Fishing For Beginners: The Basic Gear And Tips To Get You Started
Over the years I’ve had the privilege of teaching a number of people the basics of fishing and start them off on their fishing journey.
So today I wanted to take a moment and share with you a brief introduction to fishing and what you need to do in order to become a successful angler.
In this “Fishing For Beginners” guide, there are several areas I’m going to discuss and go over with you to know exactly how to start fishing. By the end, you’ll know what kind of fishing rod and reel to use, what kind of tackle you should have and other essential fishing gear beginners should have with them.
So let’s get started!
Basic Fishing Gear For Beginners
Here's the breakdown on the different kind of fishing gear you'll need as a beginner. I'll explain what each is and what it does, and you can decide which is the best for you.
Fishing Rod and Reel
Lets start off this beginners fishing guide by first talking about fishing rods and reels, and which types of fishing rods and fishing reels you’ll want to have to get started.
There are so many different kinds of fishing rods, or fishing poles as they’re also called, that are available. Just take a stroll through one of the big stores like Cabelas or even your small local bait and tackle shop. You can quickly become overwhelmed by all the different types of fishing rods that are propped up along the wall and over the isles.
You might see fly rods, ultralight rods, spinning rods, baitcasting rods, surf rods, deep sea fishing rods just to name a few. But let's not get hung up on all those different kinds of fishing rods.
As a beginner, let’s just focus on a few basic types of rods that are going to get you out there and start catching fish right away. The only fishing rods we’re going to focus on at this point in your fishing hobby are the basic spinning rod and surf fishing rods. And you might even find that a fishing rod and reel combo is the easiest way to go. Just keep on reading to learn more about what to look for in a rod and reel.
Between these two kinds of fishing rods, you’ll be set for a very long time and equipped to fish for a wide variety of fish.
Spinning Rod And Reel
A spinning rod is a great fishing pole for beginners. It’s the type of fishing rod you want to use when you’re targeting species of fish that are up to 6 to 7 pounds or smaller. Spinning rods are available in a variety of different lengths, but as a beginner, you should look for a spinning rod that’s 6 feet in length.
A 6 foot long spinning rod is a great size rod to help you learn how to cast and keep control of your fishing line. A rod and reel combo like the 6 foot long Ugly Stik in my opinion is the best fishing rod for beginners. You can find more information about the Ugly Stik fishing rod here.
Please note that this spinning rod can be used in both freshwater and saltwater. But if you use it in saltwater, take the time at the end of the day to thoroughly rinse off the rod and reel with freshwater from the hose. Salt is very corrosive and will damage your fishing gear if you don’t rinse it off.
For more information on how to clean your rod and reel after using it in saltwater, check out my article, How To Clean A Fishing Reel After Saltwater Use.
Spinning rods are equipped with a spinning reel. Spinning reels are open faced reels that hang on the bottom side of the fishing rod. You may see folks who hold their spinning rods with the spinning reel on top. But this is the wrong way to hold it. Allow the reel to hang below the rod.
On the side of the reel is a crank, or a handle. This is how you reel in the fishing line. Most modern spinning reel handles are designed to be attached to the right or the left side of the reel, to accommodate left and right handed anglers.
How To Cast
Learning how to cast a spinning rod and reel is fairly simple. It’ll take some amount of practice to become really good at it. But to get your line out into the water and start fishing, theres only a few steps to follow. These steps are:
- Wrap the fishing line thats coming off the reel around your index finger. I like to rest the line in the first crease of my index finger and hold it up against the rod.
- With your other finger, open the bail. The bail is the round wire-like object that is attached to the spool on the reel. By “flipping the bail” you’re making it so the fishing line can freely release from the spool when you cast.
- While continuing to hold onto the string with your index finger, bring the fishing rod back over your shoulder.
- Now shift the momentum forward by bringing the fishing rod forward up over your shoulder in a fast motion. As it comes forward, release your finger from the line, and the fishing line will cast out into the water.
- To close the bail, you can either start to reel in the line, or you can manually close the bail with your hand.
When it comes to what kind of fishing line to use for beginners, I recommend starting out by keeping it simple and inexpensive.
I recommend for beginners to start by using 6 to 8 pound test monofilament fishing line. There are other types of fishing line available, like fluorocarbon and braided fishing line, but monofilament will be just fine.
Monofilament fishing line like this one here made by Trilene is a great and non-expensive option to get you started fishing without spending a lot of money.
What Do They Mean By ‘Test’?
When anglers talk about how many pound test a line is, what the heck are they talking about? Test is essentially referring to the tensile strength of the fishing line, and how many pounds of pressure it would take to snap the line.
For example, if you’re using an 8 pound test monofilament fishing line, that means it would take at least 8 pounds of weights hanging from the line to snap it. As you can imagine, the smaller the fish you’re after, the lighter the fishing line you’ll need.
Maximum And Minimum Fishing Line Sizes
Now, if you look closely on the side of your reel, you’ll see there's a lot of little numbers and other writings. The information you see there are the specs of that reel. Those specs show you what that specific fishing reel supports. It tells you how strong or how week of a fishing line the reel can support.
The same is true for the fishing rod. If you look closely at the base of the rod, near the handle, you’ll see a series of numbers and words. This information is telling you the size of the rod and what size line the rod can handle. For the most part, most basic 6 foot spinning rods, like the one you’ll be using, will support 6 to 8 pound test fishing line just fine.
Now that you have everything you need to know to find a good spinning rod, let's move on to the next type of fishing rod...the surf fishing rod.
Surf Fishing Rod
A surf fishing rod is basically the same thing as the spinning rod setup that we just talked about, except everything about the surf rod is just larger. The fishing rod itself is longer and the surf fishing reel is much larger. This is because this rod and reel combo can accomodate much stronger, heavier fishing line, and is designed for fish between 6 pounds up to 100 pounds.
The surf fishing rod is a versatile rod and can be used in many different ways. I myself use my surf fishing rod for surf fishing, jetty fishing and even bottom fishing. But you can also use it for larger freshwater fish like carp fishing, catfish and even salmon.
Casting a surf rod is almost identical to how you cast the smaller spinning rod. The only difference is that you’ll be casting heavier tackle with heavier line all in the hope of catching heavier fish.
Surf Rod, Reel And Line Size
The length of surf rod that’s good for beginners is a rod that’s between 7 to 10 feet long. The surf reel should be large enough to support fishing line that’s 10 to 17 pound test line. Again, you can use just inexpensive monofilament line. And I suggest using 14 pound monofilament for your first surf fishing rod and reel setup.
For More information on surf fishing rod and reel combos, take a look at my article, The Best Surf Fishing Rod And Reel Combo For The Money.
Drag is another term you’ll hear anglers talk about quite a bit. So what is drag? Drag is how hard the fish has to pull on the fishing line to release more line from the reel, without flipping the bail.
Drag is very important for many fish out there because some fish can pull very hard on the line, even small fish. And the harder they pull on the line, the closer they get to the maximum test of the fishing line. And if the drag is not set correctly, there is the possibility of the fish snapping the line.
We don’t want that to happen! So we always want to keep a close eye on the drag setting, to make it a little easier for those strong fish to take line from our reel.
How To Set The Drag
Most spinning reels have a knob on the top of the spool that you can either turn clockwise or counterclockwise. To tighten the drag, simply turn the knob to the right. To loosen the drag, or make it easier for fish to take line, simply turn the knob to the left.
To see how tight or how loose the drag is on your reel, you can just grab the line near the base of the fishing pole and pull on it. I always like to begin my day by setting the drag so I have to pull with some effort for line to come off the ree. If line comes off too easy, it may be difficult to set the hook and reel the fish in.
Don’t get too caught up on this. Over time you’ll learn exactly how to correctly set the right drag settings.
Now let’s spend a little time talking about fishing tackle. Again, there’s a million different kinds of fishing tackle available, and you can easily become overwhelmed. But the good news is that it doesn’t have to be complicated at all. You can keep it simple, use basic fishing tackle and still catch a lot of fish. So here’s the basic fishing tackle for beginners.
Standard Fishing Hook
The first thing here is the standard fishing hook. Fishing hooks come in a wide variety of styles and sizes. Fish hook sizes are based off of a numbering system. The smallest fish hooks start at #32 and work their way up in size as the numbers go down all the way to #1. After #1, hook sizes become 1/0 which is a very large hook. Then 2/0 and 4/0 and 6/0 which progressively get larger and larger. These hook sizes continue all the way up to 16/0.
Next is the treble hook. The treble hook has a little bit different design than other types of fishing hooks. Treble hooks are basically three hooks in one. So there are three points that the fish can get caught on instead of just the one.
Treble hooks are easier to hook fish with, but you don’t get as deep of a hook set as you would using a single point standard fishing hook.
Pre snelled hooks are are hooks that come in a package and are already tied with a short leader line. The leader line has a loop on one end which makes it very easy to attach to a swivel.
Next is a slider. What a slider does is exactly what it’s name implies. It ‘slides’ on your fishing line. The fishing line runs through the body of the slider and the leader to your hook attaches to the snap on the slider.
When the fish pulls on your hook, the fish won’t feel the tension from the weight thats at the other end of your line. This is good, because often times a fish will spit out the hook if it feels tension from the line.
What a slider does is allow you, the angler to feel the fish bite the bait, but the fish is unable to feel the line.
Round Fishing Weights
Next on the list is the basic round fishing weight. Round weights are commonly used in lakes or in streams and rivers if the water is moving very slowly. If the water is moving a bit faster, then you would use more weight to keep the line on the bottom. And if the water is shallow and slow moving water you would use a lighter round weight.
Pyramid weights are used for primarily is for muddy bottoms or fishing in rivers where the water's moving fast. How these work is the point of the pyramid weight sticks into the mud and keeps it on the bottom and from moving downstream.
Snap swivels are a critical piece of fishing tackle in my tackle box. Snap swivels not only prevent your line from twisting, but also make changing hooks and lures a breeze.
Your fishing line ties onto the closed loop end of the snap swivel. On the other end, you see a snap, which opens and closes much like a safety pin. On that end of the swivel you can attach your pre snelled hook. Just unsnap the swivel, put the loop in, and snap the swivel shut.
All you need for bobbers to get started fishing is the traditional plastic round bobber. What the fishing bobber does is it keeps your bait up off the bottom of the lake or river. It does this by attaching to your line and floating on the surface of the water. When a fish bites, you can see the bobber move or even be pulled down below the surface.
To attach a bobber, you just push the top down to expose the little hook on the other side of the bobber. Place your line under the hook. Then on the other end push the bottom hook out and place your line in that hook. Now the bobber should be secured to your fishing line and should not easily move up and down the line.
Now we’re going to move on to some of the basic tools every fisherman should bring along with them on their fishing trip. You may not think you need some of these items, but once you’re out there fishing, you’ll quickly understand why I have them on the ‘must have’ list of fishing tools.
Needle Nosed Pliers
One of the most important things that every fisherman needs is a good pair of needle-nose pliers. The reason you should have a pair of needle nosed pliers in your tackle box is because a lot of the times the fish will swallow the hook. What I mean by this is, the fish takes the hook too deep into its mouth. And when the hook is so far down the fish’s throat, you simply can't reach in there with your fingers to remove the hook.
So a needle nose pliers can really come in handy and save the day. They are long enough and narrow enough to get in there and remove the hook safely from the fish’s mouth.
A fishing net is not necessarily a required item to have, as you can still catch fish without one. But by having a fishing net as part of the list of gear you take with you, you’ll greatly increase your odds of landing the fish. .
Make sure you get a good quality net that’s large enough to handle the type of fish you plan on catching. One of the things you can do that many other anglers do, is to mark a ruler on the handle of the net. That way you can easily check the length of the fish you catch, even while its still in the net.
Make sure that you have a good quality knife with you. And make sure the knife you have is sharp! There are countless uses for a knife on a fishing trip, but some of the main uses for the kife are cutting fishing line, cutting bait and cleaning fish. A knife will always come in handy while fishing.
A tape measure is another tool you’re going to want to just keep in your tackle box or with your fishing gear. A tape measure will come in handy because chances are, the type of fish you're fishing for has regulations on what size of fish you can keep. For example, currently in Oregon where I live and do a lot of jetty fishing, you can only keep Ling Cod that are 24 inches or longer. I’ve had to pull out my tape measure countless times to make sure the Lings I caught were over that 24 inch mark.
So you definitely want to have a tape measure as part of your basic fishing gear. The last thing anyone wants is unnecessary attention from the local game warden. Fines for keeping undersized fish are not cheap! Wouldn’t you rather spend that money on a good fishing reel? Me too.
Not comfortable reading one? Here's a great article that teaches you how to read a tape measure.
Fingernail clippers are extremely handy because you can quickly clip or cut fishing line while your tying lures or other tackle. When I was a kid, I used to always “bite” off the extra fishing line, and let me tell you, that is such a bad idea. It’s so bad for your teeth.
Now they make clippers especially for anglers. These are so nice because they come attached to a lanyard that you can just throw around your neck. That way your clipper is readily accesible at any time. This is definitely a MUST HAVE!
Fish Stringer Or Bucket
You always want to have a bucket or a Stringer with you to keep your fish in. At the least, take along a bag to put your fish in if you plan on keeping them. This keep your fish up off the ground and out of the dirt and grass. The last thing you want is your fish lying on the ground in the dirt where birds and other animals can grab it from you. And believe me, that will happen!
Rag Or Hand Towel
The final recommendation I have for your collection of basic fishing gear for beginners is to take an old rag or hand towel with you. You’re going to be handling bait and fish and your hands are going to get dirty, smelly and slimy. Having a towel close by will ensure that you always have something to clean the bait or fish slime off your hands.
So that concludes my list of recommeded basic fishing gear for beginners. Now you're ready to get started and get out there fishing. Now the final thing you need to do is decide where you want to go fishing and what kind of fish you’re going to try and catch. Start there, then buy the correct size tackle that best suits that size of fish.
You’ll also want to do some kind of research and find out what exactly that type of fish likes to feed on. Once you find that out, you can select the proper kind of bait for that fish. Find out if it’s a bottom feeder fish or a top feeder fish. A quick search on Google will quickly answer that for you.
Finally, try to invite an experienced angler to tag along with you. Spending time with another fisherman is probably the best way to learn how to fish if you’re a beginner.
Good luck! And report back with how you do!