So you want to go fishing…awesome! Let’s go over the main things you will need to go fishing so that you can take to the water with some basic gear to help you succeed.
You Can’t Fish Without These 3 Things
Here are the 3 most essential items you need to even say that you’re fishing. Without these things, you might as well be bird watching. Every angler must at least have a line, a hook, and something for bait.
The most common fishing line is monofilament. Other popular materials are braid (we recommend braid), fluorocarbon, and steel or leadcore wire. For the purposes of this article, we won’t go into detail about each kind of fishing line. Lines come in different strengths, measured by “pound test” (abbreviated lb. on the package). Start simple. If you want to go fishing, pickup some 6-10 pound test monofilament (aka mono) fishing line and move on to your next item.
You need something at the end of your line that actually hooks the fish so you can fight it and bring it in. The most basic fishing setup would be a single hook that you connect some live bait (worm or minnow) to. We’ll pretend we’re going bluegill fishing from shore at a local lake, and we just got some 8lb mono. Now we need about a size 2 to 6 hook (I won’t get into hook sizes in this article). Get a pack of Aberdeen or just some regular bait-holder hooks.
You need some bait on your hook, otherwise your setup so far is just litter in the water. Worms and minnows are the most popular live baits for fishing. It’s also a great idea to use artificial lures. For now, we’ll keep it simple and assume we’re going to catch bluegills on a hook and worm setup. Buy a dozen night crawlers (aka “crawlers”). Pinch about 1.5-2” off and thread it onto the hook. Good to go!
With a line, hooks, and bait, you have everything you NEED to catch fish. You can tie your line to a stick and bring it in hand over hand, but here are several more items for fishing that will make your experience more enjoyable (and a little less primitive). Read on…
Basic Fishing Gear
We’re bluegill fishing so get yourself an Ugly Stick from Walmart. You need anything in the 5 to 7’ range. The ideal panfish rod is a little 4.5’ or 5’ ultralight spinning rod, but any medium to light action spincast or spinning rod will work. Want to protect your rod with a rod butt cushion that should keep it afloat if it goes overboard? Have a look at our Cush-it.
If you’re just starting out, keep it simple with the best reel for beginner anglers and buy a spincast rod and reel combo at Walmart, Bass Pro, or your preferred outdoor retailer. Ugly Stik is my preferred brand. Most of your better sporting goods stores will even spool the line on your reel for you!
Your rod and reel combo is what will let you cast out your line away from shore (or boat), and retrieve it back to you. Practice casting, and in no time you’ll have it dialed in and be putting your bait wherever you want it.
Other Essential Fishing Gear for Beginners
Sinkers are little pieces of lead or tungsten that provide weight to get your bait down in the water quicker. They’re cast in shapes that allow you to pinch them onto the line. We’re bluegill fishing now, so just pinch one or 2 small split shot sinkers on your line about a foot to 2’ above the hook.
A bobber is a float that attaches to your fishing line and helps you see when you have a bite. When the fish hits, your bobber goes underwater so you know to set the hook and wind-in. Bobbers either clamp on to the line or you slip the line through a hole that runs the length of it and use a stop above it (called a slip bobber). For simplicity, get the clip-on bobber and clamp it about 2-4 feet above your sinkers. With bait on your hook, cast it out and you’re fishing!!
When tying your hooks to your line, there will be a tag leftover. Nail clippers work great for trimming extra line or when you need to switch lures.
A net is only necessary when you start catching larger fish, but this is something to keep in mind as you gain experience and your quarry gain size. Worried about dropping your net overboard and having it sink? Check out the Ultra float.
Any old 5 gallon bucket will serve you well on a fishing trip. It stores gear, provides a seat, and can be filled with water to act as a temporary live well for your fish!
Walk in any fishing section of a sporting goods store, and you will be overwhelmed with choices in artificial (fake) baits. They’re popular for a reason…artificial baits catch fish too! Learn why artificial lures can be safer for the fish here. In general, artificial lures either imitate a minnow (small fish) or worm. There are also artificial baits for crustaceans (crayfish, shrimp), amphibians (frongs, salamanders), and insects (think fly fishing!). Beginners, think about trying a good ‘ol rubber worm like a Senko worm. Rubber, weedless frogs work great too. For minnow baits, think about a basic swim bait or Rapala (aka crankbait).
As the fishing gear (aka fishing tackle) you buy grows in number and kind, buy yourself a tackle box to store your fishing gear in. There are literally a ga-gillion sizes, shapes, and kinds, but start simple and small. As your passion grows, so will your tackle collection. Eventually, you hand your old stuff down to the next beginner and upgrade your own.
Fishing is so fun! Don’t let all the gear out there intimidate you. Keep it simple and remember these basic gear essentials are all that’s needed to catch fish.