Do you need a faster way to obtain live bait than your average rod and reel can offer? Catching baitfish with a rod and reel during the day can be fun; yet very time-consuming. Don’t get me wrong; any time spent fishing is a great time. However, being on the water all day isn’t feasible with everyday work and home responsibilities. Thus, we’ll teach you how to throw a cast net to acquire baitfish quicker and more effectively.

Picking the Right Cast Net

The box of a throw net with a river in the background

First, before considering what size of cast net to buy, you need to brush up on your state’s regulations on how big your net’s diameter and mesh can be.

Understanding Radius and Diameter Measurements

Generally, when looking at the sizes on the front of the cast net’s packaging, they’re measured by their radius. So make sure to double the size of the radius to get the net’s diameter size. For example, a 4-foot cast net will open up to an 8-foot diameter.

Additionally, when it comes time to choose what size to buy, many people will tell you to buy the biggest net you legally can. However, learning how to throw a cast net properly has its learning curve. Thus, I find it easier to practice on a 4-foot net over a 7-foot net.

Mesh Size

Generally, most cast nets you find on the market today are ⅜ inch mesh, which is an ideal size for most anglers. Yet, if you find you want to target larger baitfish exclusively or cast into deeper waters, I’d advise going with a wider mesh.

Typically, the rule of thumb is the larger the mesh, the faster your net will sink. Plus, a wider mesh will weed out tiny 1-3 inch shads. So, unless you’re targeting minnows, I’d advise you to stray away from using mesh smaller than ⅜ of an inch.


The only thing you should keep in mind regarding the weight on cast nets is:

  • The heavier the weight, the faster it sinks.
  • The lighter the weight, the slower it sinks.

Standard Cast Net Versus Spanish-Style Bag Net

There are two main distinct cast net styles:

  • The traditional conical-shaped cast nets
  • Spanish-style pie-shaped bag nets

Standard Cast Nets

A traditional cast net consists of a handline, rope, yoke, mesh, long-braille lines, and a lead line. This net style is what you’ll typically see people using. The way it works is after you cast the net, let it sink and work the rope back towards you. As you bring the rope in, it will pull on the braille lines and enclose the lead lines, trapping the fish. Then the only way to get the fish out of the net is to pull up on the horn.

Spanish-Style Bag Net

The main difference between a traditional cast net and a Spanish-styled one is its shape and how it traps the fish. These nets are pie-shaped instead of conically shaped, and they don’t have long braille lines. Instead, the bottom of the bag net has short nylon braille lines attached to the mesh sides.

Primarily, this net is used for wading because anglers can easily access the bait through the nylon lines. Bag nets have this ability because it traps the fish on the bottom instead of at the top.

How To Throw a Cast Net

Now, we’ll go over how to throw a standard cast net.

Step One: Secure the Handline to Your Dominant Hand

The handline of a cast net secured onto an arm with a river in the background

First, loosely secure the handline strap around your wrist on your dominant hand.

Step Two: Rope Foot-Long Loops With Your Dominant Hand

The rope of a cast net looped together with a lake in the background

Next, feed the rope to your dominant hand, forming foot-long loops. As you work the line, make sure there are no tangles or knots as you go. You should now be holding the coils of rope in your dominant hand.

Step Three: Grab a Foot Below the Horn

A woman grabbing below the horn of the net with a dog and river in the background

Then with your dominant hand, grab a foot below the horn, placing the net over the loops of rope.

Step Four: Spread the Net out Evenly

A woman spreading out a cast net with a river in the background

Then spread the net out in front of you evenly with your free hand. Additionally, as you perform this step, examine the lead line and ensure there are no tangles.

Step Five: Grab the Net Where It Meets your Waistline

A woman holding a cast net with a river and woods in the background

Then with your dominant hand, grab the net where it meets your waistline, and pile it onto what you’re already holding.

Step Six: Roll the Other Side of the Net Over the Top

A woman holding a cast net on a dock with a lake in the background

With your free hand, grab halfway down what’s remaining of the net, and flip it over the top of your other hand. You should now visibly see an upper and lower portion of the net in your dominant hand.

Step Seven: Place the Middle of the Lead Line Behind Your Thumb

A woman placing the lead line behind her thumb with a lake in the background

Follow the lead line that connects the upper and lower portion of the net and find the middle point. Then place the midpoint of the lead line over your thumb on your dominant hand.

Step Eight: Grab the bottom of the Lead Line With Your Free Hand

A woman grabbing a lead line with a lake in the background

With your free hand, grab the bottom of the lead line and get ready to throw your cast net.

Step Nine: Get Into a Good Throwing Stance

A woman getting ready to throw a fishing net with a lake in the background

Before you throw your net, get into a good, wide throwing stance. I recommend standing perpendicularly to the water so that you can get more momentum for your throw.

Step Ten: Aim, Throw, Sink, and Pull

A woman throwing a cast net into a lake with a boat in the background

Find somewhere in the water to aim at and toss your net toward your target. As you throw your net, make sure to delay the release of your front hand by a second.

After your net lands in the water, let it sink and then pull it up by the rope to haul in your fish.

Most Importantly, Stay Safe Out There!

Whether you are throwing your net from the shore or from your boat, please do so safely! Additionally, learning how to throw your net correctly can be challenging and frustrating, but stick with it. With a Cast net, you’ll be able to catch a lot of live bait more quickly and efficiently.

For instance, I’ll throw out my cast net an hour before I go catfishing and catch enough live bait for my entire trip. Sometimes, when I land gizzard shad schools, I’ll even have enough baitfish to keep as cut bait for future outings.

Do you have any questions about throwing cast nets? Let us know in the comments below. Or did your fishing buddy purchase a cast net and didn’t know how to use it? Then help them out by sharing this article with them.