So, a friend of mine (let’s call him Pete) was recently talking to me about fishing. Unlike me he didn’t grow up around the water (he didn’t actually see the ocean with his own eyes until he was 19) and after we talked about my most recent trip, he simply said, “What do I need to start fishing”? He then continued – “I don’t want all the fancy stuff, I just want a simple set up to get started”.
You see after listening to us all relentlessly talk about the stuff we buy to feed our hobbies, he was concerned that he was going to be up for a fortune’s worth of complicated equipment. We assured him that despite all of our carry on, fishing is inherently a simple pastime.
We will discuss what we helped him purchase below, but for those of you in the same boat, let’s have a look at what you can look at in terms of getting yourself set up for some general fishing fun.
What are we looking at?
I think the reason for Pete’s confusion with our discussions above is that we fish in so many different areas that we like to vary our equipment depending on where we are going. And whilst this can include fishing in the surf, on a kayak, in the river/estuary or even in a freshwater lake, we can still find a setup that will account for most environments for the beginner.
So, for the purpose of this post, we will run through a good, cost effective setup for general fishing. This means that although it might not be totally fit for purpose for each fishing type or location, there are few areas for a beginner that it will not work. So let’s run through it all now…
I know I just finished talking about how we will be focusing on general fishing options however before you purchase, it is definitely worthwhile just thinking about where you plan to do your fishing. We will of course keep it simple, but there are still some variations to consider such as:
Saltwater vs Freshwater – I must admit that this one often confuses me as apart from extra rust causing issues with salt, there really isn’t much difference between the two. I bought a ‘freshwater’ reel in the U.S. about 5 years ago and it is my favourite go-to in the kayak on saltwater. I would recommend one rated for saltwater regardless however.
Water type – As we discussed above, when it comes to fishing, different locations can require different setups. For example, we tend to use a longer rod on the beach so we can cast a little further and a shorter one of a kayak for ease of use. Hence, it can be of assistance to have an idea on what type of water you will be in. That way you can maybe go a longer or shorter rod depending on that location.
Fish species – Every fisherman (myself included) will tell you that certain fish like certain bait and are best caught on certain hooks. And even though I have seen fish caught on just about every bait type you can think of, it definitely helps to know what you are chasing so that you can best match your tackle and bait. So again, just do some research and find out what the most common species are where you will be wetting your line.
What do I need?
Ok, let’s get into it. Below are my recommendations for those looking to get started with a setup for general fishing use…
Rod and Reel Combo
Obviously, if you are going to fish you are going to need a fishing pole. For beginners, I highly recommend purchasing your rod and reel as a combo. This is solely due to the fact that:
- They are generally cheaper as a combo
- The rod and reel are usually matched to work together
As you look at your combos however, consider the following:
When it comes to fishing reels for beginners, there are three main things to look at. These are:
Let’s start with composition:
In general, fishing rods are made from one of three main materials, Fiberglass, Graphite and Carbon Fibre with qualities as follows:
- Fiberglass – Very strong and durable with very little maintenance required (rinse off after fishing is generally all that is needed).
- Graphite – Graphite rods are generally more rigid with higher power ratings (see below) however tend to have greater sensitivity than their fiberglass cousins.
- Glass Tip – Glass Tips or ‘Hybrid’ rods are made from a combination of graphite and fiberglass. These are designed to give the best of both worlds with extra strength of the graphite rod added to the sensitivity of the glass tip.
- Carbon Fibre – This is a newer compound in fishing rods being more rigid than the fiberglass/ composite rods but also lighter. These types are becoming more and more popular for all levels of experience due to their toughness and versatility.
I don’t personally have a preference here although if you want to pay the extra, a carbon fiber rod will be nice and light.
Then we get to length:
When it comes to a general fishing rod, it is definitely not a case of the longer the better. Long rods can be cumbersome – especially if you are not used to them whilst short rods may not give you the casting length you may need. So, depending on your location and casting requirements (remember we discussed this earlier), I recommend that you can choose from the following lengths:
- 5 – 6 foot – Not great for longer casting but can generally handle heavier sinker weights etc. I would probably avoid this length to begin with.
- 6 – 7 foot – These are a good middle of the road rod – especially if you want to use it on a river bank or off a jetty etc. These allow for longer casting whilst maintaining some accuracy.
- 7 – 8 foot – These can work well if you are going to be drifting or trolling with a lure or need that extra casting distance for surf use etc.
- 8 foot plus – Here you are getting into the surf fishing lengths – great for longer casting in the surf however not great for general river, jetty or estuary fishing. And definitely no good on a kayak.
My tip here would be to stick to the 7 – 8 foot length for general fishing.
And finally, Power:
In simple terms, the power rating is a measure of how ‘bendy’ the rod is. Light power rods bend with little force and heavy need a lot of pressure to bend. So, in short:
- Light – very bendy – even whippy – will bend a lot with even the smallest fish. I like these for a bit of fun however for beginners it is easy to get the bottom confused with bites.
- Medium – needs a bit more pressure to bend – In general, this is a good measure for a general fishing rod and my suggestion for all round use.
- Heavy – takes a lot to make it bend – I would only recommend these in areas where the current is quite strong or you want to use particularly heavy sinkers etc.
There are other influences here such as handle construction or whether the rod is one or two pieces. Again, as long as you are looking at a decent rod, then everything else will be fine.
Again, when it comes to reels, there are a lot of variation however in an effort to keep things a little simpler, I would be looking at the following:
- Line Capacity
As for the type, for beginners there is really only the one to look at which is a spinning reel. Also known as ‘open face’ or ‘eggbeaters’, these reel types wind the line onto a front spool which is held on by a ‘bail’. Line is wound in via a handle on the side which is ratioed to bring the line in faster than the handle is turned.
Note: The other main type is the baitcaster. These are the ones that sit on top of the rod rather than underneath like the spinners and a little harder to use. They require a lot more setup, tangle easily and are definitely not as fun to use for beginners.
Now we look at the composition:
In general, spinning reels suitable for general use are made from a corrosion-resistant metal, carbon fiber and/or aluminum body with variations of the following:
- Bearings – As with a car wheel, the spinning mechanisms inside a spinning fishing reel generally incorporate ball bearings for smoother operation. From my experience, most come with between 3 and 10 and I was always told that the more you can get for the price, the better.
- Rotation – One advantage of a spinning fishing reel is the winding rotation. This is usually set anywhere for 3:1 up to 6 or 7:1 (often listed as 6.0:1 etc.) This simply means that for every time the user turns the handle a full rotation, the spool holding the line has actually turned 3, 4, 5, 6 or 7 times meaning less winding for faster line retrieval.
- Drag – The drag of a fishing reel is its ability to release a little bit of line when a fish strikes or is being pulled in. This is in place to reduce the chances of a bigger fish snapping the line as it fights. As with anything, the more you pay for a reel, the better the drag system should be however regardless, if the reel you are looking at doesn’t have a drag system on it – put it down.
- Casing: This is the part of the reel that contains the springs, levers, gear cogs etc. that make much of the stuff above work. For a basic combo, avoid any reel that doesn’t have this all housed in a sealed, waterproof casing. These are low maintenance and the components will not rust.
- Anti reverse switch – These are usually found in the underbelly of the reel and simply put, will stop the reel going backwards. Some like to reel in reverse to let line out slowly but don’t want this to happen with the rod is in a holder.
- Line holder – This is the little tab on the side of the reel housing that holds the end of the fishing line if it is not rigged up. These are not often thought of when a reel is purchased but something that is really missed if it is not there.
- Interchangeable winder – There are not many that don’t do this these days however this is the ability to swap the winder handle around to allow for left or right-handed use.
As I mentioned above, in many cases the reel is matched to the rod so in a combo you generally get what you get, however if you have a couple to choose from, then go for one with more ball bearings and an all encompassing casing.
And finally, there is line capacity. Line capacity is the line size and strength that the reel can handle. There is a simple way to work this all out which is via the first number you see on the reel description.
You see a fishing reel may be rated as a ’20’ or a ‘2000’. If this is the case, the ‘2’ is the common denominator and what you match the line to (this is not an exact science but it works for me). So, then all you need to do is match the line kilogram/pound strength to the spool.
For a beginner, look for something around the 2000 – 4000 range. This will work well with the rod length we have discussed above and handle most species types.
Another advantage of purchasing a rod and reel combo is that they usually come spooled with fishing line. If not, or you want to go with something of a little better quality, I have put together a table below to help you match your line to your reel (I have not included all sizes here but you can see that generally, the lower suggested mono line weight matches the first number of the reel size):
|Reel Size||Suggested Mono||Suggested Braid||Suggested Rod Length*|
|10 or 1000||1- 2 kg/2 – 4 lb||4 – 8 lb||6-7 ft (line rating 1-4kg)|
|20 or 2000||2- 3 kg/4 – 6 lb||5 – 10 lb||6-7 ft (line rating 2-5kg)|
|25 or 2500||2.5- 4 kg/5 – 8 lb||5 – 12 lb||6-7 ft (line rating 2-5kg)|
|40 or 4000||4- 6 kg/8 – 12 lb||8 – 12 lb||8-10 ft (line rating 3-10kg)|
|60 or 6000||6- 8 kg/12 – 16 lb||12 – 30 lb||8-10 ft (line rating 4-10kg)|
Note: I generally don’t like to impose rules when it comes to fishing but here is one – do not spool your reel with line that is too big for its size. You will have nothing but tangles trust me.
There are two types of line that you can purchase – braid and mono:
- Monofilament – often just referred to as ‘mono’ is the traditional type that most think of when it comes to fishing line. Mono is generally cheap to purchase and will work well on spinning reels. It has a bit more flexibility and ‘stretch’ than braid and is much easier to use in terms of tying knots and casting etc. Perfect for beginners.
- Braid – braid is generally stronger and thinner than mono line of the same strength with great abrasion resistance, no stretch and more accurate casting capabilities. It is however much harder to work with than mono (you need to attach mono leaders etc. to start with).
Stick to a reel matching mono until you get the hang of casting and tying knots etc. then move to braid after that.
Now, this one is a bit more difficult to give an exact recommendation on as the tackle you use can vary greatly dependent upon the species that you are chasing. My advice here is to go back to your research on the types of fish that are found in the area that you plan to fish in and go from there.
For example, in one of the estuaries where I fish we chase a species called a Bream. The current is not too bad there so I use a size 2 ball sinker, a small size 2 swivel and a size 2 ‘bait holder’ hook. That gives me enough sinker weight to allow the bait to hit the bottom and the hook is a good size for these fish.
- 4 x hooks – sizes 1/0 up to 4/0 – I would recommend bait holder for beginners however some fish are better caught with long shaft ‘worm’ hooks so you may want to substitute them as well.
- 2 x swivels – sizes 2 and 3
- 2 x sinkers – sizes 1 and 2 – you can put more than one on at a time if need be.
These are the basics for general fishing, however, again, if your fishing grounds calls for something different you may need to add:
- Lures – fish specific
- Floats – if you are chasing surface fish
- Really small hooks – if needed
You should also carry some extra line as well
As above – as long as you have a range of hooks, some swivels and sinkers as a base, you should be ok in most environments.
When it comes to working with fishing line, tackle and even fish, there is no substitute for a good set of tools. For beginners, the following can be of great assistance when fishing::
- Knife: Used to cut line, bait or even fish.
- Long nose Pliers: Pliers can be used to grab the mouth of the fish if you catch a particular spiky or toothy species. More commonly they are used to remove hooks from fish, cut hooks and sinkers if need be (most have a wire cutter type blade on them) or even repair equipment. It is also helpful if they have scissors attached to them as well as they make rigging tackle easier. If not, add scissors to this list too.
- Cutting board: A cutting board is a godsend if you are trying to cut up bait or fillet fish – a pastime that is not as easy if you are doing it on the sand.
- Ruler: Any fishing expedition can often throw up a number of different species types with different legal limits – fines for undersized fish can be steep so add a ruler to your tool list as well.
Look, all of the above is good but at the very least, make sure you have a knife and a set of long nose pliers (take them from your toolbox if need be). Trust me, you will definitely notice it if these two are not in your tackle box.
As you do your research into the best types of bait for each fish species, you will notice that everyone has a different opinion of what works. When it comes to bait, I would stick to the following two rules:
- Use local bait if possible – Fish eat it naturally so they will more likely take it on a hook as well.
- Go to a local bait shop – In most cases, the local bait shop will sell bait that is good for local conditions. If in doubt, ask the shop keeper or a local.
Go with fresh local bait if you can. That said, I have seen most fish take most baits in my time so as long as it is suitable, then it should work. Hint – get two types – often one type will work and the other not – one of life’s great conundrums…
Ok, so all of the above will get you out on the water and amongst the big ones without too much trouble. There are however some other things you may want/need to get depending on where you are fishing. These are generally not a ‘mandatory’ requirement (except for option 1) but can make life a little more pleasant whilst you are out there.
Here they are:
- Fishing license – In many states, counties or jurisdictions you will need a fishing license before you hit the water. Check your local authorities for information.
- Sun protection – Hat, sunglasses, sunscreen and protective clothing
- Bucket – to put your fish/bait/rubbish in
- Rod holder – sometimes if the fish aren’t biting regularly you might just want to sit the rod in a rod holder
- Towel – another thing in the “trust me – you need this” category. After all, fishing is a wet experience
- Chair – why stand when you can sit – a good fold out chair will usually work here
What did Pete get?
So, based on our discussions – there were a few of us and beer was involved so it took a while – we sent Pete down for the following:
- Length: 7 ft
- Power: Light/Medium
- Composition – he got a 2-piece graphite model
- Size: 3500
- Bearings: 7 + 1
- Ratio: 5.2:1
- Composition: Stainless Steel, Aluminum and plastic handle
- Drag: front of spool
- Anti-reverse switch
This combo is easy to use and will handle most conditions that Pete would encounter around where we live. He has taken it down with us a couple of times and caught fish with the tackle I outlined above. He has also stacked his tackle box as per above with a knife, pliers and cutting board (I think hey came as a kit).
And there it is – my answer to the question – What Do I Need To Start Fishing. I hope it has been helpful and as usual, please let me know how you go.
Also, please do not hesitate to comment below if you have any differences of opinion, questions, concerns, corrections or would like me to check anything else out for you.
Until next time