Buying Your First Fishing Rod And Reel (Complete Guide)

Homework Before Choosing A Fishing Rod And Reel

photo of a black and tan colored fishing rod with silver reel laying on rocks

Most of us can agree that being a beginner at anything is hard and learning to fish is no different. Before you make your first cast, there are some things to learn. Such as fish species habits, local regulations, and which gear is best. But for newbies it’s overwhelming trying to figure out where to start for picking out gear. Today I will help you with your research for your first fishing rod and reel.

Pick A Species Of Fish

Before thinking about fishing rod and reel, you have some homework to do. An easy way to start is to figure out what fish species you are targeting. Some first time anglers focus on a single type of fish, while others want to target as many types of fish as possible. I prefer to focus on a specific fish, this will aid in learning catch that fish and select your gear. This is a simple way to narrow down your search for the right fishing rod.

Choose Your Location

Next, choose where you intend to fish, either freshwater or saltwater. While some fishing gear is interchangeable for either type of environment, there are others that aren’t. I recommend finding materials that aren’t prone to rusting. As long as you aren’t in the habit of using specific freshwater gear in the ocean, you’ll be alright. Okay, after specifying a species and location it’s time to figure out which fishing rod and reel will help to get the job done.

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Related: Discover The Best Shimano Spinning Reels For 2023

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Table of Contents

Parts Of A Fishing Rod:

For those of you who are absolute newbies, let’s start with learning about each part of a fishing rod. Below is a diagram of the parts of a fishing rod, plus definitions of each part.

Butt Cap:

This is the cap at the bottom of the handle and made of either rubber or cork. The butt cap is the end you might press into your abdomen as you fight a strong fish.


Some anglers call this a grip, it’s where you hold the rod. Handles are either cork, foam or a combination of both. Cork is a traditional firm grip; while foam resists temperature changes and water wear. What material you choose is a personal comfort choice.

Handles/grips come in two shapes, either pistol or trigger stick. A pistol grip is the shortest type of grip. This grip contours to the shape of your hand, with a hook for your index finger. The hook aids in making accurate casts. A trigger stick grip is a longer grip that helps for smooth two-handed, long distance casts.

Reel Seat:

This is where a reel attaches to the rod. Reel attachments to the reel seat can differ. One way is, the rod will have rings that go over the reel foot to secure. Or some have a mechanism that screws either up or down on the foot of the reel to keep it in place.

fishing rod parts diagram from butt cap up to female ferrule

Hook Keeper or Keeper Ring:

This ring should be self-explanatory, and it is a big safety feature. Its purpose is to give you place to hook your unused hook on. Using it helps to keep the hook from swinging around and poking into your skin.


This is the thicker end of your rod blank closest to the handle.

Butt Guide:

The first guide (more about guides below) closest to the handle end of your rod, at the thickest part of the rod (butt).

Female Ferrule:

A rod has this if you have a fishing rod that breaks down into 2 pieces or more. A ferrule is a joint where two sections of the rod fit together. The female ferrule is a part of the lower section of the rod, and fits onto the male ferrule.

Diagram of upper fishing rod from male ferrule up to tip top

Male Ferrule:

This is the bottom part of the upper section of the rod. Male ferrules have slight flared shape to allow the female ferrule to slide onto it. Its function is to create a solid connection between two sections of a fishing rod.

Guide Rings:

These are the little rings on your rod that “guide” the line the length of rod from the butt to the tip. The exact amount of rings, the spacing, and size of the guides differ dependent on each kind of rod. In general, the more guides the better. It’s ideal to look for high quality rods with at least one guide for every foot of its length. (A 7-foot rod should have at least 7 guide rings).


Are the string like fasteners that attach the guides to the rod. The windings have a protective painted on enamel that helps reduce corrosion.


This is the flexible uppermost area of the rod. The tip is the thinnest part of the rod and is nearest to the tiptop.

Tip Top:

This is the final guide at the absolute tip of your fishing rod. This is the tiniest guide that helps you sustain an accurate casting. Due to its minuscule size, this guide is most likely to snag break off, for example in vehicle doors. Be careful transporting your fishing rod to protect this guide.

I get it, definitions are boring but learning this stuff is super helpful to start buying fishing gear. Another reason it’s great is it makes it easier to get your questions answered if you seek out help in shops.

Now that you have a basic understanding of the parts of a fishing rod, it’s time to delve into the types of fishing rods.


Types Of Fishing Rods?

At first glance it seems obvious that each type of fishing rod should be similar since you use each for the same purpose. But this is wrong because each type uses different methods based on the type of fish the angler is targeting. To lessen your confusion, below is a brief explanation of each.

Casting Rods

A fisherman will choose a casting rod for situations that require pinpoint placement of a bait or lure. This type of rod has the “guide rings” on the top of the rod. Which means the reels for a casting rod sit on top of the rod too. Keep in mind, that a casting rod is further split into two categories, either spin casting or bait casting.

Two Categories of Casting Rods

Spin casting rod

This type is the true beginner or kids fishing rod. This rod has smaller guide rings and a forefinger trigger grip on the handle. The rod design combines with a spin casting reel with a covered spool. Most spin cast rods has a tiny guide ring close to the reel. For new anglers, it’s simple to use but sacrifices a lot of distance and accuracy. For this reason, it’s a great option for kids to learn with.

Baitcasting rod

Like the previous in that it attaches to the top of the reel, but is for advanced anglers. On a baitcasting rod the guide ring close to the reel is bigger than a spin cast rod. This type of rod uses a specific baitcasting reel, which is open spooled. Another feature of this rod is it has a strong backbone or “butt”. A strong butt won’t bend much and allows a lure to rip through vegetation or hook into tough fish. Beginners have trouble learning with this rod due to the complex method of the reel. It’s better to learn with the next type, a spinning rod.

Diagram of differences between a spinning rod and casting rod

Looking at this diagram it’s easy to see the differences between a spinning rod and casting rod.

Spinning Rods

The shape of a spinning rod is like a casting rod, but differs due to it being thinner and lighter. This type ranges from 5 to 9 feet (2.74 meters) in length. The reel that spinning rods use attaches and hangs off the bottom of the rod. A spinning rod has a larger guide ring closest to the reel to reduce friction on the line as you cast. Since the reel is below the rod, most beginners find it comfortable and easy to learn with.

Fly Rods

This is a special method of fishing and considered an advanced anglers’ rod. A fly rod can come in a range of sizes and shapes, and designed for fly-fishing. The shape of the rod is thin, flexible and lightweight. This shape allows you to complete a specific method to mimic a fly moving near the surface of the water. This method uses your wrist action to snap the rod forward and back. The most distinctive feature of a fly rod is the lack of a butt section of the rod. Without a stiff butt section the rod is whippy for short to help you make accurate casts.

Ocean Fishing Rods

Designed to fish in the ocean, these are either short if used on boats, or long if used from the shore. An ocean rod is heavy duty with a thick and long butt section. This long butt section is for fighting large strong fish. Ocean rods will have distinctive and large guide rings to handle thick fishing line. In fact, the heaviest ocean fishing rods can target a shark!

Surf Rods

If you plan to fish from a beach, this is the rod for you. It’s a sub-category of an ocean rod. This type of rod is super long with a long butt and handle. The rod length is long to allow a heavy sinker and bait to be cast a long way offshore. Plus its long handle helps with a two handed casting technique. This rod will resemble a heavier, longer version of a spinning rod. You will want to use this rod if fishing from a beach.

Trolling Rods

This is a type of rod used to drag fishing lures behind a moving boat. With this method, you are attempting to entice fish to strike moving “food”. If you are fishing on a boat and targeting massive tuna this is a good choice rod. The best trolling rod is long, heavy and with a fast action.

Ice Fishing Rods

Photo of person wearing black and yellow snow suit ice fishing during a sunny day

An ice rod looks like a spinning rod except it is much shorter since there isn’t much space available. Another glaring difference is traditional ice rods don’t use a reel. Instead, it has a hook attached to the rod and one you cast out under the ice. To reel in the line you would wind in the line by hand. An ice rod spans from 24 to 36 inches (91 cm) long and have less guide rings than spinning rods.

Telescopic Rods

A telescopic rod is an invention by fishing brands to create a compact fishing rod. The rod will extend out from the handle for use and fold up into itself during storage or transport. The closed up the length is around one to two feet long. Whereas in use, it can be up to 20 feet (6.1 m) in length. Typical compact rods are simple spinning rods, with less guide rings and a flexible tip. Although some don’t come with guide rings, these will have the line through the center of the rod. This is a specialized rod popular with surf fishermen since it is long and is easy to transport and storage.

Pen Rods

This is the most compact fishing rod that’s similar to a telescopic in function. If you see one closed up, it resembles a large pen. In fact a pen rod can fit in a pocket or backpack in the close position. They extend only a few feet and are super lightweight. The performance of this type of rod will depend on the quality of the line and reel you use. This isn’t an everyday rod, but is fun to have if a fishing opportunity arises.


What Is Fishing Rod Action?

“Rod action” refers to the flexibility of the rod, which is where the rod bends along the blank. The action describes where and the degree a rod bends when it’s “loaded” (bends). It is important to understand that rod action also relates to taper or the thickness of the rod. The thickness will limit the curved shape a rod will make as it bends.

Keep this in mind, the more a rod flexes throughout its length, the slower (lighter) the action is.

The three main actions to look for:

Diagram of fishing rod explaining fast action or bending at the tip-top

1) Fast (Heavy) Action

In general, this rod action is stiff with most of the bend occurring at the uppermost part of the rod. This action is sensitive to the tiniest nibbles and is easier to dislodge a hook if it were to snag. Good for heavier lures, bottom fishing and strong fish.

Diagram of a fishing rod explaining medium action or bending in middle section

2) Moderate (Medium) Action 

This rod action bends a little deeper, near the middle part of the fishing rod. It is the most versatile rod action for beginners. This action feels like it has a backbone, and it also has more strength to pull in a big fish. Also, it isn’t too heavy for starter anglers to wield.

Diagram of a a fishing rod explaining slow action or bending closest to the handle

3) Slow (Light) Action 

This rod is the most flexible as it bends near the butt-end of the rod. This action feels light, whippy and is good for ultra light bait.

In general, the action you decide to choose will depend on a few factors. First, what you are trying to catch, second your casting technique and third the type of lures you use.

One last thing about action before we move on to the next section. Good anglers know “Action” balances the rod’s “Power” to provide good casting and reeling back in. Okay, let’s move on.


Fishing Rod Power Explained

The power and action of a fishing rod may confuse beginners. Rod power is a rating like action. However, unlike “action” (rod flex), power refers the rod’s resistance to flexing. It’s rod’s ability to withstand weight or pressure before it bends. Likewise, power ratings relate to the thickness of the rod blank.

Starting from thin rods in the ultra-light to light power category. Next getting thicker in the medium to medium-heavy category. Finishing at thick rod blanks in the heavy to extra heavy power category. Certain power ratings correlate with fishing line weight and lure weight, as shown in the diagram below.

Comparison table matching each fishing rod power to line weight and lure weight ranges

Like action, the reason for having rod power ratings is due to the fact that there are big and small fish species. As a result, what you target will determine what power rating you need in your fishing rod.

To find the power rating of a particular rod, you need to check the lure and line weight ratings, printed on the rod itself. To make your fishing efficient, match your lure and line weight to the species you are targeting. The smaller the fish you target, the lighter “power” rod you will want.

Which Fishing Rod Length: Short Versus Long

Rod length is the most obvious metric; it is the distance of the fishing rod from the butt up to the tip-top. Differences in fishing rod length will affect your technique choices. These include the casting distance, accuracy, and hook set leverage (advanced fishing). Below are some further general rod length considerations:

Shorter Fishing Rods

A boy and man leaning against a blue colored railing fishing with short rods

  1. More power. Imagine reeling in a strong fish and the feeling of fighting against you as it comes closer to you. The shorter the rod, the less leverage you give to the fish you are fighting.
  2. Higher casting accuracy.
  3. Easier to move around in tight cover, under docks, etc.
  4. Shorter and slower lure travel. Which means less stress on your wrist & arm movement.
  5. Easier for transport and storage. Imagine packing up your rod in the car, boat or inside your home.
  6. In general a single piece rod blank. Great as dead spots at ferrule connections aren’t likely.
  7. Light and balanced in weight.

Longer Fishing Rod

  1. Greater casting distance.
  2. Excellent choice for shore or surf fishing where you want to cover as much distance as possible.
  3. More initial leverage, but may be problematic for reeling in a strong fish in close quarters.
  4. Greater rod stroke & greater line speed when casting. (Advanced fishing).
  5. More fishing line clearance. Imagine the area between the fishing rod tip-top and the bottom of a boat. This is important, as having clearance will reduce a hull abrasion on the boat.
  6. Rod blank made up of two or more pieces. Transport is convenient but some anglers complain of dead spots at ferrule connections.
  7. Casting takes more practice. Releasing your line at the right time is tougher when casting with a longer fishing rod.
  8. Weight becomes an issue over long period of repeated casting. Placing stress on your wrists and arms.

As you can see, the rod length you choose depends on location, species, and personal preference. Next, you will need to decide what type of material of rod you need.

What Are Fishing Rods Made Of?

Deciding on the material of your first fishing rod isn’t a major choice for a beginner due to costs. But like rod parts it is worth mentioning to learn about angling.

The main construction of a fishing rod is around its frame. With each type of material having a big impact on overall performance. The material for fishing rod have three main roles. One it plays a big role in strength, two for its sensitivity and three it’s lifting power.

Many fishing rods come in materials like fiberglass, graphite or carbon fiber. These days, newer rods incorporate a mixture of these materials. For example, a rod might have a tough fiberglass core surrounded by a graphite outer layer. Whatever one you pick, every material has its own advantages and disadvantages.

Fiberglass Material For Fishing Rods:

This used to be the most popular material for fishing rods. But these days it’s associated with budget friendly fishing rods. Don’t get the wrong impression though, while economical it’s amazing for certain types of fishing. Such as trolling, vertical rigging or crank baiting which needs medium-heavy fishing rods.

Selective image of white colored roll of woven fiberglass

Fiberglass is great for these types because the rods are thicker, longer and less sensitive. Plus their rod action falls in the slow to medium class, meaning the rod bends throughout its length. Which is great for fishing with larger baits or for bottom feeding fish.

Another pro for fiberglass is that it is tougher than other materials. Imagine if you dropped a graphite or carbon fiber fishing rod on some rocks. There is a good chance the rod would damage, but with fiberglass the rod fares much better. This benefit is the exact reason some brands use fiberglass for their beginner fishing rods.

Graphite/ Carbon Fiber Material For Fishing Rods:

Graphite and carbon fibers are stronger, more sensitive, and more expensive than fiberglass. These materials use a composite with a blend of resin and epoxy to create a rod blank. Like most industries, fishing rod brands keep their composite recipes a secret. Brands claim each specific composite build will affect the behaviors of the fishing rod. Using extensive research and development the manufacturing costs of these materials higher. Which results in you shelling out more money for this type of fishing rod.

Background image of red and black carbon fiber material

Anglers choose these materials over fiberglass models for a couple of reasons. The first is their extreme sensitivity and extra whip when casting. These rods enhance the sensitivity to a point that you can feel the nibble of the tiniest minnows. The second reason is that they are ultra-lightweight. Weight makes a big difference as you fish for long hours.

The drawback of this rod material is that due to their sensitivity these rods tend to overreact. Imagine feeling what you think is a fish nibbling but in reality is the lure passing over vegetation. Reeling in at the wrong time means you lose the opportunity to hook nearby which is frustrating.

For novices, it’s best to start with a cheaper material to get used to casting and reeling. As you gain experience, you can work your way up to a more expensive option. Either way, like clothing choices, it’s a personal decision.

Multi-Material Composites For Fishing Rods:

The last material option that some fishing rod companies use are a mix of materials. Multi-material composite rods, provide more strengths and fewer weaknesses. However, if you choose to buy a fishing rod with a multi-materials, expect to pay a lot.


What Is A Fishing Reel?

This mechanical device uses a rotating arm to release, collect and store fishing line. They look confusing to an untrained eye, but are in fact quite simplistic in operation. Fishing reel choices are like rod choices, your choice depends on skill level, fish type and environment.

Teal colored background, in foreground a fishing reel with parts listed

Before you learn about each type of reel, there is one more term you need to know.

Fishing Reel Drag System:

This mechanism allows you to set the amount of resistance a fish feels when it pulls on the fishing line. It’s a brake system like the one you have in a car. The tighter you set a drag, the more resistance the fish will feel. Make sure to set the drag at a setting that tires out the fish, but won’t snap the line. Now it’s time to learn about each fishing reel.


Types Of Fishing Reels & Steps To Use

After a fishing rod, the next important choice is your fishing reel. In fishing, there are two main starter categories of reels; spinning reels and fly reels. Fly reels are a specialized reel that you use only for fly-fishing, for ease of learning they aren’t included.

For this guide I focus on reels which use a typical spool mechanism. Modern anglers use one of three types: spin cast, spinning or baitcasting.

Spin Cast Reel:

Closeup photo of a spin cast fishing reel being held by a hand over water

This type of reel is the cheapest to buy; it has a closed face and sits on top to the reel. Enclosed under the nose cone of the reel are all the important parts. At the top of the nose cone is a little hole, this is where the line comes out of the cover. Since the reel it is the easiest to use, people buy it to teach young children fishing with it.

Steps to use a spin cast reel:

  1. To start a cast you push down the button on the back of the reel.
  2. As you whip the rod forward, it releases the line out.
  3. To stop the line you let go of the button.
  4. Reel in the line by turning the handle

Since it’s simple to operate, you sacrifice a lot of distance and accuracy, but it’s a fun reel for the kids.

Spinning Reel:

Spinning reels are the most popular type of fishing reel. This is because it’s versatile and more accurate than the spin cast. Plus, it’s easier to operate than the bait-cast reel. The spinning reel has an opened face design with the spool of fishing line visible. Like most other reels, as you turn the handle, the spool of spinning reel rotates. Unlike the other types of reels, a spinning reel attaches beneath the rod when in use.

Since it is open-faced, you see the fishing line throughout the reel. A spinning reel performs best for fishing lines under twenty-pound weight. The way the fishing line travels from the reel to the end of the rod is as follows.

Isolated closeup photo of a silver colored spinning reel attached to fishing rod

From the spool the line passes over a small wheel called a “power roller” before continuing up through the rod guides. You will also see metal arm called a “bail” on the reel. The bail keeps the fishing line in place and makes sure that it passes over the power roller. These components are important for the function of casting and retrieval.

Steps to use a spinning reel:

  • First, hold the reel in your stronger hand. Your hand should be in the middle of the reel foot. With the reel below the handle, set the drag. With your other hand, pull out some line until there is 6 inches (15.24 cm) beyond the tiptop of the rod.
  • Second, turn the handle until the power roller spins to be underneath your index finger. To keep the line taught place your index finger on the line and hold it firm while you prepare to cast.
  • Third, move the bail arm into the up position, known as “opening the bail.” Opening the bail frees the line and allows it to un-spool. Keep the line firm while you back-swing the rod. At the end of your back swing allow the rod to flex; this is the action. The action will load the rod for the cast. Next using your wrist and elbow push the rod forward toward the area you are targeting.
  • Fourth, this step is all about practice and timing. As the tip of your rod passes the visual half-way point to your target, release your index finger. This releases the line and completes the cast by sending the lure out to your target area.
  • Fifth, close the metal “bail.” At the time you feel a nibble on the rod, turn the reel handle to pull the expelled line back to you.

Note: The most common problem for beginner anglers when using a spinning reel is a twisted line. Here’s how to fix it: open the metal bail and by hand un-spool many yards of line. Keep un-spooling until the line lies flat, as it does close the bail. Finish up by slowly rewinding the handle to reel in the line.

Baitcasting Reel:

This style of reel is very different from the other reels in several important ways. One difference is that it has a revolving spool and sits on top of a rod with a trigger handle. For a beginner angler this type of reel is the most difficult to master.

Closeup photo of a baitcasting reel attached to a fishing rod with water in background

Baitcasting Versus Spinning Reels

The big difference between this reel and a classic spinning reel is the way an angler “opens” the spool. A baitcast reel relies on you pressing a thumb bar to release the spool. With this reel the heavy weight of a lure pulls the line out as you cast. Whereas a spinning reel uses the metal bail to open the spool and releasing your index finger on the line to finish a cast.

A baitcast reel needs more education about proper reel adjustments to be successful. As well, you need to use a lot of skill to ensure it stops spinning when the lure hits the water. The two main components that make this reel great for some but difficult for beginners are the following:

  • First is the tension knob. This will apply tension to the spool either to allow the spool to spin or to restrict it from spinning. You would complete this before attempting a cast.
  • The second which adds to the learning curve for a beginner, is the braking system or drag. This system adjusts and slows down the spinning of the spool during the cast. Without this brake control a backlash can happen.

Steps to use a baitcasting reel 

The steps below look easy, but this reel need intense finesse to get it right. Before you cast you will want to set the drag system and choose your bait or lure.

  1. To start you will turn the fishing rod/reel on its side. Next engage the thumb bar with the base of your thumb to open the spool. Ensure the tip of your thumb rests against the line on the spool, to keep the lure in position.
  2. Performing a cast, you will snap the rod backward at a 2 o’clock position.
  3. Next pitch the rod forward in a fluid motion. Ensuring your thumb is grazing the line as the lure pulls the line out of the reel. You use thumb contact on the line to moderate the revolutions of the spool. Another use of your thumb is to brake the lure as it reaches the desired distance, finishing the cast.
  4. At first nibble you will turn the handle of the reel

One confusing feature for novices are the centrifugal braking systems. These help control backlash of fishing line. Backlash is a tangled mess of line that results if the fishing line doesn’t stop spooling after a cast.

Note: Experienced anglers enjoy the precision and accuracy of these reels, but they aren’t great for beginners.


Fishing Line Explained:

Closeup photo showing fishing line inside reel guides with blurred background

Fishing line is the cord-like length of material that attaches to the reel and terminates with some kind of hook or lure. It’s the physical link between you and the fish you are targeting. This is the reason that choosing the right type of line is vital for success. Lines choices are plenty, from braided nylon, monofilament, special catfish line, to fly lines.

For this starter fishing rod and reel guide, I’m going to stick with monofilament fishing line. Monofilament is the most common type of line and comes in a variety of colors.

4 Considerations For Choosing Fishing Line

1. Strength:

Called test weight, line weight or pound test, these all mean the same thing. It’s the amount of weight a line can support before it snaps/breaks. Line strength can vary from 4, 6, 8, 10 to over 20 pounds. Different types of line strengths will catch different types of fish – notice a pattern to rods and reels.

The higher the number listed on the package of line, the stronger it is. Listed as either kilograms or pounds depending on your location. To add to your confusion, some state, “test” or have a # above or next to the marking. Like #20 or 10 kg (20lbs)

2. Visibility (Color):

Visibility relates to the fishing line being visible is to the angler, not the fish. A box of line either has a label noting a color or it will state high visibility, low visibility, or invisible.

3. Fishing Line Size:

This is the actual diameter of the fishing line. Find the sizes on the box stated from thousandths of an inch or hundreds of millimeters.

4. Reel Specifications (line length/strength):

Check out the reel mounted on your rod. Most reels will have a series of numbers printed on them, like 260/6, 190/8, 130/10. The numbers show the following:

260 = The amount of line (length in yards or meters) the reel can spool.

6 = For that particular strength of line.

After examining your reel, you can see what fishing line combinations it can handle. Okay, we have sorted out the fishing rod, reel and fishing line, it’s time to talk terminal tackle.


What Is Terminal Tackle?

Terminal tackle is the general name for the gear attached at the end of your fishing rod. These include the hook, weights, swivels, floats, lures that attach to the end of your fishing line. Below is an explanation of each type.


Also known as “bobbers.” They’re made of either hollow plastic, balsa wood or Styrofoam. Floats suspend the bait or lure away from the bottom of the water. Try to use the smallest float you can to cut the weight of the bait or lure. It’s ideal to have an upright float, to do this, you can use a sinker.

Closeup photo of green and red fishing lure floating in water


Are weights that you attach to the line, which also aid you in longer casts and sink your bait or lure. In the past, they contained lead which is poisonous. Today they also come in earth friendly materials like tin or tungsten. A caveat of these new materials is that they are more expensive.


This is a short piece of fishing line which you attach between your main fishing line and the hook or lure. A good choice for a leader is one that is less than half of the strength (pound test) of your main line. Its function is to snap off in the event of a snag or a strong fish. By snapping a small leader line you keep the more expensive main line intact.


This joins your main line (heavier) to your leader (lighter). It keeps your line from twisting because it allows the leader to turn independently of the main line. The three most common types are as follows.

  1. Ball-bearing barrel swivel: A closed loop on either end of a barrel.
  2. Snap swivel: This is a quick release snap opening on one end and a closed loop on the other. The snap is great for changing out lures, however the extra hardware may frighten off fish.
  3. Three-way swivel: This is a specialty swivel for making rigs. With a three-way you can have two leaders on one main line.

Diagram of a fishing hook with parts labelled on blue background


These are a curved piece of wire with a sharp “barb” and point on one end. The barb is what hooks into the fish. At the top there is a round eye for attachment of the fishing line. They come in many shapes and sizes, each designed with different uses.

Let’s move on from terminal tackle and move on to fishing with baits and lures.


Using Baits For Fishing

What are baits? Baits are any live food or artificial substance used to attract the fish and tempt them to bite. Bait falls into two categories either live baits or prepared baits. Below are some examples of each type and typical ways to hook each.

Live baits:

Overhead photo of white fishing worms inside green container held in hand


These come in a variety of choices, like earthworms, red worms and night crawlers. If you buy worms from the store, they usually come in a Styrofoam container. You should store in the refrigerator when not fishing.

Hooking: Ensure to loop the worm through the hook 2-4 times with some (less than 1-inch or 2.54 cm) of the worm dangling. More than an inch of worm dangling will allow a fish to nibble the worm without biting the hook.


These are excellent bait for heavier fish like bass and catfish. Buy them from most local bait and tackle shops.

Hooking: To bait a hook with a grasshopper; ensure to insert the hook behind the grasshopper’s head.


These are a general term used by anglers to mean any small bait fish. Bait fish are usually shiners, chubs and dace or minnows.

Hooking: Insert the hook through the lips or under their dorsal fin. Avoid hooking too low through the backbone if hooking under their dorsal fin. This is because the minnow will bleed out and die. Dead bait is not as effective in attracting fish.

Prepared Baits:

Closeup photo of red salmon eggs spilling out of a fish on white rocks

Power Bait (aka PB)

You can buy this very common dough bait in most bait shops or fishing retailers. Dough bait is a scented putty like substance that comes in small glass jars. Anglers use it for targeting trout, carp or catfish. Since it is artificial, manufacturer’s will make it in a variety of colors. They do this to help attract the fish depending on time of day and water clarity.

If you choose this type of bait, it’s a good idea to have at least a few jars of different colors. Most people agree that buying a bright green and rainbow colors are great for beginners.

Hooking Power Bait: For PB anglers would usually use a small treble hook with this type of bait. As beginner though, a single hook is cheaper to buy and easier to use. Especially if you fish in areas that require you to catch and release, because it’s easier to release the fish. To hook this bait, mold a piece of the bait around the hook.

Salmon eggs

These are available in two ways; you can either buy real preserved eggs or buy imitation eggs (Power Eggs). Power eggs come in different flavors and colors. What you choose will depend on your own comfort with salmon eggs.

Hooking Salmon Eggs: Use a single hook and thread a single egg through the point and barb. Being gentle, pull and twist the egg back into the barb to secure the egg. If you prefer to use a treble hook, you can do this same method on each hook barb.


Fishing With Lures

Many types of colorful fishing lures laying on a gray colored wood floor

Lures are like man-made baits except they use movement, vibration, flash and color to lure fish. Lures do tend to be more expensive to buy than live or prepared baits. Plus they are more prone to snags and snaps if entangled with obstacles. While losing lures can be a pain, they are very effective in getting certain types of fish to bite.

Before we discuss lures, it is a good idea to know what lure “presentation” is. In fishing lingo, lure presentation is the actual technique used to catch the fish.

Below are five typical types of lures: plugs, spinners, soft plastic baits, jigs, and spoons. In addition, I give a simple presentation for each type.


In the past, made of carved wood, plugs are these days made of many materials including plastic and cork. Plugs resemble bait fish, frogs or other marine prey and have two or three treble hooks. Depending on the design, a plug can float, dive or do both.

1. Floating plugs include stick baits, prop baits, and crawlers. 2. Diving plugs include crank baits, minnow plugs, trolling plugs and jerk baits.

Dependent of which type you choose, plugs are available in a variety of sizes. They can wobble, rattle or gurgle when moving to aid in attracting fish.

Plug Lure Presentation:

A great option for beginners is the minnow plug; make sure to add a split ring to its eye. A minnow plug is long and narrow, about four inches in length. After you cast, this plug will float at the start, then dive and sit right below the surface of the water. Watch for the rings on the surface of the water to disappear. Next, choose to either reel it in slow or fast. While reeling in ensure to twitch the rod and make intermittent stops to activate the lure. This will help attract the fish to bite.

Close up photo of green fishing lure on muddy ground


This type of lure is awesome for beginners since they are simple to use. A spinner is a metal shaft with spinning blade. You can leave the hook bare or dress it with bait. Reeling in a spinner through water will cause the blade to spin. This spinning motion creates sound and vibration that attracts the fish to the lure. In addition, if you fish in murky water spinners are a great choice.

Spinner Lure Presentation:

It’s simple, you just cast and retrieve, because that is all it takes. As you start reeling in the blade begins spinning and working to attract fish.

Soft Plastics:

These are flexible lures made by pouring liquid plastic into a mold. Then they add dyes, metallic flakes, and sometimes scent. These molds are in shapes of what fish eat like worms, grubs, lizards, crayfish and minnows. There are also shapes unlike any found in or out of water, known as “critter baits.” The purpose of the soft plastic bodies of these lures are to encourage the fish to hold on to them a little longer. This helps give the angler a greater chance to hook the fish.

Photo of a red colored soft plastic fishing lure with grey background

Soft Plastics Lure Presentation: Texas Rig

Lure presentation with soft plastic baits will depend on the shape of bait. The most common soft plastic bait shape is a worm and an easy technique is the “Texas Rig.”

Use a bullet sinker weight, first thread and secure it to the leader line. Next, insert the hook point into the head of the worm, about 1/4 inch (6.35 mm) from the end. Next, rotate the hook out of the bottom of the worm. Now push the hook point and barb through the mid-section of the worm, so the bait lays parallel to the hook shaft. This makes the worm “weedless” which means is will not snag on underwater foliage.

Once rigged, you can direct your cast to the desired area. Let the rigged hook disappear underwater and fall to the bottom. Then twitch the tip of your rod a few times until you feel a bite. Sometimes this action might not be enough, so try to tug the rod back to imitate light twitchy hop backs.


A jig lure is a weighted metal or lead head with a body and tail. The tail is either made of feathers, soft plastics, animal hair or a chosen bait. They come in infinite sizes, colors and patterns. Jigs are the most versatile type of lure plus they’re budget friendly.

Jig Lure Presentation:

Using a jig lure is all about concentration and practice. Unlike other types of lures which move based on their design, for jigs it’s all about your own movement. Doing nothing after you cast means the jig stays motionless and sinks to the bottom. You will know it has hit bottom when the main line goes slack.

So, cast out and let the jig sink to the bottom. Next you will begin a hopping-in reel action. To do this start by jerking up and lifting the rod tip, then lowering it, while also reeling in your line. Attempt big hops and little hops, or twitching while reeling in. As said before, you need to practice this until you find what works for you. Detecting a fish bite is the toughest aspect about jig lure fishing.


Red micro spoon lure for fishing over a white background

These are metal curved lures shaped like a spoon. To attract fish, you move the lure to cause a side-to-side wobble which resembles an injured bait fish. Nature is unfortunately cruel and most fish (bass) love to hunt injured bait fish. Spoon lures come in a variety of shapes and sizes, so there is a lure for every fishing situation.

Spoon Lure Presentation:

Using spoon lures will depend on what technique you choose to use. Some spoon lures are casting types, others are good for trolling, and some you can use for jigging.

For beginners, I recommend sticking with a casting spoon. Casting spoons, or spinner lures, use a simple cast and retrieve movement. As long as the lure is wobbling you can increase or decrease speed. However, if the spoon begins to spin, then slow down your reeling in.


Example First Fishing Rod And Reel Setup:

By now you should have a basic understanding about what a fishing rod, reel and tackle is. Good job! This is a lot of information to learn in one sitting.

For novices looking for a sample of a fishing rod setup that will give you great all-around results. Look no further, below is my bare-bones example to help you get started as an angler.

Infographic listing items for a beginners fishing rod reel terminal tackle and sun protection

First Fishing Rod & Reel Combos

One thing we haven’t touched on is the fishing rod and reel combo. This means you can go to a reputable tackle shop or buy online a rod and reel in a package deal. Combos are a great way to get a better price and receive “balanced” fishing gear. Balanced means matching the rod and reel to hold the same size line. Likewise, balanced gear helps each individual part to perform as effectively as possible.

Rod & Reel Separate

This is the other common option for those of you who enjoy research as much as I do. Buy a rod and reel on their own. If you are unsure of which rod specifications will match a reel, I include some basic tips.

Reading a fishing rod:

Look near the handle, on the butt-end of the rod for the specifications. The specifications tell you length, action, line strength and sometimes lure size. As seen in the above infographic, it shows 8-pound test line. The diagram below shows a sample rod that works with the infographic.

Diagram of green fishing rod specs length action and line weight

Reading a fishing reel:

Next, match the reel and look at the specifications on the reel. Sometimes you will find them on the box they come in. In general, good quality reels will have the specs printed on the spool body. For our sample look for reels with 8-pound test line in the mid-range of the specs. A sample reel specification that works with our beginner rod setup may state:

“200 yards of 6lb test, 140 yards of 8lb test, and 120 yards of 10lb test.”

This reel specification will give you ample room to be a beginner and allow you to grow in ability.


Finishing up:

As you can read, choosing a fishing rod and reel is a thorough subject that needs a lot of research and personal choice. It is our goal for this to be the ultimate beginner’s fishing rod and reel guide for your needs. All that is left to say is good luck and have a great time out on the water!

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