Fishing is more than tossing bait into the water. It's those hours of shared memories with your fishing buddies, the thrill of the hunt, and the satisfaction of putting hard-earned food on the table.
If you've ever wanted to try your hand at angling, there's nothing stopping you except acquiring the right equipment. Sure, you could start with an old cane pole, some line, a hook, a bobber, and a worm, but that's so limiting! Why not spend a little more and put together a basic fishing kit that will serve you well in most freshwater fishing conditions?
For all the joy the hobby provides, the startup expense is rather minor. Read on for our list of all the fishing basics to consider.
Assemble Your First Freshwater Tackle Box
Rod and Reel: A novice fisherman's kit starts with the rod and reel. Reels come in a proliferation of styles, but for the beginner (and for many experienced anglers, as well) the spincast type is a great choice. The line is enclosed in a housing, and comes streaming out when you press a button as you cast the line. This type of reel is great for avoiding a tangle in the line — or "bird's nest" — which can be frustrating and time-consuming to straighten out.
Rather than try to match a reel to the appropriate rod (of which there are a dizzying array), consider buying both rod and reel as a set.
Tackle Box: For your first tackle box, there's no need to burden yourself with luggage the size of a sea chest. A simple one-tray box with a good latch will do the trick.
Hooks: An essential when fishing with live bait (worms, minnows, and the like) or imitations (plastic worms, for example), hooks come in a wide variety of sizes. The lower the number, the larger the hook, unless the size is followed by /0; a 4/0 is larger than a 3/0. Look for an assortment of hooks, sizes 6 to 2/0 or so.
Sinkers: These metal weights are used to carry your bait down to the depths where fish are lurking. There are sinkers that tie onto your line, but split shot sinkers — which are crimped onto your line with pliers — are easier to use and less expensive. Once made of lead, sinkers are now available in benign metals like tin.
Bobbers: These are attached to your line to suspend your bait at the right depth. Bobbers float (hence the name), and only the length of line beyond where you attach it will dangle below the surface of the water.
Pliers: Needle-nose pliers are preferable, as they'll help you remove hooks from the mouths of caught fish. They're also handy to undo crimp sinkers from your line.
Fingernail Clippers: These make cutting your line a snap. Also, don't underestimate the value of smart grooming!
Fishing Line: There will come a time when you'll snag your line on a submerged log, and it will be lost. Don’t make the situation even more frustrating by failing to keep extra line in your kit, preferably in varying strengths.
Swivels: Swivels are attached to your line before the lure, so the lure spins without twisting your fishing line.
Jigs: Feather Jigs are colorful lures attached to the shank of a hook; when dragged through the water, they can look very enticing.
Worms: Plastic worms are a less icky alternative to live bait.
Hook Hone: A hook hone will help you keep your hooks sharp, which in turns means you'll (hopefully) catch more fish.
Polarized Sunglasses: If the water is clear, a pair of polarized lenses will cut through the glare from the surface and help you see what's going on below.
Fillet Knife: Cleaning a fish can be tricky business if you don't have the proper tools. Invest in a fillet knife if you ever want to actually eat the fish you've diligently worked to catch.
I.D. Guide: How can you brag about your conquests if you have no idea what type of fish is dangling from your line? Your state's local department of natural resources will likely offer a fish identification guide.
License: Don't spoil your therapeutic day of fishing by being caught without a license. Carry it with you at all times to avoid a fine.
Outdoor Necessities: General items like sunscreen, bug spray, dry matches, and a pocketknife can save your fishing trip.
One More Thing
A Mentor: Always bring along an experienced angler who can show you the ropes. Knowing where and when to fish just as important as selecting the components of your tackle box — and successful fishermen don't lightly share this hard-earned knowledge.
An old Babylonian proverb says "The gods do not deduct from man's allotted span the hours spent in fishing," and we couldn't agree more. Readers, did we leave anything out of our tackle box? Do you have any tips for first-time anglers? Share them in the comments below!