8 Tips and Tricks for Novice Fishermen

So, you got a few fishing tips from your uncle, bought a rod, hung out on the shore with your line for a while, and didn’t get a single bite. Now you’re online, trying to figure out what you did wrong. First thing’s first: You didn’t learn the basics. The typical fishing story involves going out to the lake with dad on the weekends, and throughout the summer. If your dad wasn’t the fishing type, though, and no one else took you fishing, you probably don’t know what you’re doing.

That ends now. Today, we will be reviewing tips for fishing for beginners, and I am playing the role of Dad. For the sake of authenticity, pretend that it’s 5:30 a.m., and I am waking you up at this moment to begin the lesson. Are you excited yet? Great!

We’re going to start with learning how to identify all the parts of a fishing rod, move into basic fishing methods and then finish with building your own kit. By the time you’re done, you’ll be ready to revisit the shore, and start reeling them in! (But not really. Because fishing is always just a little less successful than you expect it to be.)

1.    Learn the Parts of a Fishing Rod

If you can’t identify all the parts of a fishing rod, you’re not ready to go out onto the water. When your companion warns you that the ferrules are separating and you stare helplessly until your rod snaps in half, you’ll know why. Some rods will have fancy accessories and additions, but every rod should have the basics.

There are two-piece and one-piece fishing rods. The difference is self-explanatory; two-piece rods come in two pieces, one sliding into the other. One-piece rods do not. Once upon a time, two-piece rods sucked, and their only benefit was ease of transportation, since they could be broken down

Today, it absolutely does not matter. Some people still prefer one-piece rods out of concern that a two-piece will snap in a tough fight. I use a two-piece. It doesn’t snap in fights.

Make sure to learn the standard parts of a fishing rod. These are:

  • The handle: Also known as the grip. You hold this part.
    • Butt cap: The butt cap is located at the bottom of the handle. The size, shape and material of the cap all affect how it feels when you squeeze it against your body as you fish.
    • Reel seat: This is where the reel attaches to the rod.
  • The butt: This is the bottom part of your rod, close to the handle. It is thicker than the top of your rod.
    • Hook keeper: This is where you hang your hook when you’re not casting. It prevents you from swinging it around.
  • Ferrule: This is only present in two-piece rods. It is the location where the two pieces of the rod connect. This is typically in the middle of the rod.
  • Butt guides: These are guiding rings that get smaller as they get higher up the rod. You string your reel through the rings to line it up against your rod.
    • Windings: This is the string and epoxy wrapped around guides to attach them to the rod.
  • Tip: This is the top few inches of the rod. It is the thinnest and most flexible part.
    • Tip top: This is the final guide on your fishing rod. Your reel should come out through here, and enter the water.

2.    Learn About Fishing Tackle Options

When you go fishing, your equipment is called your fishing tackle. Technically, tackle refers to all parts of your gear, which can include the poles as well as spears, nets and traps.

Anything you attach to the end of a fishing line is a terminal tackle. We’re focusing on these tackles, because spears and nets are literally a completely different subject and your dad – remember, in this scenario, I’m your dad, and it’s now about 5:37 a.m. – has other stuff to do today.

There are several terminal tackles you should get chummy with. These include:

  • Fish hooks: A hook is what catches the actual fish. It’s a curved metal piece with a sharp, pointy end that juts out a bit. Hooks can come in single, double or treble arrangements.
  • Fish bait: Fish bait is anything you use to lure fish into biting your hook.
      • Natural bait: Natural bait is any living or dead creature used to entice fish.

    Fishing Tip: Most experienced fishermen will tell you that the best option for catching fish is live bait. They’re right, and maybe you should fish with them.

    • Artificial bait: When picking artificial bait, look for lures that mimic the behavior of your target’s natural food source. Artificial bait may be easier to use, since it does not need to be kept in water, and is reusable.
  • Bite indicators: Fish are sneaky, and sometimes they can nibble on bait without yanking the line too much. A bite indicator lets you know when something is tugging on your string.
    • A fishing float attached to your line will bob on the water and dip when a fish bites.
    • A quiver tip, attached to the end of your rod, will vibrate when you get a nibble.
    • Bite alarms (ding, ding, ding!) will start beeping when the fishing line moves the reel.
  • Fishing sinkers: A fishing sinker is a weight that you attach to your hook or lure to make it drop further down. Nemo and his friends sometimes tend to be deep swimmers, which means your bait needs to sink down to reach them.

3.    Picking the Right Fishing Tackle

Now you know about fishing tackle, which means you can grab any random, brightly colored tackle (newsflash: neon is in again!), and try fishing for some carp for a few hours. When that doesn’t work, you can come back and learn the next part of the fishing lesson: How to pick the right fishing tackle for your target, body of water and experience level.

Fishing 101: Pick tackles that actually look like something your target eats. The phrase everyone at the pier will say over and over again is, “Match the hatch,” which means mimic the current feeding target. If you’re using artificial bait that doesn’t resemble any natural wildlife, the fish hanging around you are going to give your lure a hard pass.

Look for details like what color bait your target is currently munching on. If a school of cod is eating a bunch of small shrimp when you pass by, for example, you’ll want a lure that’s Bubba Gump-pink. After attaching it, you also want to make sure you move it around, like the bait it’s trying to imitate.

It can take time to figure out the rhythm of feeding patterns, bait habits and color matches. When you’re assembling your fishing beginners kit, make sure to include a variety of artificial lures to imitate all kinds of bait.

FYI, if you’re interested in fly fishing for beginners, you might need an entirely different kit. You can technically go fly fishing with a regular rod, for example, but it’s going to be pretty embarrassing. To do it right, you should have a fly rod with a fly line.

4.    How to Find the Best Fishing Bait

The best fishing bait is natural bait, in most cases, but you have to know where to get it. Now, technically you can buy bait from a fishing shop. But that’s a waste of money. Do you think money grows on trees, son? (Yes, it’s me, Dad, again, and the clock is ticking toward 6 a.m.) And honestly, any fishers worth their salt can harvest their own bait. Here are some easy ways to source freshwater bait:

  • Crickets and grasshoppers: Hunt these suckers down in tall, thick grasses after dark
  • Worms: You can dig up your garden to hunt these guys down, or you can raise them in a compost heap
  • Crayfish: Find these little dudes in small ponds and lakes
  • Minnows: Perfect for bigger catch, you can leave a minnow an awesome D.I.Y. trap out overnight by a shoreline, with some bread or pet food to attract them: a glowstick in the trap will also draw them in (maybe you can steal one away from your older sister before she heads to her rave)

For saltwater fishing, you’ll need bait that’s native to, well, saltwater. In many cases, that involves catching smaller saltwater fish. The secret tool to accomplishing this? A Sabiki rig. It has hooks small enough to attract the right kind of fish and drops several hooks at a time, allowing you to snatch a bunch of fish at once. There’s no more advice you need for saltwater fish bait. Just get the rig. It’s a valuable piece of fishing equipment for beginners interested in saltwater fishing.

Note: Don’t use crayfish from another pond. In a bunch of states, it is against state policy to fish with crayfish native to another body of water.

5.    How to Pick out Good Fishing Spots

Sometimes you arrive at a location where you like to go fishing, and you get nothing but a sunburn. If you listen carefully, you’ll hear the sound of fish laughing at you from a distant pond where they’re all hanging out without you. Always scope your location out to confirm whether or not it’s a good fishing spot before casting your line. Before you head out, make sure you ace the answers to questions like:

  • What season is it?
  • What’s the weather like?
  • What’s the temperature like?
  • Are there any plants or coverings around?

Fish flock around plants, piers, floating debris and other things they can hide in, or under. You can also use fishing apps that analyze information, such as temperature and weather trends, in order to determine where schools are hiding. Finally, you can use special devices designed to help locate fish. These fish finders use everything from light to sonar technology to help you find schools. Fishing nerd alert! Amirite?

6.    Practice Casting a Fishing Line First

A fun fact: Casting a fishing line is much harder than it looks. Have you ever seen those great outdoors TV ads? There’s a guy majestically tossing a line into the sea. Sorry… You won’t look like that. You will snag yourself, or your fishing buddy, very quickly if you grab a rod and start tossing wildly. And, while I, (your rad dad) can appreciate the aesthetic of a fish hook nose piercing, I’m not sure everyone else is on board.

A good fishing tip for beginners is to take a solo trip to a local lake or river just to practice casting. Find a nice, clear spot to practice, and make sure no one’s around. Get familiar with handling your rod and resting your hook on the hook keeper when not in use. Eventually, you’ll build up the appropriate muscle memory. Once you’re confident you won’t stab anyone (yikes!) within a 10-foot range of your rod, you can begin casting to fish.

7.    Learn the Best Fishing Times in Your Area

Technically, you can try to catch any fish you want, at any time of day. You won’t be successful, but you certainly can try. However, most fishers enjoy actually landing fish once in a while, not just standing in the water, and thinking about catching fish. If you, too, like actually catching fish, it’s important to learn their daily habits, so you can identify the best fishing times.

For instance, one of the first lessons of bass fishing for beginners is that bass are most active at dawn and dusk. They don’t like the sun, and they tend to settle down and hide during the hottest parts of the day – think vampires! On cloudy days, you might be able to land bass all day long. If it’s hot and sunny outside, don’t waste your time.

Different fish have different seasons, as well. Some states regulate at what times of year you can catch particular fish. Research what the seasons are in your state before you head out fishing. No, seriously – Google it real quick while I pack the car.

8.    Patience is Key During Fishing

You could have the best fishing rods, best fishing bait, a great spot and be out at the right time of day. It doesn’t guarantee you’re going to get a bite right away, or even a bite in the first hour. You may have whole days where absolutely nothing happens. Perhaps one of those days brought you here.

The bad news is that it happens, even to experienced fishers. The good news is that means you can make jokes like, “That’s why it’s called fishing, not catching,” when you have a bad day.

The real purpose of fishing is to relax and enjoy nature. If you’re trying to maximize your harvest or sustain yourself, you’ll probably need some more intensive techniques. That’s when it’s time to bring out nets and boats. But, when it’s just you, your fishing rod and good ol’ Dad, you shouldn’t worry too much about your productivity.

Still feeling stuck? Download our beginner’s guide, so you can cast your way to fishing like a pro!