Beginners: Line, Lures and other Gear
Now that you have a rod and reel it's time to decide what kind of line, lures and other gear you will need to get in order to make your time on the water a success. There are a wide array of artificial and live baits to choose from, I will do my best to describe each class and what they are best used for to make your decisions easier.
Often overlooked, choosing line is very important. It is what really brings the lure (and fish) back to you. Too weak and it breaks, too heavy and it can clog up your reel. Fishing line is classified by breaking strain in pounds. There are three main types of line, monofilament (mono), fluorocarbon (fluoro) and braided. Mono is your classic fishing line, it is made from a single strand, has good elasticity but is highly prone to nicks, cuts and teeth. It is neutrally buoyant so it is good in all types of fishing. Mono tends to be the thickest line at any given poundage. Fluoro is also one strand of filament. Fluoro is tougher than mono and is also less visible in the water than mono because it is thinner. When fishing around structure or in very clear water, fluoro is preferred as it can handle more snags and debris than mono. Braided line is multiple strands tightly braided together making it the thinnest and toughest of the three types of line. Braided line is also the most visible of the three. Starting with 10-20 pound mono or flouro or 15-30 pound braided line is what I recommend.
Lures are what attract and hook the fish to bring in, there are artificial lures and live bait. Both of these can be presented in different ways and can be used successfully in almost every situation.
Artificial baits come in all shapes, sizes and colors and styles. There are crank baits, topwater lures, jigs, spinnerbaits and soft baits just to name a few. Each with their own style of presentation. To make sure you do not lose a favorite or brand new lure I recommend a wire leader. Leaders are lengths of wire that you tie onto the end of the line that give extra protection from toothy fish, and make switching lures quick by having a clip at the end.
Tip: Look for colors and patterns that fish like, many anglers make the mistake of buying lures that they think look good or like the pattern of. Remember you are using the lure to catch fish.
An all around workhorse, crankbaits are lures that work well when trolled or cast. Most tend to dive below the surface and will wobble back on forth creating a vibration in the water. When picking out crankbaits the length of the lip, the part at the front, will determine how deep it will dive. It should also say on the package what the running depth is. When fishing with crankbaits you want to make sure that the running depth is less than that of the depth that you are fishing in.
Jerkbaits are a type of crankbait that is designed to be jerked while retrieving it. Most crankbaits will float rapidly to the surface once reeling has stopped. With jerkbaits however they will stay stationary in the water column, this is advantageous because most fish will not strike an ascending crankbait but will hit a suspended jerkbait. Jerkbaits tend to also dive only a few feet (1-5) below the surface and are primarily used while casting.
Spinners are used while casting into shallow weedy areas, their designs allow them to avoid hooking on most weeds and their flashy blades create vibration and draw the fishes interest. Most spinners are finished with a tail and have a skirt around the hook. Spinners are weighted so they will sink when you stop reeling.
Spoons are metal ovular shaped with a treble hook on the bottom. They come in a wide variety of colors and shapes. Spoons can be cast, trolled and jigged. They way that spoons swim in the water mimic a smaller baitfish very well. They sink or flutter when reeling is stopped and are a very effective all around lure.
Topwater lures never go under the water and are designed for shallow areas where fish will attack things on the surface like bugs, frogs and even mice. They tend to make a lot of noise or splash to attract fish.
Jig is a coverall term for a hook with a weighted head. They come in a variety of weights, can have a tail or a skirt on them and are typically finished with live bait of some kind. You can cast jigs in shallow flats or jig them while anchored or drifting. Jigging entails letting the bait fall all the way to the bottom and then slowly bringing back up.
Live bait comes in all forms, from crickets to minnows and worms and leeches. Live bait can be presented by trolling, jigging or bobber fishing. When using live bait you will need weights/split shots between 1/8th oz and 1 oz to get the bait down into the water column where the fish will be. You will also need hooks, which come in a variety of sizes, so choose the hooks that match the size of the fish you are going after.
Trolling Live Bait
One of the best ways to present live bait, be it minnows, leeches or worms to fish is the Lindy Rig. A Lindy Rig is a set up like a long leader with a blade, beads and a hook. Before tying the Lindy Rig onto the end of the line, put a 1/4 oz weight above the knot and tie on the Lindy. These can be trolled at any depth any time of the year, trolling speed will determine how deep the bait goes. Lindy Rigs work by having the weight down below and the blade and bait raised above preventing it from catching most of the weed growth.
Jigging with live bait is another great way to present live bait. Fishing it in a hole or a flat where lots of fish are schooled is a great place to start with jigging live bait. When jigging you just need to add live bait to the jig and cast it out a bit, wait for it to hit the bottom then bring it back slowly.
Bobber or Slip fishing is good fishing in calm bays and for more laid back anglers. With a couple of weights on the line right above the hook and a bobber or slip. To adjust the depth tie a little knot onto the line above the bobber and that is where it will stop and keep the hook at that depth. You'll know when you have a bite because the bobber will move and or sink with the weight of the fish biting the hook.