Beginner fishermen have a lot to learn. Fishing is an expansive sport that can take a lifetime to truly master, but it’s important to start with the basics first. That’s why we’ve compiled the top five basic skills every beginner fisherman must learn before moving on to more advanced techniques.
Fishing & Boating Safety
Taking care of yourself while you’re on the water should be a top priority. That of course means wearing proper sun protection and sunscreen but also includes bringing along plenty of water to keep yourself hydrated and bringing along motion sickness medication.
Your boat should also be properly maintained and equipped with the right gear for your day on the water. What you’ll need will vary depending on the type of fishing you’re doing, but be sure to thoroughly research and plan out what you’ll need before you leave shore.
Baiting a Hook
To ensure you’re ready to reel in your dream catch, you’ll want to make sure your hook is prepared properly. Most importantly, securing the hook with the right fishing knot is important to keep the hook on your line when you get a bite. Once your hook is secure you’ll need to choose the right bait for the fish you hope to catch. And finally, you’ll need to properly swim your line, moving the bait through the water to mimic your bait’s natural movement and entice your catch.
Proper Casting Techniques
Learning to properly cast your fishing line is going to take some practice, but it’s important that new anglers start early and practice casting often. Practice doesn’t have to be done on the water - you can easily practice casting in your own backyard!
Casting techniques will vary depending on the type of fishing you’re doing and the kind of reel you’re using. Some of the most popular techniques are spincasting and baitcasting.
Spincasting is perfect for beginners as these reels are relatively inexpensive and easy to maintain. To spincast you’ll hold the rod at waist height with the bait or lure hanging 10-18 inches below the end of the rod. You’ll then hold the line with your forefinger, open the bail, pull the rod back over your shoulder, and then swing it forward toward your target releasing your hold on the line as you do so. Once your line is in the water, close the bail and begin reeling the line in.
Baitcasting, on the other hand, uses a different kind of reel known as a “free spool” model that does not have a bail to open or close and is typically considered a more advanced technique. To baitcast, you’ll follow most of the same steps as in spincasting but, instead of closing the bail at the end, you’ll put pressure on the spool with your thumb to stop additional line from being released.
An even more advanced maneuver is fly casting. This type of cast is done with a fly instead of bait or a lure, which means there is significantly less weight to bring the line to the water. To properly fly cast you’ll create a loop in the air (as if you were throwing a lasso) and whip the line forward at the end to complete the cast.
How to Land a Fish
Getting a fish to bite your hook is only half the battle. Once the fish is hooked, you still need to get it onto the boat to complete the catch. In general, you can follow these steps to land your fish:
- Hold the rod and reel at waist height
- Continue reeling the fish in until you can see it at the water’s surface
- Once the fish reaches the surface, it’s likely tired from the fight and ready to be landed
- Lift the fish into the boat by hand of use a fishing net to lift them from the water
- Hold the fish around the belly while you remove the hook
If you choose to catch and release your fish instead, be sure you’re following proper catch and release safety practices.
Patience & Perseverance
It may seem simple, but developing a high level of patience is key to a fruitful fishing trip. You may not find what you’re looking for at your first fishing hole. Maybe not even at your fourth. But pressing on to find that dream catch is what sets successful fishermen apart from the unsuccessful.
Be ready to hit multiple fishing spots, test different bait to see what gets the fish biting, and even use different equipment as needed. There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to fishing, so be ready to change tactics and find a new “right approach” for each new day on the water.