By Bonita Staples
I am often approached at boat and tackle shows or fishing seminars by both adults and young people wanting to know how to get started in fishing. Where can you go to get the basic information on how to fish, not just the equipment and tackle needed, but how to get started from scratch? What kind of fish to fish for, what do they look like, how do you rig the bait or lures, how do you tie a knot, what kind of rod and reel?
To most of us in the fishing world, these are things we learned growing up. But many adults have missed the outdoors and now they don’t know where to go to give their children the things they missed in the outdoor world. I will try to cover some of the basics in this article, but I can’t do it all by myself, I need your help! It’s up to those of us who do know to teach those who do not about fishing.
There are lots of different kinds of fish to fish for. Catfish and carp are plentiful and primarily prefer prepared or live bait. Crappie are fun and it’s easy to learn to catch them, too.
Now we will talk about the fish I like to pursue, bass. Bass are part of the perch family also (bream and perch), just on the larger side. We will start with the striper, hybrids and sand bass. Hybrids are a cross between a striper and a sand bass and typically do not spawn, although there have been some documented cases. Stripers and hybrids prefer live shad, perch and at times cut up shad. Stripers are typically found in river lakes. Sand bass like minnows, but are fun to catch on artificial lures like small jigs, spoons and lipless crankbait-type lures. When they are surfacing (chasing shad), they can wear you out.
Smallmouth and spotted bass are usually found in deep clear-water lakes, some rivers, they are tough to catch, picky eaters and typically stay in deeper water. Black bass (my favorites) on the other hand, are probably the most pursued freshwater fish in the south. although they will hit live shad and shiners, most anglers use artificial baits. There are hundreds of bass tournaments around the USA every weekend and we still haven’t figured out how to outsmart the black bass. It’s what we all encounter that make black bass so much of a challenge.
Black bass can be found in shallow to deep water at all times of the year. Spinnerbaits, lipless crankbaits, diving crankbaits, Texas- and Carolina-rigged woms, grubs and centipede type baits all work well, some better at different times of the year than others. Colors can vary also, but the best rule of thumb is dark colors on dark days, light colors on bright days and sticking to the colors that most closely resemble the food source of the fish.
The best place to get a first hand look at all of these fish is to visit the Freshwater Fishing Center south of Athens Lake outside of Athens, Texas. You can see the fish in their natural habitat as well as get information about each species.
Lets took at the fishing equipment and tackle that you might need to get started. If you are just starting out and don’t know or are not going to concentrate on a particular fish group, I would recommend getting a Zebco 33 rod and reel package, about $35.00 It comes with 10-pound line and will be good for most of the fish mentioned. The other basic tackle that I think you need include the following. Some size #6 or #8 live bait hooks, a couple of crappie rigs, a few 1/4- and 3/8-ounce bell weights, a small cork or float. This will cover any live bait fishing you may do and should cost less than $10.00. I would recommend that you use artificial, less trouble and not as messy. To get started with artificials you will need a package of 1/0 offset worm hooks, some 3/16-ounce bullet worm weights and a package of 4-inch watermelon and pumpkinseed Venom worms called Slammers, for Texas-riggedworm fishing. One or two, 1/8-ounce shad pattern spinnerbaits and a couple of 1/4-ounce chrome/blue back lipless crankbaits. For crappie, perch and sand bass, a few small white and chartreuse jig heads with the same color small grubs. This should cost you less than $20.00 and give you the basic tackle to entice a variety of species.
As your knowledge and skills improve, so will your choice of tackle change to adapt to the ability that comes with experience. If you’re helping to get a new angler started, just keep it simple in the beginning and make it fun.
This should get you started with some basics. I think the best advice I can give for now is to read as many magazine articles as you can and watch the fishing shows on TV. Rent or buy fishing tapes to watch and gain as much knowledge as you can about fish and fishing, you never can learn enough. This would be easier if I was in front of you explaining the art of fishing and doing some show and tell, but for now this is my canvas, I hope I have painted you a good picture.
Bonita is sponsored by Cobra Boats, Mercury Motors, Bowie Marine, Hamby’s Protectors, Solargizer, Falcon Rods, Bob’s Machine Shop, Minn Kota, OutdoorTexas.com and Tournament Chasers.