Although artificial offerings have their time and place, live bait is hard to beat. While some choose to purchase frisky forage, if you spend the extra time and effort catching your own live bait you'll gain a tremendous amount of knowledge in regards to migration routes and seasonal patterns of both forage species and game fish. Arguably the best way to do so is with the use of a cast net.
In existence for thousands of years, cast nets have long been relied upon for successful days on the water. While all serve the same purpose, if you think a cast net is a cast net then you are sadly mistaken. The overall design, cutting and seaming of panels, and how well the net was constructed greatly influence its overall performance and ease of use. To get the inside story, we contacted Tim Wade of Tim Wade Cast Nets. With over 40-years experience designing and constructing handmade nets, it's no surprise Tim Wade Cast Nets are relied upon by the most successful captains in the industry.
FSF: What should buyers look for when purchasing a cast net?
Wade: First of all, there's no cast net that's perfect for every situation. The baitfish you seek, where you plan on finding them and your physical condition should all influence your decision. When it comes to selection there are two types of cast nets—skirt and panel nets. Skirt nets have seams sewed around the net in a bullseye pattern. The biggest issue with skirt nets is that they tend to fold on the seam lines. Panel nets are tied with anywhere from 6 to 8 panels in a pie shape configuration. In regards to construction, the distribution of the mesh in the net determines its spread and sink rate. Unfortunately, you really can't tell if a net is designed properly until you throw it. Too many panels starves the net at the top, while too few panels makes the net pull tight in undesirable areas.
FSF: Do net makers use any special type of line when weaving the mesh?
Wade: Depth stretched mesh is used for its supple attributes with several color variations available in green, blue and snow white, although the latter is not suggested because it is very bright and can spook baitfish during daylight hours. The best option is natural white, which has a yellowish hue and seems to be the stealthiest.
FSF: Have construction techniques changed over the years?
Wade: With older style nets you had to put your arm around them and bunch the netting together. They worked well, but were fluffy and a handful to bunch up and throw. With new depth stretched mesh, the material tends to stretch in the opposite direction. During the construction process the knotted monofilament is heated in a steam chest and stretched so the knots don't move. When you throw the net and stretch the knot it wants to close back up because the monofilament is pulled so tight in the knot. This is where a cast net's springiness comes from.
FSF: How important are braille lines?
Wade: Braille lines are absolutely crucial to a net's overall effectiveness. They attach the drawstring to the lead line. When it's time to haul your catch the braille lines shut the net and trap your catch. If your cast net does not have enough braille lines, your net will not close tightly. The correct number is usually determined by the net's hanging length. It's important to note that hanging length is not the same as radius.
FSF: Do you recommend any kind of treatment for new nets?
Wade: You definitely don't want to use petroleum byproducts or any form of chlorine on or around your net. In particular, do not make the mistake of moisturizing your net with fabric softener. This practice has been popular because the paraffin wax in the fabric softener lubricates the knots, but it also deteriorates them.
FSF: What's the correct treatment?
Wade: I recommend filling half a bucket with hot tap water. Don't use boiling water because it could shrink your drawstring. Submerge the net inside the bucket and add a couple hefty squirts of mild dish detergent. Let your net soak for 15-minutes and then remove it from the bucket while keeping as much soap as you can keep on the mesh. Place the net outside in a shady spot and let the soap air dry on the netting. Give it a quick rinse and you're good to go.
FSF: What other tips can you offer?
Wade: After each use rinse your net with freshwater and hang it until the lead line is completely dry. Never hang your net with the lead line off the ground. Store your net in a cool, dry environment and avoid exposing it to the sun for extended periods of time. It's also a good idea to inspect your net after every use, mending any cuts or tears.
FSF: What makes a Tim Wade Cast Net special?
Wade: The effectiveness of my nets is a direct result of the design and distribution of the netting. I use an 8-panel design because it reduces the amount of netting on the top. It's easy to gather in your hands, but still has adequate mesh in the bottom. I've also been able to increase sink rate while still offering a net that's easy to throw. This is all because the netting distribution has a little extra mesh, so you don't have the springback that you see with some other nets.
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