So you would like to move a few rainbow trout from the lake to your plate, would you? Before setting off on your first fishing trip, it is important to have a general knowledge of basic equipment and techniques. Many sporting goods stores now offer starter sets containing most of the essentials, but the sports department of a local store may stock these same items individually.
It may help to examine a typical fishing pole from one end to the other to get a feel for the basic equipment needed for freshwater trips. At the very end of the line lies the bait. This can be anything from earthworms to crickets to minnows. Other popular baits include salmon eggs, raw dough balls, chicken livers, cheese portions, or so-called "stink bait." These baits can be collected at home or purchased at local fishing supply stores.
The bait is almost always attached to a barbed hook, another piece of basic fishing equipment. Hooks are sold in various sizes; the smaller the size number, the larger the hook. It helps to know what type and size fish you plan on catching when shopping for hooks. Most freshwater species such as bass, bluegill and crappie, may swallow a size 10 hook whole, but tend to be caught on size 6 or 8 hooks. Hooks larger than a size 6 are usually reserved for larger species of freshwater fish, such as largemouth bass, pike and lake sturgeon.
The hook is attached to a small piece of line with a loop on the opposite end. This loop is attached to the main fishing line through the use of a metallic snap called a swivel. The swivel is tied to the end of the main line and a small clip holds the loop of the hook line securely. The swivel allows the fisherman to quickly remove the hook from the main line following a catch. A swivel also protects the main line from excessive twisting motions that a hooked fish may create.
A few inches above the swivel are the sinkers. Sinkers are generally composed of lead, and are sold in various sizes and weights. Most sinkers can be clamped around the line with only a small pair of pliers or even a quick bite from the fisherman. For a technique called "bottom fishing," the swivel/sinker arrangement may be reversed in order for the fisherman to feel the tug of a fish on the line instead of the weight of the sinkers. Most tackle boxes contain a large supply of replacement sinkers, since they are often lost when the main line snaps.
A good fishing pole is perhaps the most essential piece of basic equipment. The main line is threaded through several eyelets on the pole for support. These eyelets must be smooth and unbroken, since the fishing line could become weakened by excessive friction or abrasion. The pole itself should have some flexibility, but still be firm enough to handle the weight of a large fish. Poles may be constructed from natural materials such as cane, or high-tech materials such as carbon fibers.
Just as important as a good pole is the fishing reel. On a freshwater pole, there may be two different reel designs. One is an open-faced reel system, in which the fisherman releases a small restraining bar and casts out line from an exposed spool. The other type of reel is called a Zebco, and is generally recommended for beginners. In a Zebco-style reel, a small thumb switch acts as both a release mechanism and a brake. The spool of line is protected by a solid housing. When the fisherman casts out the line, the brake is released and the line emerges from the housing. Zebco reels are less likely to become tangled than open-faced reels.
All of this basic equipment should be stored in a compartmentalized container known as a tackle box. A tackle box keeps all of the individual pieces of fishing equipment separate and dry during trips. Other essentials such as artificial lures, spray-on attractants and hook removers can also be stored in the tackle box. All that's left to be done is to find a good spot at your favorite lake and wait for the big one to get a little hungry.