Best Cast Nets in 2020 – The Only Cast Net You Will Need
Hitting the water to go chase after some big fish is something every angler has on their agenda. But in order to land those big fish, we need to secure ourselves some suitable live bait. Given the myriad of methods one can use to catch some bait fish, I find that the best is the tried and true cast net.
I have been around cast nets my entire life. My great grandfather was a master with the cast net, and it was from him that I learned how to choose the right cast net. Now, we did use traps for minnows and that was a fine method to get a few, but using a cast net is a fun and much more effective method to gather a day’s worth of fresh fishing bait.
Every angler who uses live bait knows that freshness matters—it is called live bait for a reason. Most predatory fish that seek out smaller fish are very much like people: they like their seafood fresh, not frozen. Getting a good cast net means you are going to have the ability to secure yourself the freshest bait possible, but getting a bad cast net means a lot of frustration. If you don't get the right cast net for your skill level and needs and go out there with some cheap one you got on sale, you might end up with a nasty welt on the back of your head, no bait fish, and going home early. This is from personal experience. You need to get the cast net that is the best for you, your needs, and your budget as well. You won’t need to spend a lot, but you do need to be prepared to spend some money.
My Gramps taught me everything I know about salt-water fishing, and while the times have changed in a lot of ways, my cast net has remained the same. I learned from him not only how to cast, but what to look for in a net. The best cast net needs to be made of a good monofilament material, the weights have to be good, spaced out well, and made of lead. The spacing on the mesh needs to be the right size, and the net itself can only get bigger when you have learned to throw smaller ones. He taught me a lot about cast nets and the work involved. Now I want to pass this piece of knowledge on to you to help you get the best cast net!
Cast nets can be a little frustrating to get used to, and picking the wrong one will only add to that frustration. Cheap materials tend to fail a lot faster, tangle a lot more, and simply just do not perform. Think of it as an investment, you are getting this cast net as a means to never have to buy live bait again. So in the end, it is going to save you time and money.
When you are buying a cast net, there are some important factors you need to consider. First, check your fishing regulations for your states—some states don't allow the use of cast nets or limit the size of cast net you are allowed to use. You also need to know what you are capable of throwing—this will come from practice, but if you are just starting out you do not want to be throwing a very large cast net—it would only serve to frustrate you.
They do make cast nets out of nylon, however, I advise you to avoid them—they take a lot longer to sink in the water and are a lot more visible. Monofilament-made nets are all I would ever use—they tangle a lot less as well, which is another factor that will just frustrate you.
There are a lot of “new” attachments and gadgets you can get that are supposed to be modern enhancements to make the net better. Don't get them. They are gimmicky things to sucker people into spending money on something they do not need—a good and simple cast net is all you need, and you don't need to add anything to it or re-invent the wheel.
Now, here is where things get a bit more tricky. You see, you want to also make sure that you get the right mesh size for your net. What I mean by mesh size is how big the squares are going to be on the net’s pattern that trap the fish. The bigger and wider the holes, the faster the net will sink, but the larger your target bait will need to be. You want to avoid “gilling” as well, which is where the mesh is large enough for fish to get their gills stuck in them as they try to get free, but small enough to trap and kill them, wasting bait. The size you should get will also be determined by what you are chasing, but for the most part, nets with a 3/8 or ½ inch pattern will be able to get you plenty of suitable bait fish.
While the law might limit the size of the net that you can throw in your state, you are also going to be a determining factor on the size of net you can throw, so it’s important to know your limits. The idea is to throw the largest possible net you can so you cover the most area, but you need to be able to actually throw it. My suggestion is that you start small and work up—one can never have too many cast nets.
Weight is also a factor when choosing a cast net. Weights on cast nets are measured by the amount of pounds per foot of net around the circumference. The more pounds per foot, the faster the net will sink. The more weight, of course, means the harder it will be to throw the net properly. This will require practice as well. Lighter nets, on the other hand, will be a lot easier to throw and will still be able to get you plenty of bait fish so long as they are closer to the surface.
For my money, it is hard to beat the Betts Old Salt Cast net.
This cast net from Betts has been a go-to for many years for a lot of salt water anglers. The quality speaks for itself, and the materials they use make throwing easy even for beginners—and if you are already well-versed, it will pancake out perfect for you every time. Many people who buy these nets end up buying larger ones not long after because they are simply just that good. Construction is everything when it comes to a cast net, and Betts makes a fine product.
Betts uses Mono for their base material on the mesh, which of course means the fish have a harder time seeing it, and it will sink a lot faster—making netting far easier for both fish closer to the surface and a little deeper. Because of their design, this net does not tangle very easily, despite having a very thin material. The plus side to it being thin is that it is even harder to see, but the downside is it does tend to tear easier than I would like. So you are going to need to be careful with it throwing over oysters or other subsurface structures.
The name Old Salt is not just clever, Betts is sending a message with their design as well—it is truly an “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” approach that is perfect. Avoiding all these attempts to try and make something better by adding more, Betts has been able to make a net that does exactly what it is intended, and will outperform any attempt to “do it better”. Once you have a well-constructed net, learning to throw it properly will only take skill and practice. Betts knows this, and wants to keep it simple for the angler.
The Old Salt also uses a 3/8 inch mesh which means you get not only a good sink time, but you also won’t be gilling those smaller fish and will have the ability to get down deeper to get larger bait fish. This net also comes in different sizes, giving you options to learn and grow into. The sizes are measured in radius and not diameter, so make sure you consider that before you make a purchase to ensure you get the right size.
Weight matters, and Betts uses old-fashioned lead weights, which I think are the absolute best option when it comes to cast nets. It helps everything pancake out just a little better, and the sink rate is awesome. No more will you be plagued with looking at bait you cannot get because of your crappy net. And not tangling up every cast is an added plus, especially when you are starting out. This will give you more time spent working on your technique, and less time cussing and untying line. Lead is also good because it will stand up to the test of time. They won't really rust up or break down, and there is really nothing better for weights—it is what you use on your fishing line, so it should be used on your bait rig as well.
Betts also includes a good storage and carrying container. Part of owning a cast net means having to care for and maintain the net to ensure it does not get knotted up, tangled up, or ripped. So having it come with its own container is nice, but the fact it’s actually made of good material is a great added bonus. In a pinch, you can always store it in a 5 gallon bucket. Take the time to take care of your net, and it will last you forever.
What we liked
- Ideal for both fresh and salt-water anglers
- Easy to learn
- Great sink rate
- Excellent design
- Does not knot or tangle easily
What we didn't like
- Can become snagged on jagged structures like oysters and rocks
- Takes some time to master
Cast nets are the preferred method for catching a large amount of live bait. They are elegant, graceful, and once you master them they are quite beautiful to see in action. They take some effort to master and will take time to learn. In order to set yourself up on the right path, you need to make sure you get the right cast net that will help propel you and your net into the bait fish you desire.
The right net will be made from the right materials and have the proper design that will aid you in throwing and retrieving, and needs to be void of any stupid gimmicks or extra selling points. It also needs to be a size you can throw, and it needs to have the right mesh and weigh to sink and trap those bait fish, no matter the depth. So it is a lot more than just throwing a net in the water and hoping for the best. Get the right net, and save yourself the literal headache.