As any fisherman (or woman) knows, there’s a dizzying array of fishing gear on the market to choose from.
Entire fishing gear catalogs are distributed both offline and online, and with dozens of major brands, and hundreds of models of rods, reels, flies, lures, fish finders, tackle boxes, etc. it can seem like a never-ending chore just keeping up with it all.
But as any successful fisherman also knows, it’s essential to have the right gear – and know how to use it – if you want to have consistently rewarding trips. There’s nothing worse than paddling or hiking half a day to get to that ideal spot, only to discover you’re missing an essential piece of fishing gear, or that you’ve got the wrong gear for the task at hand.
The following isn’t intended to be an exhaustive list of fishing gear and equipment – an entire book could be written on the subject (and many have).
Fly or Bait?
This is the first place to start when it comes time to start choosing the right fishing gear for your needs. There’s a big divide between fly and bait fisherman, both in the way they look at fishing, and the gear they use to catch trout and other fish. We won’t get into a debate here about which type of trout fishing is better, or why, were only concerned with the equipment each uses to get the task accomplished (and hopefully come home with a basket full of fish).
The first obvious area of difference is in the bait used when fishing. Flies are tiny, delicate, elaborate objects that are an entire category unto themselves. Entire books have been written about tying flies, using flies, storing flies, etc. While the bait fisherman concerns himself with less delicate things like live bait, lures, spinners, etc. The hook used to snag the fish are about the only common elements here.
Fly fishing rods and reels are also completely different animals than their bait fishing counterparts. The fishing line used is also quite different, as are almost every other piece of fishing gear save a fishing net and waders.
Rods & Reels
Modern fishing rods come in a variety of lengths, materials and designs. There are fly rods, spinning rods, bait casting rods, trolling rods and more. But they do have some common elements. At their core, rods are refined casting tools fitted with line guides, and they all use a reel for stowing and metering out the fishing line as needed. Some rods come apart in sections, while others are one solid piece.
Typical fishing rods are between 20″ and 18′ in length, and some common rod materials include wood, bamboo, fiberglass, and more recently, carbon fiber.
The other critical piece of equipment in this equation is of course the fishing reel. Despite all the different shapes, sizes and designs, reels are basically just devices for deploying and then retrieving the fishing line (with hopefully a fish on the other end).
If you’re a beginner, a good choice would be a closed-face reel made by Zebco or another inexpensive brand. These reels use a simple push-button system to release the line when casting, and a crank to reel the line back in. The next stage up in reels are the spinning, or “spincaster” reels. These are open-faced reels that spin the line around a spool as the mechanism moves the spool up and down to keep the line uniformly wound. Unlike the closed-faced reels, spinning reels don’t have a push-button release, and they require a little more skill by the fisherman when casting.
Another common reel design is the baitcaster reel. These reels can be difficult to learn because of a tendency to “backlash” while casting. But avid fisherman love them because when used properly, they give a casting distance and smoothness that’s incomparable with other reels.
Modern fishing lines are made from artificial substances such as polyethylene, nylon, dacron, or copolymers. The most common line is monofilament line that’s made from a single. Many Fishermen prefer monofilament because of its ability to stretch when loaded, and its natural buoyancy on the water. Some important parameters of a fishing line are its weight, length, and the material its made from. A thicker line may be stronger, but it’s also easier for the fish to spot on the water. Other important considerations include castability, breaking strength, stretch, and knot strength.
There’s a myriad of other fishing gear that may or may not be essential to a successful fishing trip. Things like waders, tackle boxes, sinkers, spinners and lures, fishing vests, fish finders or other type of underwater sonar, GPS units, VHF radios, compasses, etc. And as always, dress for the weather.
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