The perfect catch

Reimagining fishing nets for the modern angler


  • Client
  • Industry
  • Services
    Customer Research, Industrial Design, Design Engineering

Anglers are passionate about their sport and demand maximum performance from their equipment, but the nets they use to land their fish haven’t kept up with the times.

Frabill, the market leader in this category, engaged Smart Design to bring their landing nets (used to lift the fish out of the water) into the 21st century. The Trophy Haul series is designed to be the toolset that modern anglers need to “finish the fight” and land the fish.

Photo courtesy of Frabill

Getting our feet wet

In order to be fully immersed in the sport, Smart went out on the water to observe anglers in action. Our research team witnessed the ergonomic challenges they faced while multitasking between a rod and net, and the difficulties of lifting a heavy fish into the boat. We knew our solution needed to accommodate the full range of movement involved in landing a fish, including single-handed use.

We were surprised to discover the emotional impact that landing nets carried for anglers: Getting the fish in the net is the climax of the entire experience. A great day on the water can be ruined in an instant if the fish that you spent so long chasing gets knocked off the line by a badly deployed net. For a grandparent taking their grandchild out for the first time, that could make the difference between a great day and a terrible one, and for an elite tournament angler, that could cost them their prize money of up to $100,000.

Casting a wide net

In the following weeks, we dove deeper into our study of how landing nets were used, sold, and stored. We distilled these insights into a series of opportunity areas that prioritized ergonomics, collapsibility, and the ever-expanding culture of fishing. Quick sketches helped us hone ideas, and we created dozens of physical mockups to demonstrate our thinking and test ergonomics. Co-creation sessions with a range of experienced anglers helped us narrow in on some key design ingredients that we prototyped full-scale for field testing.

A new kind of net

The result was a series of collapsible nets that includes multiple grip options and innovative features to enhance performance under a variety of real-world conditions.

Developed for the growing sport of kayak fishing, the Trophy Haul Bearclaw has an entirely new form factor that utilizes the forearm to stabilize and support the net. This patented design enables the angler to scoop the fish out of the water with just one hand. The novel, asymmetrical netting design (featured throughout the series with a coated, fish-friendly netting) minimizes bounce and moves the fish’s weight towards the angler to make the fish easier to lift.

For the angler who fishes from a boat, the Trophy Haul Power Extend features a patented handle that doubles in length with the press of a button. This enables the solo angler to extend the handle with one hand while still maintaining control of fishing rod with the other, a task that was previously a struggle. A finger loop attached to the bottom of the net enables the angler to hold the net back to clear the boat with no hang-ups. This net also features a second, ergonomic handle over the yoke (where the handle meets the hoop) that gives anglers a more comfortable and ergonomic way to lift large fish into their boats.

Fishing often means long days on the water. For those anglers who fish in the dark, the nets are available with an integrated light and reflective hoop so that both the fish and the net can be seen, preventing fish from getting knocked off the line by a net that was badly deployed due to poor visibility.

Standing out in a competitive market is always a challenge. Partnering with Smart offered an outsider perspective that helped us understand what our customers were missing so we could improve our products with them in mind.

Charlie Davis
Director of Brand, Plano and Frabill Fishing

Making a splash

Smart Design’s reimagining of the fishing net addressed unmet needs in a sport that has seen tremendous change in other equipment over the past few decades. The Trophy Haul Series of landing nets gives anglers modern tools that reflect their dedication and skill, ensuring that the fish stays in the net.

The valuable innovations we created resulted in iconic design details that are shared across the line, making the product stand out on the shelf and keeping the Frabill logo front and center of every photo opp with a great catch. After a successful launch at the ICAST trade show in 2018, the nets are now on sale in Bass Pro and Cabela’s stores and are being used by pros around the country.

Frabill Gives Anglers Leverage Over Trophies

Learn more about the Trophy Haul Series here