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A Hillbilly's Simple Guide For Gearing Up the Inexperienced Fisherman
Fishing is one of the most popular activities in Unites States culture. From relaxing fishing trips to professionals on TV fishing is a big part of life for many people in our country. For many its simply and enjoyable way to bond with family members or friends. Unfortunately, because fishing is such a manly man sport there are a lot of would be experts and people claiming to know all of the secrets. Sporting and retail stores have shelves upon shelves of various gear for fishing. For some less experienced would be fisherman it can be a little daunting to find simple advice to set them on the right path for a simple enjoyable fishing experience.
The first and most important thing is to disregard ego. By this I mean don't let people get in your head with their glorious tales of how they caught hundreds of fish or how they caught the biggest fish in the world. There are a lot more tales of giant catches than their have been giant catches I assure you. I can also assure you that it doesn't matter how big of a fish you caught, there will always be someone to regale you with their tales about how they are a better fisherman than you. Yawn. Also, if you go with others don't let it become a competition. There are a few things a person can do to make fishing more favorable to them, but essentially it still all comes down to luck. Realistically, all you are doing is dropping bait in the water and hopping that a fish happens by and thinks it looks tasty. Just because the guy next to you caught more fish than you doesn't mean he's actually a better fisher than you and/or that you are less of a person.
Fishing is supposed to be fun. Just try to make it is relaxing and fun is possible. Even if you don't catch a single fish you should still have a better time then if you had been at work or numerous other places. If that isn't the case for you, you may be taking it way too seriously or going about it all wrong.
Choosing your weapon
Finding the right rod and reel isn't all that difficult. When I was a kid I kind of had the mindset that adults I saw fishing had a better idea of what was going on than me. As I got older I realized that this wasn't always the case. Many people that don't fish a lot don't really know what kind of gear to use, and I've seen many people using the wrong kinds of poles for the wrong kinds of fish. I've seen people using ten foot polls for catching pan fish, and little short four foot poles for catfish. It's probably because they never had anyone tell them the difference and haven't had the experience to find out for themselves.
I've used several of these Ugly Stiks and they are very good fishing poles.
If this is going to be your regular all purpose fishing pole then I recommend a length of five to six foot. I recommend this because you don't want your all purpose rod to be too short or too long. The shorter and more slender your rod is the better your chances of feeling the gentle bites of fish, especially if they are small. On the flip side the longer your pole is the more room for bending it has. This is important if you hook a big fish. You can't simply just jerk them in or you will break your line. You have to slowly work a big fish in, and the more pole they have to bend the more tired they will become, and the less likely they are to simply snap the line. Five to six foot is in my opinion a nice middle ground, and you will notice that most of the poles on the shelf match this criteria. The small slender poles you see are meant for fishing small fish such as perch, and the super long thick poles are meant for big fish such as catfish.
If you are not an experienced fisherman the simplest reel to use is a closed faced reel such as a Zebco 33. There seems to be some mindset that “Real” fisherman use open faced reels, but if you meet any actual “Reel” fisherman they will most likely agree with me that for all intents and purposes either reel is fine. It's simply just a matter of preference. Growing up I was raised on closed face reels, and when I was a teen a friend taught me how to use an open face. I went through a phase where I was getting the open faced reels after that, but today I am equally comfortable and happy with either and own several of both styles. However, going forward as I buy new reels I can't ever see myself buying anything other than a Zebco 33 reel. The Zebco 33 reel has over 40 million sells since its release in 1954, and is still the most commonly known reel with a reputation for being more than adequate, reliable, and durable. I tend to be kind of rough on my equipment, and through the years I have had to replace many broken or lost rod and reels. The Zebco 33 reels are the only reels that have ever fully functioned for me personally for over five years. Now thats my personal experience, and I am in no way saying that there isn't better options out there, but the Zebco 33 has always been the best in my experience. I actually still have one today that I have used regularly for close to ten years.
If you visit your local retail or sporting goods store you will notice that many fishing rods come with reels on them. If this is your first pole buying a combination set is probably the way to go. Many stores carry rod and reel combos between $10 - $20 dollars that will work just fine. If you want something a little more durable, such as the Zebco 33 mentioned above, you can pick up a good quality set from a well known company for $20 - $30. If you take better care of your equipment than me, the combo set may last you for years.
Finding the Magic Bait
Unfortunately, there is no magic bait. Picking the right bait is a simple matter of knowing what you are fishing for and where. I would in no way consider myself an expert fisherman, but I have caught a lot of fish in my life and picking the right bait is that simple. If you know what the fish likes to eat and/or is common to the area you are fishing, you simply pick a bait that corresponds. If a fish has lived in a pond its entire life primarily eating worms, bugs, or other fish, then it is more likely to go for one of those options than something they aren't used to like a crawdad. If you are bass fishing in a rocky creek where you can see lots of crawdads in the water, well then a live crawdad or lure that looks like a crawdad will likely be a wise choice.
In my experience live bait is always your best bet. If you are just looking to have a good time and catch a few fish use live bait, then leave mastering the fake baits to the professional tournament fishers. I have fished a lot and am adequate at fishing with fake bait and lures, however if I have an opportunity I will almost always pick up some worms or minnows before I go fishing. Earth Worms AKA Night Crawlers are a great fall back. Most areas that have places to fish nearby sell them at low prices. It also isn't too difficult to find some in the wild. Bass, Panfish, and catfish will all happily go after a worm. I'm not saying that worms are always the best bait, but in my experience they are never the worst choice.
Lures and fake baits are also good to have around if you don't have any live bait available. The problem with fake baits is that there are so many styles, colors, and brands to choose from that it is mind numbing. The good thing is that most of them aren't overly expensive so you can pick up a handful of different options fairly cheap. Again, if you know what kind of fish you are after and/or what they normally eat then try to grab fake baits to correspond. Since it's not always possible to have this knowledge before hand just try to get a wide variety that seem simple to use and try them. If you try one thing for a while and don't have any luck, try something else. There is a certain amount of skill required with fake baits and they don't all work the same way. Don't be afraid to try to experiment a little to figure them out.
For Advice on Setting Up a Tackle Box
- A Hillbilly's Simple Guide to Gearing Up a Tackle Box
My hub about what you need to build your tackle box collection
Choosing a Tackle box and Filling it With the Junk You Need
Really any cheap tackle box should do you just fine, but if you feel like going all out there are a lot of interesting choices out there. You will also want to get some basic items to put in there such as whatever fake baits you pick out, hooks, sinkers, bobbers, pliers, a knife or finger nail clippers, and a stringer to name a few essentials. Building a tackle box can be a daunting task in its own. For assistance in setting up a tackle box see my other article about that very topic coming in the very near future.
Don't Forget to Buy Your Fishing License
I always recommend buying a fishing license and being sure to follow the guidelines and regulations of the state you are fishing in. The small price you pay for the license is insubstantial to the to high price you will pay for the ticket you will get for fishing without one. Always follow the rules, especially about the number of fish you are allowed to keep. Those rules aren't in place to be mean. They are in place to ensure the healthy survival of the species so that we can all enjoy fishing for years to come.
Now Go Catch the Big One!
I am not a professional or master fisherman, but it is an activity that I enjoy partaking in. Hopefully this simple guide will help you on the path to also enjoying this simple inexpensive way to enjoy nature and life.
Godspeed and have fun! Now go catch that big one!