30 Days of Preparing for Spring Storms and the Stinging Heat of Summer Day 16: Fishing Basics

Picture shows two men holding fishing poles against an orange sunset.

There is something calming and pleasantly rewarding about fishing, even when I do not catch anything. Fishing is fun, regardless of your age. Beginning fishing does not require a lot of skill, nor do you have to invest in a bunch of expensive equipment to get started. You will need a rod, reel, line, tackle and bait. Before doing anything, though, first, buy a state fishing license and check your state’s regulations and laws about fishing on public lands. To learn more, I recommend visiting the website

Man and his young son pulling in a fish from a lake.
If you have caught a fish, you will feel a significant weight difference on your line.

Rod, Reel and Line

The easiest rod and reel to learn is a spincast or push-button reel. If you have ever been fishing, you probably used that type of rod and reel. The reel is the round part attached to the rod that holds the fishing line. Push-button or spincast reels have a button you press to hold the line before casting. When you cast your line, you will let go of the button to let loose the line. Most big-name sporting good stores sell inexpensive rod, reel and line combos. If you need to buy your line separately, start with monofilament line in either 4, 8 or 10 pounds.


Tackle includes the hooks, weights or sinkers and bobbers, also called floaters. The hook is what catches the fish, and the weight holds down the hook and bait; the bobber helps keep the bait and hook off the bottom below the water and indicates when fish bite. You will also need pliers to remove the hook from the fish’s mouth. When shopping for hooks, a single- or double-barbed small hook is a safe bet to start. Look for hooks labeled Aberdeen or baitholder. For sinkers, a casting sinker is the easiest to tie on your line and a very good all-round weight.

Bait and Lures

Bait is what will get the fish to bite. You can find bait at home or buy it at a tackle shop. Typical live bait that is easy to find includes worms, crickets, grasshoppers, minnows and stink bait. Even though store-bought bait is not complicated or hard to find, make it simpler and cheaper by using pieces of leftover bread, hotdogs or sandwich meat.

Lures are homemade or store-bought brightly colored plastic attractants that typically look like fish, worms and other live bait. Typically, lures are flexible, so they look alive in the water’s movement. Some lures have hooks attached to them. Using a lure is an alternative to using live bait and hooks.

To begin fishing, tie your hook and sinker to the bottom of your line. Leave enough slack on your line so your hook does not hit the bottom under the water. It is difficult to tell you where to place the bobber on the line because it largely depends on the depth of the water you are fishing and the types of fish you want to catch. Generally, put the same amount of space between your bait and bobber as how far you want your bait to fall into the water. For example, if you are fishing a small 4-foot pond and fish are swimming close to the bottom, put 4 feet of line between your hook and bobber. Now you are ready to hook your bait.

Hook a Worm

Two men holding fishing poles against an orange sunset.
The easiest rod and reel to learn is a spincaster or push-button type.

The key to using worms as bait is to keep the worms as alive-looking as possible. You want them to wriggle and draw attention. Using the smallest unbarred, circle hook, hook a worm through the middle so both ends wriggle. Alternatively, you can hook it right through the head.


Once you have your bait on the hook, reel in the line, letting the hook stop 3 to 5 inches from the top of the rod. Pull the rod to your side, stopping it right behind you. Then quickly bring the rod back in front of you, releasing the line as you swing forward. Then, let the line fall into the water.

When a fish is nibbling, you most likely will see the bobber move and dance on top of the water and feel a tug on the line. That is when you need to jerk up your pole to hook the fish. Sharply pull up with your pole. If you have caught a fish, you will feel a significant weight difference on your line. Go ahead and reel it in.

Unhook a Fish

Once you have caught the fish and taken pictures, put it back in the water to remove the hook. Some fish can stick you, so make sure when you grab it that you run your hands down the fins from head to tail. Using fishing pliers, pull the hook out of its mouth the same way it entered.

Depending on your reasons for fishing, you can catch and release the fish or keep it to grill or have a fry-up at the end of the day.

Fishing is incredibly safe; however, accidents do happen. Take a first aid kit and know the basics of how to treat typical fishing accidents.

What is your favorite part about fishing? Share your fishing stories, tips and tricks in the comments section.

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Comments (2)

  1. You’re certainly right about the calming and relaxing. I’ve done it since I was old enough to walk ahead of my parent down the wooden gangway at the fishing barge, and proudly carry my own pole. By the time I was 10, I was out across the lake on my own, in a 12′ V-bottom cartop aluminum boat with an air cooled 3hp Westbend motor, while my dad would get drunk and pass out in the seat of the ’55 Buick, and my mom would have a dozen minnows on as many cane poles, spread up and down the bank. As I got older, I opted for bass fishing, for quite a few years, in fact. Then, suddenly one day, I realized how much work that was, manuvering the boat with the trolling motor, while throwing my arm out of socket, all the while standing up near the edge of th bow, fighting the wind, timing your cast, as to have the best angle and advantage on every cast. No time to think about relaxing. I never thought I’d like it as I only catch and release, but drifting for catfish has become quite relaxing, calming, and fun. Using drift socks help slow the presentation, and prolong the experience. Then, there’s always trolling, which I’ve loved, even since I was a young boy. Speaking of young boy, I used to ride my bike to all the local farm ponds, and catch tons of perch, bluegills, redears etc, using tiny hooks & cork, and pinched off earthworms. No matter what kind of fishing you do, it should be relaxing and fun, whether you catch anything, or not. Solitude in the outdoors is what it’s all about. Oh, one other thing…….apparently, I might have tried to tell my wife how to fish once long ago. Now, all my days fishing, are full of solitude.

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