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Considerations for Buying Fishing Equipment

Updated on January 2, 2015

Where to Start

If you're new to fishing, you'll quickly find that there is an ocean of products out there that you can swim through. However, not everything is worth it's weight in power bait or will you every use. So before you take that trip to the tackle store and get hooked on useless equipment take some time and reel in these 5 quick considerations. (See what I did there!!)

Where are You at and Where are You Going?

First, stop and think about your geographic location, the waterways near you and the type of fishing you plan on or what to do. For example, if you are located near, or are planning to fish, local ponds for fish like panfish, bass, or small catfish. You don't need heavy tackle or surf fishing rods.

Conversely, if you are planning on surf fishing or going out on a boat to fish in a bay or ocean, you will probably want to avoid light tackle or featherweight rods. Knowing what you want to do and where you are going if crucial to starting your equipment list.

2. Know your Skill Level

We all want to think we are the next Roland Martin or Brad Pitt in the 'River Runs Through It' but be honest with yourself. Like many things in life, fishing looks easier then it is. There is technique to a good cast and depending on the reel type you use, the technique is even more challenging. If you've never picked up a rod and reel, you'll want to start simple. If you used to fish but its been a while, or if when you fished you spent most of your time in tree branches and over head power lines you may want to start simple.

Reel Types from Simple to Use to Difficult:

  1. Push Button - This is the simple type that many of us as kids used. Push and hold the button, release in the direction you want the line to go and then begin reeling. It is simple yes, but it is simple too. A good starter reel for any age to get the motion of casting down.
  2. Spinning Reel - This has a thin metal bale that the fishing line is fed under. Flipping the bale and holding the line prepares the cast. As you go through the casting motion let the string go in the direction you want it to go. Most newer versions have a automatic bale flipper that flips the bale back to the proper position once you begin reeling.
  3. Bait Casting Reel - This may look similar and function slightly similar to a push button reel. But it isn't. These are generally much more expensive and are more challenging to operate. The challenge is not in casting but in preventing tangles in the line as you cast. This is a finesse reel and works great but requires practice.
  4. Flyfishing reel - Ok, so this is completely different from the rest and is arguably easier, as a reel, to use. However, the proper casting motion is a thing of art and beauty. It takes time to learn and is wholly unique to what is now considered conventional fishing.

3. Determine Your Price Range

If you were going car shopping you would have a budget in mind. You wouldn't go to the Porsche dealership when all you could afford is a used Ford Focus. Surprisingly to many, fishing equipment can be the same. You could spend less than $100 USD for a basic flyfishing set up or pay well over $1000 USD for a nice flyfishing rod alone. Be careful to avoid having champagne tastes on a moonshine budget.

4. Research Your Prey

This could fall under the first point but it is important enough to consider alone. Each species or group of fish have their own tendencies and gear. You can spend hours and days researching just bass, or just panfish or just walleye or just tuna. You can spend truck loads of money on each as well. And while some gear will work for several species the generally are better suited for one group of fish. For example, I have caught bass, bluegill, perch and pike on a split back minnow even though that particular lure is more for bass.

Before you go in and buy every type of lure listed take some time and home in on the gear that is best suited for the type of fish you want to fish for. This will keep you from junking up your box with rattletraps meant for pike when your are aiming to catch crappies.

This concept is a bit different if you plan on using live bait. However, you will still need to consider mouth size and typical habitat of your target fish. For example, if you are fishing for panfish you will want a small bait hook. However, if you are fishing for pike you will want a larger hook and a perhaps a steel leader. Furthermore, some fish, like catfish, rarely leave the bottom of the waterway. If you plan on buying and fishing with bobbers you may be completely out of luck.

5. Sometimes Less is More

If you've walked down the lure isle you will have already noticed the plethora of colors shapes and sizes of the lures available (this goes for every aspect of gear from rods to line to vest). It is the beauty of a competitive market. It can, however, be overwhelming at times. Should I buy the 6" chartreuse worm with wigglers, the 8" red shad worm without, or the 7" Tequila Sunrise? This doesn't even address scent and flavor infused baits. And while variety can be the spice of life, lean and mean is often the best way here. Otherwise you could spend hundreds of dollars on tackle boxes alone to house all the varieties of lures.

Instead, buy a basic array. Want to fish with plastic baits? Buy two colors of lizards, worms and grubs. Chances are you'll catch fish on them the first day out but you won't be worried about changing your lure every 3 casts because the fish might be hitting on purple instead of red and blue. It will also allow you to experiment with a smaller set of variables.

Keep in mind that on any given day it could be feast or famine when you fish and what worked Monday may not even get a nibble Tuesday.

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