One of the best ways to shorten a fight is by keeping the fish coming towards the boat whenever possible. Hooked fish generally counteract against the line to relieve the pressure. To keep them swimming in the right direction, reel and lift the rod with smooth, consistent strokes rather than jerky motions. Constant pressure helps offset lateral or downward movement. If the fish is taking drag while going away from the boat, use that opportunity to rest. Once the fish starts coming toward you again, resume steady pressure.
If the fish is stopped and you’re in a stalemate, increase the drag slightly. Palming the spool is the best way to temporarily accomplish this. Increase pressure and only when it’s needed to get the fish coming towards you. Watch the rod tip and let it do its work. Once the fish starts coming, back off on the extra pressure. The whole thing is a calculated orchestration.
The secret is in knowing the characteristics of the line on the reel. To learn how far tackle can be pushed, practice by tying the line to a stationary object, then test to see how much the rod tip will bend and at what drag setting the line breaks. When you can apply maximum pressure, even in short bursts, it makes a huge difference in the fight.
Free spooling is another technique to try when fish stay deep. By backing off the drag totally, the fish no longer feels pressure. The leader and line drift back along the fish’s lateral line, or its sensory system. That annoyance prompts the fish to swim to the surface where the fight starts over again. And surface fish tend to jump more and tire quicker, resulting in shorter battles.