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What do you need to start fishing?

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Be honest: sitting in a humble fishing boat on a calm lake, casting line after line into the water all afternoon sounds like a great way to spend a summer afternoon, doesn’t it? Throw in a couple friends, your family, and maybe some lunch, and you suddenly have the recipe for a perfect day on the water…as long as the fish are biting.

family fishing from dock

If you’re new to fishing yourself and want to get your toes wet (pun definitely intended) with this classic summertime activity, you’ve come to the right place. Got kids begging you to take them fishing this summer, but aren’t sure what a beginner needs to enjoy their first time on the water? We can help. We’ll cover the basics when it comes to freshwater fishing gear and preparation, while also adding in some tips about how to fish and what to fish for.

What fishing gear do I need?

There's a lot of different fishing equipment out there, and much of what you need varies depending on what you're fishing for. In this guide, we'll focus on the fishing gear basics if you're looking to snag any number of common freshwater fish species including large and smallmouth bass, bluegills or red ears, crappie, and walleye.

Fishing license

Fishing license

Before you hit the water on a public lake, you need to have the proper fishing license. Licensing varies by state, but it's important to know that purchasing a license directly contributes to conservation efforts all around the country. By buying a fishing license, you're giving to the agencies that help preserve the environment so that we can all enjoy it responsibly.

Visit the US Fish & Wildlife directory to quickly find your state's licensing application and learn more about the specifics in your area. Getting a fishing license is quick, easy, and is a must for all fishermen.

Fishing rod, reel, and line

Child holding rod and reel

The first pieces of equipment you need to start with are a fishing rod, reel, and line. You can almost always find a rod/reel/line combo all in one package - and these are perfect for beginner fishermen or children.

The most popular and easiest to use are called spin casting rods. These rod and reel setups feature a pistol-like grip with the reel mounted on top of the rod. Hold down the push button on top of the reel as you bring the rod back overhead, then release as you cast forward. A spin casting rod and reel is the best way to cast further distances and place your bait exactly where you want it.

Look for a 6- or 7-foot medium action rod with either monofilament or braided line. If you've never casted before or are teaching a child how to cast, it's best to practice in an open area outdoors until they get the hang of it.

Live bait or fishing tackle

Fishing lure on rod

Once you have your rod and reel, you'll need something to make the fish bite. This means you either to purchase live bait or fishing tackle, depending on what you're fishing for.

Live bait usually means buying a small tub of worms (nightcrawlers, red wigglers, and earthworms are most common) or small larvae like beemoths. Many indpendently owned Do it Best stores offer live bait, so check your local store first!

You can also get a set of fishing tackle. Fishing tackle can come in hundreds of different forms: lifelike soft baits, spinning baits, hard lures painted in thousands of different ways to mimic natural prey, rubber worms and other small critters - the list goes on and on!

To start, you may want to choose a set of tackle that includes a few dozen different types of lures so that you can choose one depending on the kind of fish you're trying to catch.

Other essential fishing gear

Fishing bobber in water

The additional gear required is going to depend on the type of bait you use and what you're fishing for, but there are a few non-negotiables you'll need:

  • Multi-tool: this is absolutely necessary for a variety of small tasks, including cutting fishing line, bending hooks, or removing a hard-to-reach hook from a fish you've caught. We even have specialized fishing pliers available.
  • Extra fishing line: you never know when you'll need extra fishing line, but it's essential to your day on the water.
  • Snap swivels: these are extremely handy and make attaching hooks or lures to your line far easier for a beginner or a child.
  • For live bait fishing, you'll want to have quality hooks, sinkers, and bobbers on hand.
  • If you're fishing with tackle, a multi-compartment tackle box is necessary to keep your gear organized.

Fishing Tips for Beginners is a great place for young anglers and their parents to learn more about this lifelong outdoor activity. Check out the video and visit their site for a wealth of information about fishing and the type of equipment you need.

They have great tips on everything from fishing safety, to proper fishing techniques and how to tie fishing knots. It's a great resource for all anglers!

Your local Do it Best store may be a great place to find the fishing gear and information you need to enjoy the sport. We offer tons of fishing gear for beginners. It's a great family activity and allows you to spend quality time outdoors with your children. Our guide is designed to give you the basics you need and provide the resources to make your next fishing trip a great one.