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Freshwater Fishing Gear - Freshwater Fishing Basics

Freshwater Fishing Gear - Freshwater Fishing Basics
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Freshwater Fishing Gear

Fishing “gear” can encompass many things depending on how you define the terms “gear” and “equipment.” For the purposes of this article, we are going to combine the two into one overarching term, freshwater fishing gear, to discuss virtually anything you could possibly need while freshwater fishing, from tackle to clothing and even what you should have equipped on your boat. From the bare essentials you’ll need just to get your freshwater fishing experience started to safety items and more, we’ve got everything covered right here.

The Bare Basics for Freshwater Fishing

If you speak to any other anglers about what gear you might need as you’re preparing to head out to the water, you’ll likely get some mixed responses. Some anglers will tell you that all you need is a rod, reel, hook and some bait to get a fish on your line and call it a good day, while others will tell you about all the latest must-have fishing technologies. Still others can go into detail about different baits and lures they’ve had work for different freshwater fish species. When it comes down to it, no angler is wrong, but they’re also not entirely right. Freshwater fishing is an art and an experience, so what you need depends on your preferences, which will likely change depending on where and how you’re fishing, and what type of fish you’re looking to get on your line. That said, there are some bare basics you’ll need to have before you can even start to fish.

fishing rod at the lake

Freshwater Fishing Rod (Pole)

If there’s one thing you can’t fish without, it’s your fishing rod. They come in many different flexibilities, lengths, and widths for you to choose from based on where you are fishing and what fish you are fishing for. Ultimately, you’ll match your rod, reel, line and bait or lure to put together a comprehensive ensemble designed to get you the strikes you’re looking for, start by looking for a rod built to meet your needs. Based on what you’re looking for, you may need one of the following types of freshwater fishing rods:

  • Bait-Casting and Closed-Spin Casting Rods for Still Fishing and Trolling
  • Carbon-Fiber Fishing Rods for Precise Casting
  • Fiberglass Fishing Rods for Flexibility that Allow Baits to Pull Further
  • Spinning Rods for Bass, Pike, Still Fishing, Trolling, Trout and Walleye
  • Telescopic Fishing Rods for Further Casting, Less Breakage and Stronger Fights
  • Ultra-Light Fishing Rods for Bass, Bluegill, Crappie, Panfish and Trout

fishing reel

Freshwater Fishing Reels

Once you have a rod, you need to match it to a reel, the mechanical device that holds and spools out your fishing line. They vary in size based on the type of fishing you plan to do, and come in a few different styles:

  • Bait-Casting Reel
  • Closed Spin Casting Reel
  • Fixed-Spool Reel
  • Open-Bail Spinning Reel

bobber in water with fishing line

Freshwater Fishing Line

After you’ve selected your rod and reel, it’s time to fix it with a line. You’ll find that fishing line is available in a variety of weights; a solid line to start with is a six to twelve pound test, which is the strength of the line or weight that is required to break it. However, this pound test should match the size of your rod and reel, and can be tailored to the bait or lure you are using to prep for a specific species of fish.

Your Freshwater Tackle Box

Freshwater Bait and Lures

Over time, your freshwater fishing tackle box will become filled with a wide variety of baits and lures as you learn what works for what, when, and where. There are as many different types of them as there are fish in the water, which can make it overwhelming for new freshwater anglers. A good idea to get you started is to ask experienced local anglers what they use to get strikes and start from there, but don’t be afraid to experiment with other options to find what works for you and your technique.

For a more comprehensive guide on how to choose freshwater bait, check out our blog!

tackle box of fishing lures

Freshwater Fishing Hooks

Fishing hooks are available in many different sizes and varieties. While there are three main types – bait-cast hooks, bait, and spin-cast lure hooks and fly-cast hooks – each of these categories is broad and includes countless more types of hooks that can be used for different fishing methods and fish species. When it comes time to choose a hook speak with local anglers to ask what they have had success with and recommend.

fishing hook closeup

Freshwater Rigs

Freshwater fishing rigs are designed for different fishing techniques and can be any combination of bait, bobbers, dodgers, flashers, hooks, leaders, lures, sinkers, swivels, and more. If you can attach it to your fishing line, it probably has some potential. The rig you use depends on the type of fish you’re after, but it doesn’t necessarily need to be an engineering marvel. Here are some common freshwater rigs:

  • 3-Way Rig for Drift Fishing
  • Basic Bobber Rig for Still Fishing
  • Bottom Bouncing Fishing Rig for Drifting or Trolling on a Boat
  • Drift Fishing Rig for Drift Fishing
  • Live Lining Rig for Anchored River or Stream Fishing
  • Sliding Sink Rig for Drift Fishing
  • Still Fishing Rig for Versatility
  • Trolling Rig for Trolling
fishing rigs

Freshwater Tackle

Your tackle box should include a variety of accessories to help you get the fish to go for your bait and get hooked on your line. To make this happen, be sure to bring the following tackle:

  • Bait Spreader
  • Bobbers and Floats
  • Extra Fishing Line
  • Fishing Sinkers
  • Leaders
  • Snaps
  • Swivels
tackle box

Standard Freshwater Fishing Gear

Once you have the basics covered, you can start picking out the rest of your gear. This gear should cover basic necessities no matter when or where you plan to go freshwater fishing. Whether you’ll be fishing in a lake or pond, in a boat on the water or from the shoreline, you’ll want to pack up the following:

  • Hat(s)
  • Jacket(s)
  • Net(s)
  • Pliers
  • Polarized Sunglasses
  • Scissors
  • Storage
  • Vest(s)
  • Waders

Weather Appropriate Gear

Aside from the basic necessities, there are a few things you should consider having on-hand to be adequately prepared for anything Mother Nature might decide to throw at you while you’re out fishing. Some things to consider packing for your trip include:

  • Boots
  • Coverall Pants
  • Poncho
  • Sunscreen

Safety Gear for Fishing

If Mother Nature does decide to test your ability to adapt while you’re out, you want to have safety items at the ready. Remember that the weather and other conditions can change without notice at any time, especially while you are out on the water, so you want to have the following somewhere close by in the event of an emergency:

  • Batteries
  • Cell Phone or Radio
  • First Aid Kit
  • Hook Remover
  • Knife
  • Life Preserver
  • Matches

two men fishing from boat

Gear for Freshwater Boat Fishing

If you’re planning on doing your freshwater fishing from a center console or other type of fishing boat, in a river, lake, pond or other body of water, then you need to make sure you have all of your fishing gear plus boat specific gear like:

Electronics Box to protect your fish finders, GPS, radios and other valuables from the elements.

LED Lights for navigation and safety.

Rod Holder for your fishing rod(s).

Storage Bag for storing life jackets and additional items.

T-Top for shelter from the sun.

Targeting Specific Freshwater Fish Species

When it comes time to head out to the water in search of a specific species of freshwater fish, start by researching the behavioral patterns of that fish, whether it’s Black Crappie, Channel Catfish, Largemouth Bass, Rainbow Trout, Walleye, or something else. That’s going to determine where and when you go fishing, and how, including which techniques you’ll use and what gear you’re going to need. If you are targeting a specific species, ask local angler for advice, but keep in mind that every angler has their own preferences and you will too, so don’t shy away from trying different freshwater baits and lures to see what ends up working for you.

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