Fishing is more than tossing tempting bait into the water. It’s those hours of shared memories with your fishing buddies. It’s that moment around dawn when the fog lifts off the water and the sun peeks through the trees and perhaps a loon calls. It’s the thrill of the hunt, 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 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; you would be denying yourself much of the joy of the sport. 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 expense is rather slight; and of course, being dealnews, we grabbed a few selections at lowest-we-could-find prices to get your started.
Here’s a list of the basics to consider:
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 tangles in the line, or “bird’s nests,” 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, such as the Zebco’s Gold Spincasting Combo.
Price: $29.88 + $8.95 s&h, $5 off.
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, like the Plano 1001 Tackle Box.
Price: $8.49 + $5.50 s&h, a price low by $2
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, so it’s not a tragedy when you, inevitably, lose some. 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, waiting for a strike. A few 1” bobbers will serve your purpose well.
Price: Six for $1.50 + $3.95 s&h, a low by $1
Pliers: Needle nose pliers are preferable, as they'll help you remove hooks from the mouths of fish you catch. They're also handy to undo crimp sinkers from your line. This pair of Cabela’s Advanced Anglers Aluminum Pliers will do the trick.
Price: $19.99 + $5.95 s&h, $10 off
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 irrevocably lost. Don’t make the situation even more frustrating by failing to keep extra line in your kit. Line comes in varying strengths, but this 330-yard Stren 10 lb. Monofilament should be a match for any freshwater lunker you’re liable to encounter.
Price: $7.99 + free shipping, a low by $4
Swivels: Swivels are attached to your line before the lure, so that 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. (Fish are capricious and will sometimes ignore the most lifelike baits, then strike at something not remotely resembling food. The most common question in fishing is “What are they hitting on?”)
Worms: Plastic worms are a less icky alternative to live bait. Dealnews recently reported that Rapala, a lure manufacturer, is offering a free sample of this kind of bait if you sign up for its newsletter.
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, so 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, to aid in your self-promotional goals.
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.
A Mentor: Lastly, pack along an experienced angler who can show you the ropes. Where and when you fish are just as important factors to consider as selecting the components for your tackle box — and successful fishermen don't lightly share this hard-earned knowledge.
And of course, don’t forget a few of these general outdoor necessities: Sunscreen, bug spray, dry matches, and a pocketknife. (There are few outdoor activities that couldn’t benefit from having a trusty pocketknife at hand.)
An old Babylonian proverb says "The gods do not deduct from man's allotted span the hours spent in fishing," perhaps because of the serenity that can settle upon an angler in a particularly peaceful spot. And those minutes spent contesting a worthy catch are times to savor.
Photo credit: Swift Benjamin via Flickr