Freshwater Fishing For Beginners – Tips

Everybody loves to fish but freshwater fishing for beginners is the place to start. While it is true that some people do start their fishing journey catching blue marlin, the easiest way to get bit and catch fish is to keep it simple in freshwater. Simple gear, simple tactics, and simple fish. There are a few freshwater fishing tips that you can use if you are just starting out. Following a few basic rules will ensure that your day is more productive. Fishing does have its benefits and for many, it’s a way of life.

Many people have questions about rods, reels, lines, water bodies, fish species, setting the hook, weather, lure selection, knot tying, and more. The hard part is trying to go through all of this and figure it out by yourself. While I do think fishing is basic, I can assure you it isn’t as simple as it used to be. Today, we are going to see if we can help you out by answering those questions for you, and hopefully, by doing so, you catch possibly catch more fish. Let’s start.

Decide What Type Of Fishing You Want To Do

There are a few basic types of fishing that you can choose from. The first is bait fishing which utilizes some sort of natural bait, a hook, and a fishing float. This is a great rig to try if you are going to be sitting in one spot for a prolonged amount of time. You can always modify the bait on your hook to appeal to different fish. Good fishing baits for everything include worms, crickets, and wax worms. The next type of fishing is lure fishing. Lure fishing is popular for catching largemouth bass and pike. It utilizes an artificial bait with a hook that imitates natural food.

Which fishing type you want to do has a lot to do with how much patience and money you have. Bait fishing is generally inexpensive, effective, and easy. It’s best to take kids fishing. Lure fishing costs a little more money and it’s harder to do. It is still great at producing bites but it will also take a little more skill. If you are going to be just starting out, I highly recommend catching small fish first on live bait. Get some worms or very small minnows and rig them on a tiny hook under a small float. If that is not an option, use a spinning rod and throw the same rig with tiny plastic minnow imitations.

Use The Right Rod And Reel Setup

It is going to be imperative that you use the right rod and reel combo if you’re just starting. There are four different types of fishing rods that are commonly used today. The spinning rod, baitcasting rod, fly rod, and cane pole. There are plenty of thousands of all of these on the market so which one you decide to get can seem very daunting. Well, the easiest way that you will find success will be if you are constantly wetting bait instead of pulling knots out of your spool every other cast.

The spinning rod will be your best friend. As it relates to the start of your journey, it will help because it’s easy to use. It will hold its own against everything. The best beginner rod and reels are easy on the wallet and tough on fish. Try using a light or medium rod around six feet and a few inches long. that will be a very versatile and easy rod for you to use. You will catch a lot more fish and be overall, a lot more satisfied with your day.

Learn To Cast

There is a right way to cast a rod and a wrong way. Between the two basic real types, there is a spinning rod and the baitcasting rod. The spinning rod has a wire arm on one side of the spool head. The eyes on the blank are also on the bottom side instead of the top. Baitcasting rods have a spool winder that loads lines onto a horizontal spool. The eyes on the blanks also point upwards instead of downwards. That is the easiest way to tell the difference. See our tutorial on how to cast a spinning rod.

The baitcasting rod is a lot more challenging to use effectively because it takes a lot of practice. This particular reel type suffers from backlash and really bad tangles when used improperly. The reel has to be fine-tuned and adjusted every time you tie on a new bait. For this reason, I don’t recommend anybody using them if they are just starting out in the fishing game. If you need help with that though, see our guide on how to use a baitcasting rod.

Use A Basic Rig Or Lure

It’s already been said but it’s worth saying again. Don’t overcomplicate things. Fish are not like humans in their ability to think logically or rationally about topics such as food. We can use this to our advantage by not getting stuck on what fancy new rigs or best bass scents we can put on our baits to make them more effective.

As far as we have studied, fish are only interested in whether something is or isn’t food. They are not interested in us regardless of what fancy new gadgets we have available to find them, make them react, or do other things. The simpler and more basic you can keep your rigs and approaches, the better. This holds especially true when choosing lures or baits and on pressured fisheries.

All of our ancestors from hundreds of generations before us were catching the same fish out of the same water that we are catching now. They also had far less equipment. Stick to the things that have worked for so many generations already. Instead of trying to reinvent the wheel every time you go, try using a very simple setup like our ancestors did. A line, a hook, and a bait. If that’s not possible, use a line and a natural lure with some basic movement.

Rainbow trout caught on a fly hanging from a fishing line over water.

Tie A Great Knot

Tying a good knot is a topic that is heavily discussed and for good reason. It is the weakest link between you and the fish and it is easy to do wrong. You need to make sure that you tie a good knot to your hook. Because of this, I always suggest tying a universal knot that is easy to tie. Knots like the Palomar knot are incredibly simple to learn but are strong enough to hold their own against a big fish.

You should learn how to tie a Palomar knot if you need one to start with. You can tie it in the dark and it is plenty strong enough for most freshwater applications that you would come across. It can be used for attaching a hook to a line without having to use a piece of leader material as a base. As a plus, it only requires three steps, two of which you already know how to do without thinking about it.

Finding the Fish

The most important step for any type of fishing is fish location. You can be doing absolutely everything right and catch no fish because you don’t go where the fish are. In order to catch fish, you need to put your bait in front of their face. In order to find the fish, it helps to know the basic biology and habits of the intended species.

Any particular species that you want to catch has different preferences and different habits. Most fish to target in freshwater include bass, sunfish, catfish, trout, carp, and pike. Look for bass and sunfish around submerged trees and vegetation. You can find catfish and carp foraging for food on the bottom. Trout and pike like more open water with ample amounts of oxygen.

Dress Properly

When it comes to dressing properly, you should be a big advocate of keeping things simple but comfortable. What you should wear on a fishing trip has a lot to do with the weather and how long you’ll be out. In warmer summer months, it’s fine to wear t-shirts, shorts, a cap, and sunscreen. When it is colder out, you need to be more careful and dress in layers.

As far as what to bring fishing, Always take a pair of polarized sunglasses to break up the glare on the water’s surface. Wear comfy clothing and make sure it performs well for the temperatures you will be fishing in.

Weather Patterns And Moon Phases

I didn’t realize that it mattered growing up but as I got older, I realized that weather affects fishing. All species of fish do react to environmental factors such as the weather, water temperature, moon phase, and water pressure. It wasn’t until I realized this that I started catching more fish.

Although it is not an exact science, they generally prefer to hunt more often during summer and the warmer months before entering into a hibernation stage when it gets colder during the winter time. The moon also plays just as much of a role at night to fish activity as the sun does during the day.  Each of the different moon phases will change the bite drastically from one phase to another sometimes even completely turning the bite on or off. It is up to you to do some experimenting to see how fish react to the different moon phases. Night fishing is essential for catching catfish and other scent feeders.

Go After One Species Of Fish

I know it is tempting to want to catch everything that swims. There is nothing wrong with that at all. That would require using live bait or a fishing lure that is designed to target most of those. There isn’t one fishing lure in the world that will single-handedly catch everything that swims.

I have heard claims to the contrary but believe me, it doesn’t exist. You need a big selection of fishing baits because fish change their tastes for a number of reasons. When you add the number of changes that fish go through to the already high number of species of fish available, it is easy to see that you will need a good number of baits to choose from.

It is much easier to catch a lot more when you decide which species you want to target. If you are a bass angler, that is fine. See my guide on bass fishing for beginners. If you are fishing more for catfish or something else, create a mental note and chase it down. Do some searching on Google about it and start targeting that one species.

Going after one species of fish instead of many sounds counterproductive and it also sounds like it would decrease your success. The truth is that it has the opposite effect. This is because targeting one fish species at a time will get more bites because more effort is being put into the setup and presentation. To make things simple, it’s easier to get bit doing everything right for one fish than it is to try for all of them and fail.

Setting The Hook

Most modern fish hooks are plenty sharp enough to do most of the hard work for you when it comes to catching and landing the catch after sticking it with the hook point. The thing to remember is that they cannot do everything for you. You have to set the hook yourself. How to set the hook sounds pretty simple on paper and most of the time, it is.

How successful you are at driving the point of the fishing hook into the fish’s mouth is entirely dependent on your technique as well as your rig. Some rigs and rod setups just work better than others when it comes to this. I have a detailed guide that explains exactly how you should set the hook depending on what equipment you are using.

Fighting The Fish

Over half of the time, fighting the fish in freshwater is not something you have to worry about a whole lot. Most of the fish you will catch will be smaller in size and your line and rod will do most of the heavy lifting for you when they bite. The very big freshwater fish that will give you a hard time and a great fight are the largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, catfish, carp, walleye, and pike. If any fish will give you trouble, they will probably be one of those. In other words, fighting the fish only becomes a problem when you have a nice one on.

The world’s biggest bluegill or another breed of sunfish will not give you a whole lot of trouble. Mind you, it is still hugely important to set the drag on your spinning reel properly. The entire sport of fishing doesn’t exist in absolutes and hooking a monster while bluegill fishing is not uncommon whatsoever. You will eventually get an unexpected hookup for absolutely no reason, fight it for five minutes, think it’s a tree, and try to free the snag before it swims off. When that happens, you better be prepared for it.

The proper way to fight the fish is to already have the drag set right and to let the fish wear itself out. Everything becomes weightless in water so making the fish tired is the key to bringing it in by making it stop fighting. When it runs, let it run and pull the line off of the reel. When it stops, reel in, stop, and pull the rod. Keep repeating that and let off everything if the fish starts running once more. Eventually, the fish will give up and you will be able to land it.

Putting Everything Together

Fishing for beginners uses the same tactics that we all should have with us whenever we decide we want to catch fish on the water. Yes, it is nothing much more than all of the essential basics but these set the foundation for what we love so much about everything else in this sport. All in all, I love the fact that fishing can be as simple or as complicated as you want to make it.]

This is especially true when one starts out. When one has limited time, limited income, and just wants to join in on the fun, all of these basics still work the same today as they have for hundreds of years already. If you never went out to practice some beginner freshwater fishing, I suggest you try it out.

It may not have all the bells and whistles of every new trend in the fishing industry today but the initial investment in time vs payoff is more than worth it. Fishing by its very nature is an essential skill to learn and have with you. It will help make your life more enjoyable today and you never know, but one day, it may actually save your life in a number of ways.

What are your thoughts on the new anglers who have not yet dove into the brotherhood we share with one another? Do you think we fishermen are wasting our time? Do you think it’s time well spent? We want to know what you think about it. Leave a comment below so we can hear what you have to say! Your comment helps out others.

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