It’s true that fishing is mostly about patience and practice, but a solid understanding of the basic equipment helps a lot. In this guide, I’m going to go over every piece of equipment that you’ll need, and I’ll explain what situations that each piece will excel in.
The type of rod that you use determines the types of reels and lures you can use. Different styles are meant for different types of fishing, and each type can only accept certain types of reels.
The next two sections are going to go over the two main styles of fishing rods, and they’ll go over the different sub-categories that each style can fall into.
Casting And Spinning
The most important part of your rod is whether or not it’s meant for casting or spinning. Each type has its own advantages and disadvantages, and each type has its own place on the rod rack of any fisherman.
Casting rods are meant to cast lures very far distances, and they use reels that aid them in doing that. Casting reels have their mounting systems facing towards the user, and they can only accommodate spincast and baitcasting reels. I suggest using casting rods for larger baits that you’ll be pulling in and out of the water very quickly.
Spinning rods have their mounting systems facing away from the user, and they can only accept spinning reels. Spinning rods are great for throwing small baits and rigs, and they’re a lot easier to use than casting rods that are outfitted with baitcasting reels. I suggest using spinning rods to teach children how to use a real fishing rod, and advanced fishermen should use spinning rods to throw their smaller lures.
The power rating of a rod references the thickness of a rod’s taper. If the rod is thicker, it’s more powerful, but it’s also less sensitive. Rods are rated as ultra-light, light, medium-light, medium, medium-heavy, heavy, and ultra-heavy. Some custom rod makers make rods that are even sturdier than ultra-heavy, but they feel a lot like fishing with a broomstick, and I recommend that you stick to the standard rod ratings.
In general, it’s best not to use a rod that’s too powerful for the type of fish that is being targeted. I recommend that fishermen only use rods that are powerful enough for their application, but not strong enough to rip the target fish clear out of the water. Doing so removes all of the sport from fishing, and it’s not fair to the animals being captured.
The lighter rods are meant for catching smaller fish. They’re highly sensitive. So, they can pick up the light bites of small fish very easily. However, they’ll snap under a lot of pressure.
Medium rods are great choices for general use. They’re strong enough to catch big fish, and they’re sensitive enough to catch small fish. Most of the rods that big box stores sell are medium rods.
Heavy rods are meant for heavy-duty jobs. These are the type of rods that are used to catch trophy catfish, and they’re also great for pulling bass out of thick beds of weeds. They’re not very sensitive, but they work well for fish that bite extremely hard.
Reels are some of the most important pieces of gear that a fisherman can use, and I highly suggest buying one that is high-quality. Fishermen can get away with buying cheap baits and line, but a cheap reel will burn out the second a great catch latches onto it.
Spinning And Casting
As I mentioned in the section for rods in this article, the reel that you use is dependent on the rod that you use. If there’s a way to properly use a casting reel with a spinning rod, I haven’t heard of it.
Spinning reels are obviously used with spinning rods. In fact, they’re the only reels that will work on spinning rods. A spinning reel is simply a spool of line with a bail that locks the line. They’re great for throwing small baits, and they can handle medium-sized baits pretty well. They can cast relatively far in the right hands, but they do take some practice to make them cast across entire ponds.
Casting reels come in two varieties. The amateur version is the common spincast reel. Spincast reels are technologically similar to spinning reels, but they have a cone-shaped cover to keep them from getting tangled, and they release fishing line with the push of a button. They don’t have a lot of drag weight, and most models are poorly made. I only recommend that children use these. If an adult wants to use a spincast, I suggest buying a Daiwa GoldCast or similarly well-built model.
Baitcasting reels are the advanced version of casting reels. They require a lot of practice, and they can be annoying to use. New fishermen will probably burn through hundreds of yards of fishing line before finally casting a baitcasting reel properly. However, they offer way more power than any other type of reel, and they’re perfect for tackling big fish.
Combos are a good way to get into fishing, but most advanced fishermen will prefer to buy their rod and reel separately. A combo is simply a complete rod that you buy at a big box store. The rods themselves can be extremely useful. Abu Garcia has several combo deals on the market. However, the reel is often cheap, and it usually needs to be replaced once the buyer starts getting better at fishing.
Overall, I only recommend that beginners buy combos. They can be cost effective, but the reels are usually pure garbage. $20 more can often buy the same rod with an exponentially better reel. The parts just have to bought separately, and the reels usually aren’t filled with line.
There are many different kinds of fishing line available, but the majority of brands fall into one of three categories. In this section, I’m going to describe each category, and I’m going to give my opinion on when it’s best to use each one.
Mono line is the most common type of line in the world. It’s the stuff that usually comes spooled on combo deals, and it’s an effective line for most applications.
I suggest using mono line in most situations. It’s cheap, durable, and efficient. However, the other two categories of fishing line are exponentially better for specialized uses.
Braided line is extremely strong, and it is resistant to kinking. It’s the perfect line to use in thick weeds, and it works well for catfish that dive deep into the rocks, too.
However, braided line is prone to fraying. It has to be replaced immediately when it frays. It’s also very expensive, and it’s thick. It’s not possible to spool a lot of braided line onto most spools, and it isn’t cheap to do so when it is possible. For that reason, I only suggest using braided line for situations that demand a lot of strength.
Flourocarbon fishing line is extremely strong, but it won’t seem like that in use. The slightest mistake can cause the line to break, and it’s more expensive than mono line. However, it’s nearly invisible to the naked eye. That makes it perfect for catching finicky fish.
I feel that a good set of fishing pliers is a necessity. They make it very easy to remove hooks from deep within gullet of a fish, and they’re more humane than jamming your own hands in there.
Fishing pliers often have non-slip grips for obvious reasons, and their tips are usually curved to make hook removal easier. I highly recommend buying a decent pair to practice fishing in a humane and safe manner.
There are far too many types of lures for me to list here, but I can cover the main categories.
The type of bait that is best for a situation is dependent on several factors. The time of day, time of year, and type of fish being targeted all affect how well a lure will work.
Top water lures tend to replicate creatures that swim or glide across the water’s surface. That can be frogs, crickets, dragonflies, or other surface dwellers. These lures are best used when fish are very active. That means that they’re best during the early morning and late evening, and they’re best during spawning seasons.
Swimbaits are artificial fish. They’re great during the majority of seasons, and they come in a vast array of patterns and designs. It’s best to fish these with varying retrieves, and it may be necessary to consistently switch what swimbait is on the end of a line.
Soft plastics are exactly what they sound like. They’re cheap lures that are molded from flexible plastic. The most common examples are Zoom worms and Crappie King grubs. These require the use of a worm hook most of the time, but they’re very cheap, and they can catch fish all of the time. They take a bit of practice to use properly, but these are what I would recommend to any novice fisherman.
Baits are used for a more passive type of fishing. They’re the type of bait that you tie on, throw in, and watch for a while. There are two types of real baits.
Live baits include any living creature that is put onto a fish hook and cast into the water. This includes worms, minnows, live bluegill, and other popular live baits. These require special rigs to keep them in one spot, but they’re easy to acquire. They can be purchased, or they can be caught at a fishing spot.
Most states have laws against taking live bait from one body of water for use in another, though. So, I always recommend that live baits be used in the same body of water that they were caught in.
It’s fairly obvious what dead baits are. They’re the same thing as live baits, but they’re already dead. These are great for catching scavengers, and they’re a lot easier to control in the water, but they rely entirely on smell and appearance to catch fish. They don’t have any action to attract fish via vibration.
Formulated baits include stink bait, carp pellets, and other types of baits that are only available in stores. These aren’t natural, and a lot of brands don’t work any better than natural baits. They’re also fairly expensive, but they last a lot longer than natural baits. These are mostly used for catfish and carp, but there are a few specialty baits that can be bought for other species.
Hooks are constantly evolving in the fishing world. The purpose of a hook is to penetrate the jaw of a fish, and hold it as it’s reeled in. That’s about the only thing that stays the same with fishing hooks.
The most basic types of hooks are worm hooks, bait hooks, and circle hooks. Worm hooks are used exclusively for plastic lures, and they’re not hard to find. They’re shaped to hold a soft lure a way that catches the lip of a fish when it bites down, but they can be rigged to prevent getting snagged in foliage.
Bait hooks are the most common types of hooks. They’re typically j-shaped, and they almost always have a series of barbs along their shank. The barbs aren’t to help catch fish. They’re there to hold worms and other live baits on the hook. There are many different types of bait hooks, but all of the differences are minor. The only exceptions to that are treble hooks. Treble hooks combine three bait hooks for a higher chance of catching a fish. ‘
Circle hooks are almost exclusively used for catfish. They’re the only type of hook that removes the need to jerk the rod. When a fish swallows a circle hook, it’ll eventually try to swim off. The hook is designed to slip out of the throat of a fish, but it snags along the corner of its mouth when it turns.
Swivels are used to give rigs and lures more movement. They’re attached to the end of a fishing line, and tackle is attached to them. They can usually rotate a full 360 degrees, and they’re most useful for catfish rigs and a few types of lures. It’s important not to use swivels on every lure possible. They can throw off the action of a lure, and that greatly lowers the lure’s chance of attracting a fish.
Sinkers are rarely used with lures, but they’re a necessity for fishing with natural baits. The only time that sinkers should be used with lures is when a bullet weight or dropshot weight is used to increase the speed of a lure’s descent.
For natural baits and formulated baits, there are a wide variety of lead weights, and they all have the same purpose. They’re meant to drag a piece of bait to a certain depth, and hold it there until a fish eats it.
The most basic form of a sinker is the splitshot. Splitshots are small weights that are simply pinched onto a fishing line. From there, there are bullet weights, dropshots, pyramids, eggs, bank weights, and countless other designs. Sinkers can weigh as little as a fraction of an ounce, or they can way a few pounds. Which one you should use is dependent on the type of fishing you’re doing.
Bobbers are only used for fishing with natural baits. It’s difficult to feel the bite of a fish that passively eats a natural bait. So, a bobber is commonly used to detect those light bites. The bobber floats on the surface of the water, and it sinks when a fish bites.
Bobbers come in a wide variety of styles, but they all do the same thing. Wider bobbers are better for unsteady waters, but they’re less sensitive than other styles. Stick bobbers are extremely sensitive, but harsh waves and strong winds will blow them around to the point that they’re not accurate. There are also bobbers that combine the traits of both basic styles.
Fish finders are typically for boat fishermen. They’re electronic devices that pinpoint the general location of fish. These can be fairly expensive, but boat owners will definitely want to splurge on a good one.
There are also a few types of fish finders that can be used from the shore. These are attached to the end of a fishing line, and they’re cast like a normal lure. However, they pick up where fish are, and they send images to the user’s cellphone. These are extremely expensive, and I only recommend them to advanced fishermen. Novices have no business casting a $100 ball into the middle of a lake.
As you can see, there are many types of fishing gear, and each type has countless variations. It would be impossible for me to cover every piece of tackle in a single article, but this covers all of the basics, and it includes a few advanced pieces of equipment. I suggest that you practice frequently with any piece of equipment that you use, but understanding the different pieces will put you at an advantage over other fishermen.