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Angler Fitness: The Importance of Stretching and Strengthening

Enjoy fishing more each day and for years to come.

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Fishing is enjoyable at any age. While some people may take their fishing trips a little more seriously than others, a day on the water is best spent when both mental and physical stress stay behind at the dock. An achy back or tired arms can hinder a relaxing trip, not to mention significantly impact how many fish get caught.

As part of the Angler Fitness series, avid angler and personal trainer Hunter Hanks shares some practical tips to eliminate those aches and pains.

“Aches and pains are no fun. My goal here is to make anglers aware that they can do something and them. We don’t have to just chalk them up to ‘getting older’ or being ‘rusty.’ Also, the exercises won’t take away much of their fishing time and go a long way towards improving their fishing days and even their entire season.

“I break these exercises down to three areas; pre-fishing, on-the-water, and on-the-road. The pre-fishing and on-the-water exercises can even be done with a fishing rod. Of course, as with all of the exercise in this series, a proper routine of stretching and strengthening at a gym or with a personal trainer will greatly improve an angler’s fitness level.”

Pre-fish Stretching

“Tennis elbow” or “golfer’s elbow” is a term with which many are familiar. Anglers, while casting and reeling, utilize their forearms, wrists, and elbows every bit as much tennis players or golfers. When anglers feel pain in their arms, most of the time it is tendonitis, a common ailment in sports.

“Tennis players warm up properly, and most golfers stretch and take some practice swings. I’m not sure why most anglers don’t see the need to warm up properly,” Hanks points out.

Hanks suggests several stretches that can be done at home or at the boat ramp for anglers who have a history of tendonitis or suspect it could creep in during the day.

  • Open hand and closed fist pull-downs
  • Thumb and elbow pull-downs
  • Palm up and palm down wrist rotations
  • Parallel grip wrist extension and flexion

To see these exercises, visit the #anglerfitness video playlist by clicking here.

The pull-downs are performed without a fishing rod, but the wrist rotations and wrist extensions utilize a fishing rod. Hanks recommends a heavier rod for the exercises.

Stretching on the Water

Anglers often hit the water and can’t think of anything except making that first cast. And then when they’ve made a couple of hundred casts, the aches and pains begin to creep in. In this instance, Hanks offers up three exercises that can be performed while on the water, without the angler missing more than a cast or two.

  • Palms down overhead stretch
  • Behind the back pull-ups
  • Palms up overhead stretch

Hanks points out that these stretches can be accomplished in-between casts throughout the day.

Stretching on the Road

While “angler’s elbow” is the main problem on the water, a different set of pain shows itself while anglers are on the road – the lower back.

Not all anglers live close to the lake, so a drive is required, and it is often lengthy. Professional anglers often joke that they are professional over-the-road truck drivers who get to stop off and fish a few days before getting back on the road again.

“As anglers, we spend a lot of time on the road, whether headed to tournaments or to a lake that might be a little bit out of the way for us. Time behind the wheel can be hard on our lower backs. These three tips will keep anglers pain free and healthy.”

Support the Back

“Stay as upright as possible. Don’t lay back with your arms a long way from the steering wheel and have a curve in your back.”

Hanks recommends using the lumbar (lower back) support in vehicles. Some vehicles have adjustable levels, and he recommends the highest level of support.

“If the seat doesn’t have adequate support, I recommend using a pillow or even a rolled-up hoodie. That will help keep you sitting up straight and your lower back from rounding.”

Hanks recommends taking breaks, too. Long hours in the same position create significant fatigue on the back and shoulder muscles. Taking a break, stretching the legs, and walking a little will significantly help reduce built-up tension.

Massage the Back

We often feel our back developing “hot spots” during a drive. That is the point where Hanks recommends massaging the lower back using lacrosse or tennis balls. Place the balls on the hot spots, and press and turn the back against the balls. As the muscles are massaged, the tension is released. Perform this exercise during a break.

Squeeze the Core

“During a drive, the core muscles are just sitting there doing nothing, for hours at a time. I like to take some time every couple of hours to ‘awaken’ the core. Squeeze the core muscles for 10 to 15 seconds, like when doing a plank exercise, and then release. Wait 30 seconds or so, and do it again. Do that for 10 to 15 minutes, and it’s a solid core workout.”

A Pro’s Perspective

2014 Bassmaster Classic Champion and Major League Fishing angler Randy Howell, 47, of Guntersville, Alabama, is a big believer in stretching before every day on the water.

“I stretch at least ten minutes in the morning before I leave my camper,” said the near-thirty year veteran of professional fishing. “My wrists, hands, arms, shoulders, and back all do much better when I stretch. One other key for me, and maybe because I am getting older, is a long hot shower in the morning first thing. If I skip stretching, my back will hurt much earlier in the day. The older I get, the more effective stretching seems to be!”

Howell added, “I watched these fitness videos and believe they will be a big help to anglers. Some of these stretches are ones that I do, and some of them I will be adding to my routine from now on.”

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Angler Fitness: The Importance of Stretching and Strengthening
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