How to Make and Use a Keyhole Gaff

Sometimes when you are fishing from a high place and a net or gaff cannot reach the fish, use this device. It is used to land big fish by snagging the swivel. Easy to make and carry, the device also protects your rod from breaking, especially as a novice. It's commonplace for beginner fishermen to abuse their rods when landing a big fish by swinging the rod vertically and pointing 180 degrees away from the fish, which is very bad. Here is how to make and use the keyhole gaff device.


  1. 1
    Assemble the items needed to make this gaff. These are listed below in the "Things You'll Need".
    • If you are 30 feet (9.1 m) from the water (rather than 15 feet), your cord must be longer and the plywood must be heavier in relation to the cord, to easily slide this device down the main fishing line and over the swivel.
  2. Image titled Keyhole gaff2
    With the jigsaw, cut the keyhole and the slot on the side. The slot on the side is where you will place the gaff over your main fishing line. The thin slot, in the keyhole, is where you will snag the swivel, so this slot must be thinner than the swivel.
    • With the drill, make a hole that is big enough to pass the cord through.
  3. Image titled Fishing on the Bridge
    Use this device for landing fish that weigh more than the breaking strength of your fishing line. For example, if the fish weighs 10 pounds and your main fishing line is 8 pounds test, your main line is going to break.
    • For bigger lines, even if your main line's breaking strength is bigger than the fish's weight, it is easier to use a cord to pull the fish up. For example, if your mainline is 18 pounds test and the fish is 10 pounds, your hands are going to hurt grasping such a small diameter line.
  4. 4
    To use this device, reel the fish until it is below you and slip the device over the main line. Let the device slide down until it is past the swivel. Snag the swivel, by lifting the device somewhat sharply so that the leader slides into the keyhole slot. The hook and leader must be strong.
  5. Image titled Long drop
    After snagging the swivel, set your rod down and pull the fish up with the cord. The short leader line, which is between the swivel and the hook, should be stronger than the main line.
  6. Image titled Whow.cowhitch
    Do not use a snap swivel because it might come apart from the stress. For ease of attaching or removing of the leader to the swivel, use a big loop and cow hitch it. Another option would be to keep using a snap swivel but to have a split ring between the snap and the leader.


  • The length and thickness of the cord, and the board thickness and dimensions should be modified to your fishing situation.
  • Moving fast and keeping a tight line are important keys to landing a fish because you usually do not know how good the hook-up is until after you land the fish. Do not slacken the line or the fish might "throw" the hook or lure. If you decide to use the gaff, move quickly (but not roughly) and haul the fish up.

Things You'll Need

  • Jigsaw
  • Drill
  • Plywood 1/2"
  • Cord (if your main line is eight pound test, use some cord that is about 150 pound test)

Sources and Citations

  • Hawaii Fishing News newspaper - research source

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