Nets…A Fresh Perspective
By Craig Sandell © 2020

The 2019 Musky season was one of some tackle changes for me. These changes started with the use of VMS XHeavy hooks. Because of the inherent sharpness of these hooks and their penetrating power, I recognized that I would be tearing up the cloth fabric net bag that has been graced by a good number of Musky over the years. But which net to get?...

Anyone who has read my articles on tackle and tactics knows that I am an advocate of getting first hand insight from other Musky anglers rather than relying upon the advertisements in catalogs or the sport shop spiel. That is exactly what I did. I talked with folks who are using the Frabill coated net and the Beckman Fin Saver coated net to get some informed perspective.

Note: I did not consider a cradle because of the sharpness of the hooks and because a cradle is really a two man operation and, like most Musky anglers, I am fishing alone more often than not.

Both of these nets fit the bill relative to resistance to penetration by the Owner Hook, so the decision came down to ease of use and fish and angler safety.

The Frabill net has a traditional large mesh bag. The handle is light weight and the rim is reasonably sturdy. The Musky, when in the net, will have its body bent by the net by virtue of the fish’s weight pulling down on the lowest part of the bag. It is easier to remove tangled hooks from the larger mesh but the stress upon the fish is greater.

The Beckman Fin Saver has a dual mesh design. Overall the mesh is smaller but the bottom of the net is designed to flatten out with the weight of the fish. This allows the fish to sit comfortably in the net in a manner similar to that of a cradle. The net handle and frame combine to make a sturdy net, however, the weight of the net is a bit heavier than what most anglers are used to…especially when you are alone fighting a fish and doing the "Musky Dance" as you try to lead the fish to the net with your rod hand while maintaining the ability to strategically remove the net if the fish bolts.

The smaller mesh also makes it tougher to untangle hooks and free the Musky from the lure.

Bottom line…both nets have draw backs and selling points…I chose the Beckman and here is why:

I really liked the bag configuration concept and so did the other Musky anglers with whom I consulted. Having a nice 43 inch fish in the net reinforced the belief that the decision was a good one. The hook entanglement in the smaller mesh was a problem but, ever since I had a hook driven into my hand by a thrashing Musky when I stuck my hand in the net to free it, I have adopted the practice of cutting embrangled hooks with my compound bolt cutter…so net/hook entanglement was a minor consideration. I felt that the extra weight of the net was manageable for me…you may have a different perspective for yourself.

A Parting Word

Both of these nets are good quality nets from manufacturers that stand behind their product. As more Musky anglers turn to the pre-sharpened hooks from Owner or from VMC Rapala, the need for coated nets that resist puncture of bag mesh becomes acute. If you are considering a new net for the coming season, you can probably see them at your local sport shop or at one of the Musky shows that start in January. I would encourage you to, before buying, talk with other Musky anglers and get the benefit of their experience with the net you are considering. When you are on the water with a fish tugging at your line, it is too late to discover that your net has draw backs to its efficient use.

Don’t get sucked in by hype or name endorsements by Musky notables…make an informed decision not a gut decision.

Tight Lines

Author's Note - Since I purchased the Beckman Fin Saver net, I have had the opportunity to use it quite a few times. I am very pleased with the lack of stress that is put on the fish when it is in the net. However, I have come to realize that the weight of the net makes it very hard to handle when fishing by one's self. I have been successful netting fish when fishing by myself but it was a real struggle. I firmly believe that the potential for a bad net job when fishing by one's self is very high.

I will be buying another lighter net to use when I am fishing alone. I have not decided upon a net as of yet but it will certainly be one with a coated bag. Many of my fellow "Musky Wizards" have suggested that I look at the Frabill net and I will certainly give them a look.

2013 Update - Well, I went and bought a Frabill net to use when I am fishing by myself and it worked very well. But then the thought struck me...would the Beckman Fin Saver bag fit on the Frabill frame? I carefully took the bags off each net frame and then strung the Beckman bag onto the Frabill frame. It worked very well...I now had a Musky friendly net bag on a net frame I could use handily.