Steve Harvey: How to Be a Keeper, Not a Sports Fish

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "Act Like A Lady Think Like A Man" by Steve Harvey. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.

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According to Steve Harvey, how can you be a keeper and not a sports fish? How can you tell if a guy is a catch-and-release fisherman?

In his book Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man, Steve Harvey discusses how to be a keeper (a woman a man would like to take home and date) rather than a sports fish (a woman who is just looking for a good time). He also advises women to take the power into their own hands rather than letting the man do the “fishing.”

Keep reading for more of Steve Harvey’s advice on how to be a keeper fish.

What Men Look for in a Long-Term Partner

In his book Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man, Steve Harvey explains how to be a keeper and not a “sports fish,” as he calls them.

Harvey says that within the dating kingdom, men have been told it’s their responsibility to pursue women, and women have been told to let themselves be pursued. Since this is the acceptable scenario, you can understand how a man chooses a woman to pursue through the lens of fishing.

When a man goes fishing, it’s either for sport or sustenance. He will either admire the fish and toss it back or take it home to eat. The same options apply in the dating world. When a man meets a woman, he’ll either catch her for sport and move on or take her home for good. Because men have the fishing pole, you may think they’re in control of whether you become a sports fish or a keeper. But you are in control. Each time a man throws his line out for you to bite, you have the power to determine what kind of fish he’ll catch. What you say and do in your first interaction will determine how he sees you. 

What Type of Fish Are You?

Steve Harvey’s “sports fish” is a woman who has few rules and requirements for gaining access to her. A sports fish likes to party, makes it clear she’s just looking for fun, and doesn’t show a lot of respect for herself. She accepts whatever men offer her, and being desired is more important than being appreciated. 

In contrast, a “keeper” doesn’t play games. A keeper has standards for how she expects men to behave and is clear about what they are. She knows she’s in control and won’t waste her time with a man out sport fishing. She makes it clear that if a man wants to hook her, he’s going to have to earn it. She’ll also make it clear that if he earns it, the rewards will be great. 

From the first word you speak after a man approaches you, you’re letting him know which type of fish you are. From this interaction, you’ll also be able to tell what kind of fisherman he is. If you’re a keeper and you let a man know this, his reaction will tell you whether he’s worth your time. If he gets uncomfortable, checks out another woman passing by, or walks away, he’s a sport fisherman and not your man. But if he maintains the conversation and asks questions that go below the surface, he’s looking for a keeper. 

You can skip a lot of wasted time with the wrong man if you control this initial interaction properly. But many women believe that any man can be the one with the right woman. You’re told to never pass on a man who shows interest in you because he might be that one. Leave all that bad advice behind. Be smart about your interactions with men. 

If you’re a keeper and he’s clearly a sports fisherman, he is not the man for you. Nothing you do is going to suddenly make him want a serious relationship. And just because you two are seeing each other and being intimate doesn’t mean he wants a serious relationship. Eventually, he will throw you back and recast his line. Save yourself the heartache and refuse the bait in the first place. 

How to be a Keeper and Finding a Catch-and-Keep Fisherman

Now that you know your behavior controls whether you’re a sports fish or a keeper, you need to know how to behave. If you want to be a sports fish, the bar is pretty low for most men. Men will line up to be with a woman who is just out for a good time. Make that clear, and you’ll have no problems. 

If you want to be a keeper, have standards and communicate those to a man right away. Tell him you don’t do one-night stands, like to feel an emotional connection before becoming intimate, won’t be kept a secret in his life, and don’t tolerate booty calls at 3 a.m. You have every right to set whatever rules you see fit for your life, and if he wants a keeper, he’ll abide by them. If not, throw him back in the water. 

Take control of how you present to the world. Respect yourself, don’t let men objectify or abuse, and keep a man’s gaze and hands in check if they start to wander. You have nothing to be ashamed of, and you have nothing to fear. Your man will be the one who appreciates the way you carry yourself, and you’ll find him if you stay true to yourself. 

Behavior Distinctions

The following lists, according to Steve Harvey, provide some deeper distinctions between the behaviors of both men and women in the dating kingdom.

The distinctions between a keeper and a sports fish are the following:

  • A keeper wears sexy but modest clothes; a sports fish wears revealing clothing.
  • A keeper only gives her number to a select few men; a sports fish hands out all forms of contact after one drink.
  • A keeper can engage in interesting and meaningful conversation; a sports fish just wants to flirt.
  • A keeper will be respectful to a man’s family and friends; a sports fish will avoid meeting them. 
  • A keeper maintains grace in difficult situations; a sports fish delights in biting someone’s head off. 
  • A keeper has plans for her future; a sports fish has plans for the weekend.
  • A keeper shows her man appreciation; a sports fish complains that her man doesn’t do anything right.
  • A keeper is loyal; a sports fish is always shopping for something better. 

A man looking for a sports fish is one who does the following:

  • Keeps the conversation safe and light and doesn’t seem interested in you as a person
  • Scoffs or teases you about your standards
  • Waits more than a day to call after taking your number
  • Lets you pay for or split the check at dinner
  • Shows up late, especially on a regular basis
  • Won’t introduce you to people in his life
  • Makes excuses about why he can’t meet the people in your life
  • Is still figuring out his three primary concerns
  • Wants to have an open relationship

You’re a smart woman and now know how to navigate the first encounter with a man. Be yourself and own it so you both know the deal. You can either be a sports fish or a keeper—the choice is yours, and both are valid. Use what you now know about each to get the dating life you want. 

Steve Harvey: How to Be a Keeper, Not a Sports Fish

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  • How to navigate the adult dating scene
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Hannah Aster

Hannah graduated summa cum laude with a degree in English and double minors in Professional Writing and Creative Writing. She grew up reading books like Harry Potter and His Dark Materials and has always carried a passion for fiction. However, Hannah transitioned to non-fiction writing when she started her travel website in 2018 and now enjoys sharing travel guides and trying to inspire others to see the world.

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