up in shallow water.

Betts Old Salt cast nets are what I would call a standard or average cast net. With 1 lb of wait per radius foot the net sinks reasonable fast and is still light enough for most people to throw. If this is the first cast net for a user selecting a net that has a radius which is 1 foot shorter than the thrower allows for the easiest and most basic throwing technique to be used. Once the user get proficient they can throw a net that is a tall as them with the basic technique and much taller than them with other throwing techniques.

Betts Old Salt Premium Cast Net with 3/8 monofilament mesh. This cast net has 1.0lb of lead weight per radius foot. Good for catching bait 2 inches and up in shallow water.

Betts Super Pro 8 Foot Cast Net with 3/8 monofilament mesh. This cast net has 1.3lb of lead weight per radius foot. Good for catching bait 2 inches and up in shallow to medium depth waters. This net is built with panel sections which allows the net to lay flatter.

Betts Super Pro 8 Foot Cast Net with 1/4 monofilament mesh. This cast net has 1.3lb of lead weight per radius foot. Good for catching bait 2 inches and up in shallow to medium depth waters. This net is built with panel sections which allows the net to lay flatter. This also comes in a 3/16 inch mesh which is the smallest mesh available for cast nets.

The net with 1/4 inch mesh is a great choice for targeting minnow in open water. Any net will catch bait in shallow water. Getting a quality net with a fast sink rate is important when casting into school of small minnows in open water. If this is what the big fish are actively feeding on using the same bait is almost always the best way to get the fish to bite.

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Lightweight Cast Nets with Steel Weights

Cast nets with steel weights are light and good for kids, fist time cast net users and anyone throwing nets in shallow water. Throwing cast nets all day causes fatigue and it is just a hassle using  heavy cast nets. When throwing nets in water less than three feet deep lots of baitfish will be caught even using small lightweight nets. If casting in low visibility water with a large diameter net most bait is going to be caught. A heavy net with large mesh is really only needed when casting in clear deep water. In low visibility water it is an advantage to have the fish deep as they are not spooked by the splash. When targeting bunker we move the bait down in the water column by moving the boat over them in reverse and then throwing the net when we see the bait on the fish finder. A heavy, fast sinking net is still needed that case because large bunker are fast.

Ahi USA 50 Outfitter Series Monofilament Cast Net with 3/8 monofilament mesh. Net come in 3 ft to 8 ft radius sizes.  This cast net has 3/4lb of steel weights per radius foot. This net it built with 80 pound monofilament bail lines and has a 24 foot land line connected with a heavy duty swivel. Good for catching bait 2 inches and up in shallow water.

Betts My Betts Buddy Chartreuse Net for kids with 3/8 monofilament mesh. The net has a 3 ft radius.  This cast net has 1lb of steel weights per radius foot. Good for catching bait 2 – 5 inches in shallow water.

Betts My Betts Buddy Chartreuse Non-Glare Net with 3/8 monofilament mesh. Net come in 4 ft and 5 ft radius sizes.  This cast net has 3/4lb of steel weights per radius foot. Good for catching bait 2 – 5 inches in shallow water.

South Bend Monofilament Cast Net with 3/8 in mesh. Net comes in 3 1/2 – 7 ft radius sizes.  This cast net has about 3/4lb of steel weights per radius foot. Good for catching bait 2 – 5 inches in shallow water.

Betts Tyzac Series Cast Net with 3/8 in mesh. Net come in 3 1/2 – 7 ft radius sizes.  This cast net has about 3/4lb of iron weights per radius foot. Good for catching bait 2 – 5 inches in shallow water.

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Easy Throw Cast Net

FITEC EZ Throw Super Spreader Cast Net with aluminum ring. This net has a 5 ft radius and has 3/4lb of weights per radius foot. The hand line is 20 foot an made from a polyethylene material which allows the line to float. Good for catching bait 2 inches and up in shallow water. Comes with an instruction DVD on how to throw the net.

The easy throw cast nets with aluminum rings demonstrates the easiest way to throw a small cast net. I would not recommend buying this unless you are really struggling to throw a net. The ring is unnecessary and it makes it a pain to store. The method used to throw the net is the best way for a beginner to throw and works if the net is about 1 foot shorter than the user.

The basic method to throw is the nets starts by having the net by your right side if you are right handed. Pick up the lead line in one spot and hold it at the horn(top of the net) with your dominate hand. Grab the lead line about 2 feet down the lead line with your non dominate hand and you are ready to throw. When throwing swing the net out with you dominate hand and slightly hold back the lead line in your non dominate hand. The net should open right up. With the ez throw ring you when the lead line is brought to the top of the net you wrap it around the ring. This is largely unnecessary but may help with the initial concept if you have never thrown a net. This general approach is how I thrown nets under 5 foot and I am over 6 foot tall. With a 6 foot net it drags to the ground while swinging during a cast and get caught on everything. This can be overcome by starting 1 foot down the net if the 13 inch metal ring is not on the net.

Taking care of net is will make it perform better and last longer. The main thing to do is store it in a cool dry location out of the sun. A commercial fishing basket is a great option because it is open to the air and has holes in the bottom which allows water to drain. Once a net is dry in can be stored in bucket for long term storage. Every once in a while the net can be soaked for a few hours in fabric softener to clean, wax and loosen the net. This does lubricate the lines which can cause knots to come untied so this should only be done when needed.

Alternative Ways to Catch Bait

Cast nets are a great way to catch bait but certainly not the only way.  Some bodies of water do not permit cast nets. Also sometimes it is just quicker and easier to catch bait with other methods such as seine walk nets, minnow traps and Zabiki rigs.

This is a basic seine walk net. It has lead weights on the bottom and floats on the top. This requires two people but works good to catch small minnows and crayfish in shallow water, especially in creeks and streams. Tie poles or sticks to the ropes to make is so you do not have to hold the lead line on the bottom the whole time you are walking through the water.

Galvanized steel minnow trap with 1/4 inch holes is a great way to catch minnows. Set this is a still water area with some food in it to attract fish the day before you go fishing and you might catch all the minnows bait needed for the day.

Assorted packs of Sabiki rigs. Works great for catching bait near docks or in chum lines. It is best to add a small piece of scented bait on each hook such as shrimp, squid or chunks of fish.

Thanks for visiting Global Fishing Reports. I hope these suggestions help you catch more fish using a cast net!

If you have any suggestions for top cat nets or best techniques to throw a cast net, leave a comment below!

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