Do you want to learn how to start fishing?
Maybe you’ve only fished once in your life. Or maybe you’ve never been fishing at all.
Well, let me tell you fishing may seem difficult on first glance. There’s tackle, and bait, and about a million different pieces of fishing gear on the market.
Want to know the secret?
Fishing is simple and doesn't need to be complex.
To start fishing you need a pole, fishing line, hooks, and some bait. That's it.
Fishing can really be that simple. However, I’m going to cover a few more pieces of information that will get you started catching fish like a pro!
So if you're ready to start catching fish all you have to do is read on...
Types of Fishing
Before going fishing you need to decide what type of fishing you intend to do. Do you want to sit on a bank pulling in delicious Crappie or Bluegill? Perhaps you want to go out on a frozen Wisconsin lake, cut through 2 feet of ice and attempt to fish for Pike or Sturgeon. Or maybe wading in a secluded Colorado or Montana stream fly fishing for trout is more your style.
No matter the type of fishing you intend to do. Having the right gear can mean coming home with a bucket full of fish or coming home empty-handed.
For traditional fishing, a fishing rod and reel setup from Walmart, some basic tackle and a container of worms is all you need to start fishing. This setup will get you catching Bluegill and other varieties of sunfish no problem.
If fishing a local freshwater stream doesn’t thrill you, perhaps the world's oceans and bays will be more your style.
Fishing in saltwater will require stouter gear than your basic Walmart setup above. You’ll likely be catching much larger fish than bass or trout. Getting a sturdy rod and a reel that holds large quantities of fishing line is a must when fishing the depths of the ocean.
If you’re looking for a way to fish that really puts you in touch with nature, you need to give fly fishing a try!
Fly fishing requires special gear and more advanced tactics than traditional or saltwater fishing. To start fly fishing you will need a fly rod and fly reel, fly backing and of course your flies. Just like any other type of fishing you will need to match your gear to the type of fish you intend to catch. In the case of fly fishing, Trout is the most common.
If fly fishing is something you’re interested in be sure to check out our getting started fly fishing guide.
If you’re lucky enough to live in a place where the lakes freeze over, ice fishing may be worth a try. Traditionally, fishing thought of as a summer activity but there are no rules that say you can’t fish in the winter. Ice fishing is a popular activity in the northern states such as Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan
You can use your traditional spinning gear but you’ll want a short rod since you’ll be fishing through a small hole in the ice. You will also need to bring an ice auger to cut through the ice.
Fishing Equipment and Tackle
Get a Fishing License
The first thing you need to do if you want to fish is getting a license. In the United States, you need a fishing license in order to fish in public waters. This can be obtained easily enough by going online to your states DNR (Department of Natural Resources) and purchasing a fishing license.
You may also check your local outdoor stores, big box stores such as Bass Pro Shops or even Walmart. Once you have your fishing license make sure to keep it on your person at all times while fishing. I have been stopped by park rangers who asked to see my fishing license.
Not having a fishing license can result in hefty fines, the confiscation of all of your fishing equipment, and even being barred from obtaining a fishing license. So make sure you have one!
Once you have your fishing license and you’re legal you will need to select your equipment. One of the best ways to select equipment is to think about what type of fish you will be trying to catch
Fishing line comes in multiple materials and strengths. Each material has its own set of pros and con.
The three main types of fishing line include monofilament, braid, and fluorocarbon.
Monofilament line is the most popular type of fishing line. It’s also widely available at most places that sell fishing gear. The three main characteristics of monofilament include strength noted as pound test, diameter, and stretch.
Pound test is a term that describes at what pressure the line will break. Pound test also determines the diameter of the line. For instance, a 6-pound test will take 6 pounds of pressure to break and is a thinner line than a 12 or 20-pound test.
If you will be fishing for panfish, trout, or small bass monofilament is a great choice. It’s also typically cheaper than other line types making it great for the beginning angler.
Braided line is as its name implies is strands of material woven together to make the line. Braided line is a popular choice among bass anglers.
Thanks to advances in modern technology braided line does not stretch, has great tensile strength, is abrasion resistant, and offers very small diameters relative to the pound test. Making it a higher quality line than monofilament.
However, that quality comes with a higher price tag, and braided line is not without its drawbacks. For instance, braided is more visible in the water as opposed to monofilament, it is more susceptible to wind knots, and can dig into itself when you set a hook.
The last line type is fluorocarbon. Fluorocarbon is similar to monofilament and is kind of an intermediary between monofilament and braid. With fluorocarbon line, you get less stretch than you do with monofilament but more than you would with braided line.
Fluorocarbon line is also less visible than monofilament due to it being water resistant and not absorbing water like mono can. While fluorocarbon is also more abrasion resistant and sensitive than mono it has also a few drawbacks.
The first drawback you will find with fluorocarbon is that it sinks. Monofilament is more buoyant and will float better but fluorocarbon will sink. This makes it less than ideal for topwater baits.
Fluorocarbon is also less manageable because it is more rigid than monofilament. Even still it has gained a lot of popularity and a lot of anglers have chosen to use it.
Now that you know a little about fishing line we’re going to talk about the fishing rod itself. For a list of quality fishing rods check out our post on the best fishing rods.
Every rod will have its recommended line weight, lure weight, action, and length written right on the rod. The two main features that you will need to be concerned with when picking out a fishing rod is the action and the length.
Fishing Rod Action
The action refers to how much the rod bends of flexes. The faster a rod’s action the greater the overall sensitivity will be. Fast action rods will allow you to sense even the smallest bites but they lack the backbone to land larger fish.
Slower action rods are more stout and can be used to land larger fish but lack the sensitivity of their faster counterparts. A medium speed rod is great for beginners because it gives the rod some backbone while still be sensitive.
Fishing Rod Length
The length of the rod you choose will ultimately be determined by where you will be fishing. If you’ll be fishing from a boat out in the open longer rods are great. They will also allow you cast longer distances.
However, if you will be fishing from the shore like most of us you may want to go with a smaller rod. 5 and a half feet to 6 inches is a good rod length. Also when trying out fishing rods in the store be sure to pick one that fits well in your hand.
The Ugly Stik GX2 in a medium action is a great fishing rod for beginners that will last you a long time.
Different Types of Fishing Reels
The last part of your fishing outfit is the reel. Fishing reels, like fishing rods, will list their recommended line weight and how much line will fit on the reel. You want to pay special attention to this so that you don’t overload the fishing reel.
Fishing reels come in two flavors either spinning reels or baitcasting reels. It should be noted that spincast reels exist as well and they are great for beginners and children.
But for simplicity's sake, we will be covering the two most common types of reels you will be likely to come across.
Spinning reels are great for beginners because of how simple they are to use. Simply flip the bail, put a finger on the line, cast, and close the bail, and retrieve the line. Easy peasy.
Spinning reels are a great choice for lighter lures and baits. This is because there is no drag on the line. The distance of the cast is ultimately determined by how hard you cast. They’re also nice because you don’t have to worry about backlash.
Baitcasting reels are on the other end of the spectrum. These reels are excellent for precision casting heavier lures like jigs, topwater baits, and crankbaits. However, these reels also come with a steep learning curve.
When casting with a baitcaster you must feather the line coming off the spool with your thumb. If you fail to do it correctly you’ll end up with a backlash or bird’s nest of fishing line.
Baitcasters have their place but for beginners, it is best to stick with a simple spinning reel. You can find a list of quality spinning reels in our guide to the best spinning reels.
One other piece of information I would like to mention about fishing reels. You must choose a rod that supports your reel. Casting rods and spinning rods are set up differently and you cannot place a spinning reel on a casting rod and vice versa.
Fly reels differ greatly from traditional spinning reels. Because casting is done differently with fly fishing you’ll find that fly reels don’t affect casting the way a spinning reel would.
However, fly reels are still important to fly fishing. You need a reel that is rated to your fly rod as well as the reel being large enough to hold the backing plus line. For more information on Fly reels, you can read our fly fishing guide.
Hooks, Sinkers, and Bobbers
The rest of the tackle you will need are hooks, sinkers, and bobbers. You don’t need to pay much attention to these. Just choose a few hooks, some sinkers, and a few basic bobbers. I will cover various fishing rigs in a later section.
One thing to note about hooks is the size should be relative to the size of fish you are trying to catch. You can catch a large fish on a small hook but you can’t catch a small fish on a large hook.
Aside from basic tackle, there are a few different tools you should also keep with you when going fishing.
A good multi-tool - I typically recommend a multi-tool over basic needle nose pliers because multi-tools provide you more options than just pliers. The scissors on my multi-tool probably get used just as much as the pliers when I'm fishing.
A great budget multi-tool to pick up is the Leatherman Wingman. It will do everything you need it to and more.
Fishing net - To safely land a fish a net should be used. Especially if you will be fishing for larger fish such as Pike or Muskie.
First aid kit - Not really a tool but it’s something you should carry. When fishing you will be working with sharp hooks and handling fish can cause your hands to become slippery. Slippery hands and sharp objects such as hooks or knives don’t mix well.
Filet Knife - If you are planning to keep your catch you will want to clean them as soon as possible. A filet knife makes this super simple. Make sure to bring a cooler to put your filets in if you are planning to keep what you catch.
The Morakniv Fishing Filet Knife is an excellent choice to add to your fishing gear.
Once you have all of your fishing gear you need to know how to set it up. A basic rod and reel setup is fairly simple and straightforward.
Setup Your Reel
The first thing you need to do is set up your reel. This means placing the line on the reel. You can have the tackle shop do this for you when you buy your fishing gear. However, if you bought it from someplace like Wal-Mart that may not be an option.
To put line on your fishing reel follow these basic steps.
- Open the bail. The bail is the metal arm on the reel that flips up and down. Up is open and down is closed.
- Attach the line to the reel with an arbor knot. Click here to see how to tie an arbor knot.
- Put the spool of line on the floor with the label facing up. Spinning reels require that the line is spooled on the reel the same way it comes off the spool.
- With your free hand use your thumb and index finger to apply light pressure to the line as you turn the handle. By applying pressure you will ensure that the line goes on evenly and smoothly preventing tangles later on.
- Fill the spool with line until it’s roughly a ⅛ of an inch from the rim. The rim is the lip at the top of the spool.
Two Basic Fishing Knots
Once you have your line spooled correctly you will need to know a few knots to secure your tackle to the line. The two most basic fishing knots are the improved clinch knot and the Palomar knot.
Rather than try to explain how to tie each knot I have provided short videos on how to tie each knot
How To Tie A Palomar Knot
How To Tie The Improved Clinch Knot
After you have learned to tie the two basic knots above you can start setting up a few basic fishing rigs. A fishing rig is simply how the tackle is arranged on the fishing line. For beginners, there are two basic fishing rigs you should know. The basic bobber rig and the sliding sinker rig.
Basic Bobber Rig
The basic bobber rig is the best use for still fishing. Still fishing is an easy way to get started fishing as it can be done from anywhere including the bank or pier. A basic bobber rig allows you to fish the bottom or with your bait suspended above the bottom.
To set up a basic bobber rig follow the steps outlined in this video
Sliding Sinker Rig
A sliding sinker rig is great for drift fishing. Drift fishing is where you let your line drift with the wind of your boat. You can fish the bottom with this rig or change the depth with a float or bobber.
To set up a sliding sinker rig follow the steps in this video.
An Introduction To Fishing Baits and Lures
After you have your rig setup you will need to choose your bait. Bait is largely dependant on the species of fish you will be fishing for and the environment you will be fishing in.
Nightcrawlers and red wigglers are probably the most common types of natural baits but there are a variety of insects and other small creatures you can use as bait. Minnows work great for various fish as do sunfish for larger species of fish such as bass or pike.
You may also choose to use frogs, newts, grasshoppers, or crickets. I have used all different types of natural baits. When using natural baits it is best to choose baits that occur in the area you are fishing. However, night crawlers are a tried and true method.
There are 7 different types of artificial baits. I will cover each type briefly. For beginner anglers, I recommend going with natural baits but if you’re feeling up the challenge try picking up a few artificial baits and giving them a try.
Jigs - Possibly the most versatile bait. A jig has a weighted lead head and can be dressed (has a tail or a skirt) with a number of materials including hair, feathers, soft plastic grubs, and other baits. If you’re just wanting to catch fish a jig is a good choice.
Spinners - If you’re fishing in murky or stained water a spinner is an excellent choice. Spinners work by using a metal shaft with a spinning blade to create sound and vibration as it moves through the water.
Fish pick up on these vibrations and sounds using their lateral line (a series of sense organs that detect pressure and vibration)
Spoons - Spoons are a curved piece of metal and in fact, the first spoons were just that. Spoons with the handle broken off. These lures work by moving in a side to side wobble.
The action created by the spoon simulates a wounded fish. Something larger game fish are fond of because a wounded fish is an easy meal.
Soft Plastics - Soft plastics are molded plastic that is created to design natural forage for fish. Soft plastics come in all sorts of shapes, sizes, color, and even scents.
Along with natural forage baits you also have creature baits that don’t resemble anything you would find in nature. The shapes of these lures are designed to give the angler a better shot at setting the hook before the fish spits out the bait.
Plugs - Plugs are hollow, plastic, or wood that is made to resemble baitfish, frogs, crayfish, and other prey. Plugs usually are equipped with a treble hook and sometimes more than one.
These lures are designed to be fished at varying depths allowing you to fish the top, middle, or bottom of the water column. Baits such as crankbaits, jerk baits, poppers, surface plugs, and floating or diving plugs are all types of plugs.
Spinnerbaits - Spinnerbaits are basically the lovechild of spinners and jigs. These odd-looking baits consist of a safety pin like design with a blade similar to a spinner on one end and a skirt on the other end.
Flies - Flies are typically reserved for fly fishing but with a clear bubble float, you can also use them with spinning gear. Flies are designed to mimic natural prey such as insect larvae, baitfish, leeches, and frogs.
Traditionally flies are made from materials like fur and feathers but can also be made from other materials like foam and rubber. If you want to learn more about fly fishing check out our primer on how to start fly fishing.
How To Catch A Fish
There are a few steps you will need to follow in order to catch a fish. You need to find fish, cast the rod, set the hook, land the fish, and safely release the fish if you are not keeping it.
How To Find Fish
When trying to locate fish you need to know what a fish needs. By understanding exactly what a fish needs you will be able to better locate them in a body of water.
Fish have a few basic needs including:
Oxygen - Like every other creature on earth fish need oxygen. If water does not provide the right amount of oxygen fish will not be able to live in it. To find water that is properly oxygenated look for signs such as waterfalls, turbulence, and brightly colored vegetation.
Avoid places that are polluted, have sewage runoff or decaying vegetation.
Temperature - Fish rely on their environment to regulate their body temperature. Therefore you need a water temperature that is within their preferable range. The temperature will also play a big role in the right amount of oxygen as well.
Cooler water provides more oxygen than warmer water. During summer fish will often retreat to deeper pockets of water because it is more oxygenated than warmer water. This is why fish tend to feed in the early mornings and at dusk when the water is cooler.
During the heat of the day, you will need to use baits that can reach the middle or the bottom of the water column.
Some fish such as northern pike and trout thrive better in cooler waters while fish like largemouth bass do better in warmer water. Knowing what water temperature your target fish species likes will help to locate where they may be.
Protection from predators - Fish have a lot of predators. Including other fish. So you will need to look for places that offer good cover. Cover can be things such as grass, lily pads, submerged trees, undercut banks and ledges, or even deep water.
Comfortable Current - Fish as lazy and they like to be comfortable. Strong currents are tiring for fish and will thus look for slower currents and even slack water.
Any place the current is broken up will be a good place to look for fish. Big rocks and fallen trees are great places to fish as they break up the current allowing the fish to hang out in these areas.
A Solid Food Source - Fish have to eat too. Fish will follow the food. Therefore you want to locate potential food sources in a body of water. Look for small baitfish and insects. If there is food there will be fish.
How To Catch Game Fish
There are a number of game fish including but not limited to bluegill, crappie, trout, bass, and pike. I have included a short primer on how to fish for each of these species. I have also included general guidelines for the equipment required for each species.
How To Fish For BlueGill
Rod and Reel
If you ever went fishing as a kid the first fish you probably caught was a bluegill. While there are several different varieties of sunfish, bluegill are by far the most common. When it comes to fishing for them pretty much any setup will work.
The preferred setup would be 2 - 6 pound monofilament line on a small spinning reel with an ultralight action rod. Keep in mind that Bluegill don’t get very large. A 1 pound bluegill is considered pretty large, so smaller hooks are best.
Lures / Baits
When it comes to bluegill bait a small piece of worm on a hook is a classic for a reason. However, if you want to try your luck with artificial lures something like a small jig or even a popper is worth a try. Some people report having good luck with artificial bait for bluegills but I personally prefer the classic nightcrawler on a hook.
How To Locate Bluegill
Bluegill pretty much inhabit all waters in the US so it’s really hard to pinpoint a few key locations. The key to finding bluegill is locating a food source. However this can vary from a school chasing down plankton in a lake to being grouped together in a small pond.
A few key tips to keep in mind include looking near the banks or docks for young freshly spawned bluegill. Downed trees and lily pads provide cover and protection as well. The simple bluegill has many predators so finding decent cover is a must.
How To Fish For Crappie
Rod and Reel
When it comes to a rod and reel setup for Crappie you can mimic a setup for bluegill. Ultralight spinning rod with 2 - 6 pound test monofilament line will do the trick.
No need to get fancy, unless of course you want too. Due to the popularity Crappie have received there are literally dozens of strategies and configurations for catching Crappie.
Lures / Baits
When it comes to baits for crappie nothing works better than live bait. Just like any fish. They prefer real over artificial. A Crappies’ preferred meal is minnow. Easily bought at tackle shops or caught in a net, a minnow will net you more crappie than anything else.
However there are a number of artificial baits that work well for crappie. These include soft plastics, small jigs, and spinner baits made for crappie.
How To Locate Crappie
Crappie can be hard to locate most of the year, and depending on the time of year can be anywhere in the water column. However, Winter tells a very different story.
Winter is the best time to catch crappie. This is their spawning season. Because Crappie are spawning in the winter they will come close to shore and can be found in water as shallow as 3 feet. This is the season when most Crappie are caught.
During the summer months Crappie will move to deeper waters like most fish and will only come close to shore during dawn and dusk to feed.
How to Fish For Trout
Rod and Reel
Opt for a light or ultra light action spinning rod in the 5 ft. - 6ft range because you will typically be throwing lightweight lures and sinkers when trout fishing. Equip the rod with 4lb to 8lb test mono-filament line as well. Mono-filament tends to be a better choice for line as it is nearly invisible in the water.
An interesting fact about trout, is they have excellent eyesight. Trout are able to see the same color spectrum we see as well as colors in the UV spectrum that even humans can't see.
Lures / Baits
Fishing for Trout is comes down to natural vs stocked trout. When fishing for stocked trout using Powerbait is your best option. It resembles food freshly stocked trout are used to receiving. This will be an easy catch. However, there is a prime windows after a few weeks the trout will become untrusting and will be harder to catch.
When it comes to natural trout you have a bunch of options including natural baits such as worms, crickets, grasshoppers, and crayfish. Lure options include:
Spinners and Spoons - These work for most trout and are pretty much staples for any trout angler. Spinners and spoons create action in the water that can simulate a fish distress, or sometimes just entice a fish to bite out of pure agitation. When used correctly, you can pair spinners or spoons with other types of baits to create scenarios for the fish to make it think that there is an injured fish or another fish chasing a meal.Trout are very opportunistic feeders.
Minnow Plugs - Minnow plugs are an awesome lure. These plugs are made for exactly what their name suggests: to imitate minnows or bait fish. Plugs tend to be a favorite as they are a relatively cheap lure, which means no breaking the bank and you can get a few different color options to try. A general rule for this type of lure, stay within the 2 - 5 inch range. This is due to the fact that these lures imitate a fish that trout will typically eat. Trout are not very large fish compared to some other game fish species such as bass or pike, so their prey is usually smaller.
Flat Fish - The flat fish lure is an interesting one. It was created in 1933 by Charles Helin who hand carved over 1,500 different lures before he made the lure that would become the flat fish. Flatfish lures have been used ever since. If you have never used one chances are your dad or grandfather have.
These lures produce an action that is irresistible to predatory fish. Meaning this lure will work on trout but will also work well for bass, salmon, or pike. The greatest thing about this lure is that at almost any speed you reel in or "retrieve" your lure, it will still provide a great action that fish are responsive to. These lures usually have a banana type shape and come with a pair of treble hooks. They also come in a variety of sizes and colors. Large flatfish lures will hook large trout but may limit your overall catch.
How To Locate Trout In a Stream
In the summer during the heat of the day, fish will be driven into deeper water. As stated above trout tend to prefer cooler water. Cooler water allows for a more oxygen rich environment. While it is easy to predict where fish will likely be in the summer, winter is not so easy.
Winter allows for colder water in general, thus more oxygen rich water to be passed over a trout's gills. Winter weather requires more experimentation than summer weather. In general, the best times to find trout is either early in the morning or right after dusk when the temperatures are lower. These are usually prime feeding times for trout and most other game fish as well.
Another important factor to pay attention to is the moon cycle. When the moon is full, trout will often feed throughout the night when there is enough light to hunt by.
Knowing how to read a stream is critical. Key places to look for trout include: in front of or behind boulders, around downed trees, undercut banks, eddies, and pools of water.
Undercut Banks - Trout love undercut banks as it offers over head protection from predators. However, this works in your favor as it will also hide you when approaching (remember, trout have very good eyesight).
To fish an undercut bank effectively, use an inline spinner or spoon, and standing on the other side of the stream cast upstream and let the current drag your line into the undercut bank.
Eddies - These are circular motions of water caused by obstructions in the stream or the joining of two streams. These eddies can pull up nutrients and foods from the bottom that trout love. Trout can hold positions here fairly easy.
For them it is an easy place to get a meal as the natural motion of the eddy will bring food directly to them.
Pools - A pool is where water basically comes to a stand still. They are pretty much a staple water for trout. Trout love this kind of water because it is slow moving and they can easily grab food as it is washed downstream past them.
However, trout in pools are not always actively feeding so this can prove to be a challenge. But it is well worth the reward if you have a little patience and just work the pool.
How To Fish For Bass
Rod and Reel
Typically bass anglers use both spinning and baitcasting reels. Each has its own advantages and disadvantages. Spinning rods are typically easier for beginners and also tend to be more affordable than casting rods.
The action should be medium to heavy if you plan to fish primarily for bass, as these rods will hold up better and be able to cast heavier tackle as opposed to light or ultralight action rods that are often considered to be trout rods.
Lures / Baits
The first thing you need to know about picking baits for Bass is they are predatory fish. Most bass are ambush predators and will strike quickly. Bass tend to take cover in aquatic vegetation, under logs and manmade structures, waiting for the opportunity to ambush unsuspecting prey.
Bass tend to be opportunistic feeders and will pretty much eat whatever they can fit into their mouths. This includes other fish, crayfish, any number of insects, small snakes, and even mice.
While I tend to standby the motto that nothing works better than natural bait, there are plenty of professional bass anglers that have caught plenty of bass on various artificial baits. Artificial baits tend to be more related to bass fishing than any other fish. There are a great number of lures you can try. Such as crankbaits, spinnerbaits, topwater baits and soft plastics.
Crankbaits - Crankbaits can be fished from the shore or from a boat. Any fish that routinely eats other fish can be targeted with a crankbait. Cast a crankbait out into a body of water and more than likely you’ll end up with a fish on your line.
Crankbaits are a cast and retrieve style of lure and are very reactionary. Bass tend to strike these lures because it is enticing and it will drive them crazy.
Spinner Baits - Spinnerbaits are another lure that is designed to be cast and retrieved. Typically retrieve speed ranges from a slow speed to a medium speed. Depending on the speed of the retrieve the spinnerbait will travel through various depths of the water column.
The best place to fish a spinnerbait is just below the surface. This creates a wake in the water than imitates baitfish actively feeding. When you feel a bass strike your lure, you need to set the hook hard because they will spit out the lure the minute they realize it is not a baitfish.
Soft Plastics - It is quite possible that more bass have been caught on soft plastics more than any other style of lure. Soft plastics come in a variety of shapes and sizes. From straight tail worms to creature baits there is no shortage of options.
Most soft plastics do an excellent job of imitating natural food. Soft plastics are great for beginners because they can be easily fished using a texas rig. The Texas rig is virtually weedless. This means that the lure will not get stuck when fishing sunken logs or other types of structure.
TopWater - Topwater baits are designed to target hungry, active fish. These baits will pop and make erratic movements throughout the water. Poppers and frogs are two types of topwater baits.
Poppers are meant to be retrieved while popping them every few seconds. This imitates an injured or dying fish. An easy meal for hungry bass. While frogs can be fished in even the densest of cover or in open water.
How To Locate Bass In a Body Of Water
Fishing for Bass in the Summer is a lot of fun. During the Summer months fish become more active and they feed more. Bass also tend to become more complacent and thus more predictable. Bass like most animals need a few key elements to survive. They need food, shelter, and oxygen. Knowing their needs can help narrow down sections of a body of water to where the fish are.
If you are a beginner the best place to start looking for bass is small ponds. Large lakes and rivers can be quite difficult to learn at first so it is best to stick with small ponds. While the fish you catch in a pond won’t be as large as some you could catch in a lake, the pond will allow you really grasp the basics. Experience is the best teacher.
Summer is a wonderful time to be a Bass. During the summer, various baitfish will be spawning. Shad tend to spawn a few weeks after Bass finish spawning. During the middle of summer bream and bluegill will begin spawning. During this time Bass will gorge themselves on these various baitfish.
To find Bass in the water column you only need to know the time of day and the time of year. Most of the summer Bass will spend in the middle of the water column in favor of cooler more oxygenated water. During the early morning hours and around dusk or on cloudy days during summer Bass will rise to the top of the water column to feed.
If you are fishing on a lake either natural or manmade, look for areas of vegetation. This is most often where Bass will hang out. Bass favor vegetation because it provides more oxygen, shade from the heat of the day, and cover to ambush prey. Bass tend to hang out along clear cut lines of vegetations will use this as a feeding channel.
How To Fish For Pike
Rod and Reel
When it comes to selecting a rod and reel for Pike, many anglers will tell you a baitcaster is the only way to go. Mainly because of the smooth drag you often get with a baitcaster.
Don’t get me wrong, baitcasters are great and if you have one you should use it. However, I am here to tell you, you can do just fine with a decent spinning rod and reel setup.
As for the rod, you will want a medium - heavy rod. You want a rod that has a lot of backbone toward the bottom and kind of flimsy towards the top. Honestly, the new Ugly Stik GX2’s tend to serve this purpose well.
The common rhetoric is to catch large Pike you have to throw large lures. I don’t know if I actually believe that or not. I can certainly see the logic behind it. As with any fish species you are targeting, it’s going to be a lot of trial and error. Let the Pike tell you what they want.
Lures / Baits
When it comes to Pike, bait selection is pretty easy. They will pretty much eat anything including but not limited to small mammals, worms, crayfish, other fish (including their own species), minnows, and frogs.
Imitation baits will work just as well as live bait. The choice is yours rather you want to use live or artificial bait. Again it is a matter of trial and error.
For artificial baits the best ones to use include:
Crankbaits - Use deep diving crankbaits in deeper water and jointed float baits when fishing shallow water. Crankbaits can also be trolled, which will cause a disturbance in the water that acts as an attractant for hungry Pike.
Spoons - Go big or go home. Larger spoons typically work well in deeper water. Spoons usually have a shiny side that helps to get the Pike’s attention. Spoons also work great for trout!
Poppers and Topwater Baits - These types of lures typically work better in shallow water. A nice mouse topwater bait is great to work over a weed bed in shallow water. Remember Pike will often eat small mammals.
How To Locate Throughout The Year
Ice-out and Spring - Spring tends to be one of the best times to start fishing for Pike. In early Spring when ice is still on the lake, Pike will begin to move to shallower water to start spawning. Pike are the first freshwater fish to start spawning. Spawning typically starts once the water temperature hits anywhere from 38 - 50 degrees.
Once Pike start spawning they will often move to the back of large bays, then into smaller bays, and eventually into streams where they can fit. Pike will remain in these smaller creeks for a few weeks after spawning.
Finding areas to search is pretty easy. Simply find a satellite view of your lake and look for where streams and creeks flow into the lake. This is where you will want to start your search. Pike typically use the streams as highways to move in and out of an area.
While walking the stream be on the lookout for any potholes you may come across. Pike tend to use these potholes as nurseries. During the spawn, this will be prime Pike area. If you find a small stream or a small bay with Cattails this is another great place to throw a line in and search for Pike.
Summer Deep Water - Pike are typically a cold water fish, so come summer Pike will often move to deeper waters. This makes locating them fairly simple as there are only a few places they will be.
You will want to look for deep well-oxygenated water with a decent forage supply. Structures like channels, rock points, and ledges will be your go-to for finding summer pike.
When looking for pike you will want to look for water depths that are roughly between 10 and 25 foot. Use a lure that works well at the depth and provides a good amount of flash. That will really help you attract Pike.
Fall Feeding Frenzy - As the air turns crisp and thoughts of hunting start to come to our minds instead of fishing, a true Pike fisherman knows that this is prime time.
It is during the fall when Pike really start to ramp up feeding, in anticipation of winter. Fall is the season of heavyweight pike.
Once October rolls around, skinny pike will be a thing of the past.
As the season changes, Pike will be on the move again. As their typical beds start to become brown and die, they will move to greener weed beds. This is because green weeds produce oxygen.
This means that larger Pike will be gathering in continually smaller and smaller areas.
Another place to look for Pike during the fall will be in rocky areas. Whitefish and Ciscoes tend to spawn during the Fall and Pike will be taking advantage of the spawn, trying to bulk up for winter.
How To Cast
Earlier I recommended picking up a spinning reel because it is far easier to learn than a baitcasting reel and can be learned quickly. Spinning gear can be used to cast light or heavy lures without worry of breaking or tangling your line.
- Hold the rod at waist level, making sure that reel is underneath the rod. Spinning reels sit on the bottom of a rod, unlike baitcasters where the reel is on top of the rod. Be sure to keep your bait or lure roughly 10 – 18 inches below the end of the rod.
- Hook the line with your finger and flip open the bail while still holding the line with your finger.
- Pull the rod back so that it crosses over your dominant shoulder and then quickly and smoothly bring it forward pointing the rod at the location you want the line to go. As the rod move forward release your finger from the line so that line is pulled off the reel with the weight of the lure.
- Close your bail and begin a retrieve. On some reels, the bail will close automatically when you begin retrieving.
I have also included a basic instruction video for you to see how a cast is done correctly.
How To Set The Hook
When to set the hook is a process that takes a bit of practice. A general rule to follow is to wait until you can feel the weight of the fish before setting the hook. If the fish is only nibbling at your bait and not biting it you won’t get a hook set and will likely spook the fish.
A few ways to know a fish has taken your bait is to use a bobber and keep slack out of your line.
A bobber is great for beginners because it is a clear indicator a fish has taken your bait. The bobber will be pulled under the water or you may see your bobber begin moving without the help of the current.
Keeping slack out of your line will help to increase sensitivity so you can feel when a fish takes your bait and will also put you in a better position to set the hook.
To set the hook, make sure your line it taunt and swiftly jerk your rod upwards. Simple enough. But knowing when to set the hook is difficult even for experienced anglers.
Sometimes it is difficult to tell if what you’re feeling is a fish or something like the current, or a fish simply bumping your bait.
How To Land A Fish
After you have successfully hooked a fish you will want to begin reeling it in. Depending on the size of the fish you hook you will have to fight the fish.
To fight a fish you will need to sometimes let out more line or adjust your drag to keep the fish from breaking the line. Once you have the fish near the shore or boat you will want to use a net to scoop the fish up.
Smaller fish such as crappie and even bass can be retrieved by hand. However, for fish such as pike, a net is a must since they have sharp teeth that can do serious damage.
To net a fish place the net in the water and lead the fish head first into the net. Do not stab at the fish with the net as this can cause injury to the fish.
How To Properly Release A Fish
When releasing fish you want them to survive so you need to make sure you are releasing fish carefully as to avoid injuring them.
When handling fish always use wet hands or rubberized gloves. Fish have a slime coating that protects them from infection and aids in swimming. You don’t want to remove this coating so do not use objects like towels to handle fish.
Try to keep fish horizontal as much as possible since this is they naturally swim through the water. Be sure to keep your fingers away from the eyes and gills of the fish as much as possible.
When releasing a fish time is an important factor you want to get them back in the water as soon as possible. Release your fish head first into the water as this forces water through the mouth and over the gills resuscitating the fish.
If a fish is exhausted place the fish into the water head first facing the current if possible. Place one hand under the belly of the fish and use the other hand to hold the bottom lip or the tail. Maintain this hold until the fish revives and is strong enough to swim off.
All of the seems like a lot of information but in reality, fishing is fairly simple. Get a rod, reel, some bait, and a find a body of water with fish.
However, if you really want to step up your game and start catching fish there is just a bit more to it than that.
The real key to catching fish is to understand the fish. You need to know what fish prefer and what they need. Fish like water that is well oxygenated, has a comfortable current, a safe place to hide from predators, and a good food source.
When trying to catch fish you really need to understand what they prefer to eat. Especially if you are using artificial baits. Something else a lot of people don’t talk about is pressure. If a certain area is fished a lot, fish will be less trusting and may be harder to catch.
If you found this article helpful be sure to share it on social media and with friends and family. Also be sure to take another person fishing. Fishing is a great sport and pastime and should be enjoyed by all.
As always thanks for reading and remember...adventure is waiting.