A Beginner's Guide: How to Start Fishing

A beginner's guide on how to start fishing, including fishing gear, types of tackle, bait, fishing in ponds, lakes, ocean, streams and rivers, types of freshwater fish and steps to simple spinning.

| May/June 1987

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    Though the term sounds imposing (and you'll be hoping your gear does prove terminal to a dinner's worth of fillets), terminal tackle simply means the hooks, sinkers, bobbers and artificial lures that you'll be fastening to the end of your line before you cast in search of fish
    CABELA'S
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    1. With the rod in your hand as shown, hook the line, above the reel, with your finger and pinch it against the rod handle. 2. Open the bail on the reel (the wire ring that keeps the line from coming out). Now, face in the direction you want to cast with the rod in front of you and the sinker (or lure, etc.) just inches below its tip. 3. Lift the rod sharply until the tip is just behind your head. The weight of the sinker will bow the rod and add to the power of the cast. 4. Snap the rod forward to just past vertical (about 1 o'clock on an imaginary watch face). As the sinker starts moving forward, release the line held by your index finger, and the line should uncoil smoothly from the reel.
    MICHAEL SOLURI
  • Beginner fishing in stream
    The spinning reel put range and accuracy within any angler's grasp.
    PHOTO: FOTOLIA/LJUPCO SMOKOVSKI
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    YELLOW PERCH Perca flavescens. Habitat: Ponds, lakes. Bait: Night crawlers, red worms, small minnows.
    KAY HOLMES STAFFORD
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    BASS Micropterus species. Includes largemouth and smallmouth bass.Habitat: Ponds, lakes, rivers. Bait: Night crawlers, red worms, larger minnows, frogs, salamanders, mid-sized artificial lures.
    KAY HOLMES STAFFORD
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    If, however, a while passes with your bobber doing little more than serving as an aircraft carrier for tired dragonflies, reel it in, check the bait to make sure you weren't dozing or distracted when a fish hit and try another spot on the pond.
    KAY HOLMES STAFFORD
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    SUNFISH Lepomis species. Includes the bluegill. Habitat: Ponds, lakes, rivers. Bait: Night crawlers, red worms, small minnows, crickets, small spinners, artificial flies.
    KAY HOLMES STAFFORD
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    2. The Jitterbug is also worked slowly, but waddles its way across the surface. At times, you might simply "pop" the plug in by jerking the rod then waiting till any ripples fade. At other times, a steady retrieve works best.
    KAY HOLMES STAFFORD
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    CATFISH Ictalurus species. Includes the bullheads.Habitat: Ponds, rivers, lakes.Bait: Night crawlers, red worms, minnows, "stink baits."
    KAY HOLMES STAFFORD
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    TROUT Salmo species. Includes brown and rainbow trout.Habitat: Stocked ponds, rivers, streams. Bait: Red worms, small minnows, canned corn, salmon eggs, small artificial lures.
    KAY HOLMES STAFFORD
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    3. Spinners and spoons provide their own action. Vary the depth and speed of the retrieve, and also try letting them "scallop" their way in, in a faster version of the plastic worm retrieve.
    KAY HOLMES STAFFORD
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    1. The classic method of fishing a plastic worm is to walk it along the bottom by raising the rod tip then reeling as it's lowered. Work slowly; try to feel the surface that the worm crawls along.
    KAY HOLMES STAFFORD

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In my young days, I spent far more time staring at red and white bobbers than watching TV when I was being taught how to start fishing. Well, not just bobbers. I also watched the tips of propped-up rods in the white glare of Coleman lamps while bottom-fishing at night. I stared at trolling rods bent with the rhythmic, wobbling pull of a Dardevle spoon. And I followed surface plugs dimpling the skin of evening-smoothed ponds. In short, I kept my eyes on just about anything that involved the pursuit of fish.

I was lucky to grow up guided by a grandfather who had long decades of outdoor living to call upon, and who seemingly couldn't think of anything better to do with his free time than spend it on the water with a fish crazy kid and teach him how to start fishing. Most of what angling skills I have, I picked up more or less by osmosis. A lot of people haven't had that kind of childhood, though, and—especially after moving to the country—find themselves hungry to learn the joys of open-air sport but unable to find a teacher.

There's no way that anything I say will take the place of the patience and love of a grandfather, but here's my best effort at passing on as much basic fishing information as I can call to foggy mind, without making it seem more complicated, or less magical, than it really is. Whether your aim is to catch a panful of small bream for a family meal, or to eventually pursue the more challenging course of trophy fishing, sit back, glass in hand and gleam in eye, and let's talk fishing. (See the fishing diagrams and guide in the image gallery).

A Beginner's Guide: How to Start Fishing

Gearing Up

All sports attract their share of equipment freaks, but, for my money, it's hard to imagine one that befuddles the beginner with a wider range of gimmicks and doodads than fishing. It's possible to buy a separate rod and reel combination for just about any stretch of water that you're ever likely to fish, artificial lures for any possible combination of quarry and water conditions and everything else from self-warming streamside seats to electric hook sharpeners. And, as your pursuit of flashing fins takes you down differing trails, a lot of those things might well become must-haves. For now, though, I'm going to try to set you up with a versatile, do-most-anything rig, without slashing too deeply into your food budget.



The core of your outfit, of course, will be the rod and reel. And, since we're trying to pick out a simple, versatile, more or less foolproof rig, your best bets are probably 1) a bait casting outfit, 2) a spin-casting set or 3) an open-faced spinning reel and matching rod. There are enthusiastic fans of each option, and any of the choices would do the job, but I'm going to go out on a limb and suggest that you buy a medium-sized, open-faced spinning reel (one suitable for line in the sixto 10-pound test range; have the salesperson load it with as much as it will hold when you buy it) and a medium action, six- to seven-foot fiberglass spinning rod. (The action, sometimes called power, should appear on a label somewhere on the rod.) With this rig, a few lures and a selection of hooks and sinkers, which will be described below, you should be able to go for most freshwater fish, in most types of water, and even catch smaller saltwater species.

Though many recommend a closed-faced, or spin-casting, reel for the beginner, I prefer the open-faced because it's simple to operate and, well, open. When the line tangles during a cast (it will), you'll be able to get at that bird's nest without disassembling the reel itself. And, though an open-faced spinning outfit may take a little more practice than the closed-faced variety, I think it ultimately offers more casting distance and control.

Fisher0fMen0914
9/22/2014 8:00:50 PM

I need serious help! I'm taking my kid fishing for the first time. I haven't been fishing since my pre-teen years & my kid has never been fishing. With that being said I have no idea what to buy and I don't know if the water is fresh or salt.


fishingpoleguide
5/29/2013 5:51:04 PM

I really enjoyed reading about all of your beginner fishing tips. I actually have been developing a website that trys to match a fishermen at any level, angler or beginner, to their optimal pole. This guide also goes more in depth to pole lengths, pole materials, and more kind of tricky fishing keywords. If you are looking for a pole that isn't going to cost too much and that matches your skill level and fishing style visit <a title="fishing pole guide" href="http://fishingpoleguide.com/">fishing pole guide</a>


fishingpoleguide
5/29/2013 5:50:14 PM

I really enjoyed reading about all of your beginner fishing tips. I actually have been developing a website that trys to match a fishermen at any level, angler or beginner, to their optimal pole. This guide also goes more in depth to pole lengths, pole materials, and more kind of tricky fishing keywords. If you are looking for a pole that isn't going to cost too much and that matches your skill level and fishing style visit <a title="fishing pole guide" href="http://fishingpoleguide.com/">fishing pole guide</a>







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