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How to pick out your first fishing pole

Updated on December 4, 2010

Fresh or Salt?

First thing we need to know is if you are fishing freshwater, saltwater, or both. Saltwater will damage your fishing gear (and everything else). Reels that are made for saltwater fishing will have a better seal around the bearings and other moving parts to help keep the salt out. So if you plan on fishing in saltwater, even a little, make sure it mentions extra sealing/protection on the packaging. Using freshwater gear in saltwater wont necessarily damage it immediately, but it will start to corrode and eventually stop working. Every time you are done fishing in saltwater, spray down your poles and reels with a hose to get the salt out or your gear will corrode away.

Bait-caster Reel
Bait-caster Reel
Spinning Reel
Spinning Reel

Which Reel to Buy?

There are many shapes and sizes to fishing reels. Most can be put under two main types: bait-caster and spinner (spin cast). If your just getting into fishing, I would not get the bait-caster. Bait-casters are hard to learn and aggravate the **** out of you, even after you know how to use it. The spinning reel is very easy to use and great for any kind of fishing. Bait-casters are usually best for monster sized fish.

Once you know what kind you want, you need to know the size that matches the fish you plan to go after. If you live down here in Central Florida, you are probably looking for either Bass in the freshwater, or redfish and seatrout in the saltwater. You could use the same rod/reel for all of those. For large mouth bass, crappie, redfish, seatrout, pan fish, catfish, and a variety inshore saltwater fish, I would use a reel that is made for 10 or 12 pound line. Usually, the reel is marked somewhere with the amount of line it will hold. For example it may say: "Line capacity: 12lbs - 170 yards, 16lbs - 100 yards". We can assume this reel is meant to hold 12 and 16 pound line.

  • 4 pound line - small pan fish, crappie
  • 8 - 12 pound line - bass, redfish, trout, catfish (small), any fish under 20 pounds
  • 30 + pounds - big catfish, big redfish, small shark, mackerel, grouper, snapper, etc
  • 100 pounds - swordfish, marlin, big sharks, sailfish, etc

Which pole to get?

I never spend too much time looking for a fishing pole. I usually go straight to the "Ugly Stick". The Shakespeare Ugly Stick is a brand that's been around for a while. They make a very strong pole in all sizes so I don't bother with shopping around. I figure out how long of a pole I want and then find the Ugly Stick that matches. For an all-around-pole, a 6 foot 6 inch, medium action pole is great. If you're fishing off a boat, over a wreck, in the saltwater, you're gonna want a heavy action pole to fight those kinds of fish. If you're fishing for little pan fish next to the dock, a light action pole is best here, especially if your a kid just learning how to fish.

The pole's length will determine how far you can cast with it. A long pole can cast real far compared to a short pole. Usually, if you're casting from shore, you want a long pole to get out farther. If you're on a boat, then a shorter pole will do since you can go where you want to.

There are two different kinds of guides on poles (the holes the line goes through). One type of guide is made for bait-casting reels. They should all be close to the same size. The other type is for the spinning reel. The guide closest to the reel is much larger than the one near the tip of the pole.

  • light action - pan fish, crappie
  • medium action - bass, redfish, trout, small catfish, small sharks, any fish under 20 pounds
  • heavy action - big catfish, medium sharks, grouper, snapper, etc
  • Extra heavy - swordfish, marlin, big sharks, sailfish, etc

Which kind of line?

10 pound line does not mean it can catch a 10 pound fish. It means it wont break under ten pounds of pressure. A ten pound fish is weightless in water. The amount of pressure from a fish pulling on the line is what we are worried about. A ten pound line can pull in a 50 pound fish if you are skilled enough.

If you bought a rod and reel combo, the you may already have line on the reel. This line is probably not that great and may be easy for the fish to see or break. Buying new line is suggested.

There are three basic types of lines: monofilament, fluorocarbon, and braided. Mono is the most popular and the cheapest. It is mostly invisible and stretches a little which helps avoid it from breaking. Fluoro is more invisible than mono, but does not stretch. It also is harder to break than mono, and more expensive. Braided is the strongest and is not invisible at all. It is also more expensive than mono. I usually use mono with about two or three feet of fluoro at the end, so the fish wont see it (leader line). If I'm fishing for bigger fish in saltwater, I use braided with a strong fluoro leader.

  • 4 pound line - small pan fish, crappie
  • 8 - 12 pound line - bass, redfish, trout, catfish (small), any fish under 20 pounds
  • 30 + pounds - big catfish, big redfish, small shark, mackerel, grouper, snapper, etc
  • 100 pounds - swordfish, marlin, big sharks, sailfish, etc

If you don't know what to get, just buy the mono line to start off with. Ten pound strength is usually what I get.

My favorite pole:

My favorite pole is my favorite because I can fish for just about anything with it. It is medium sized everything. The pole is 6 feet 6 inches long medium action Ugly Stick with a Shakespeare Dimension Reel meant for 4 pound to 8 pound line. I put 10 pound mono line on it even though it's a little big for the reel. I spent about $20 on the rod, $40 on the reel and the line was pretty cheap. With this rod,I've caught big bass, big crappie, big redfish, big carp, and big turtles, oops. I hate catching turtles. I can use it for any kind of fishing. I do have several other poles with different sized rod and reels, but this is my favorite.

Feel free to put anything I left out here:

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    • BestSpinningReels profile image

      Patrick Morrow 

      4 years ago from Minnesota, USA

      Great article for beginners! Only part I do not agree with is the reels. You did not mention spin cast reels at all, when actually they are best choice for beginner. Because Spin cast reels are cheap and have simple build.

    • risandoval profile image


      4 years ago from Orange County, California

      Great Article.

    • geokhris profile image


      4 years ago from Stanislaus County

      Good stuff!!

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      I'm in central florida. new to fishing. thanks for the help


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