Fishing Gear for Beginners
February 15, 2016 • Peter McDermott
9 min read
We reckon fishing is a bit of alright, actually it’s one of our all-time favourite things to do. But if you’ve either never gone fishing before, or you’ve never owned your own gear, it can be pretty overwhelming scrolling through all of the fishing product categories online.
The industry is awash with rods, and reels; accessories, tools, and tackle; all with their own unique properties designed to help you catch more fish. The good thing is that it’s pretty hard to get it totally wrong when you are starting out. We've pulled together our online buyer's guide to fishing gear for beginners explaining each item and their uses.
A Basic Fishing Outfit for Beginners
There are a few essential items to consider when buying your first set of fishing gear. First up, let's look at a basic example of a fishing outfit that can be used for catching either fresh or saltwater Australian fish species.
A basic river fishing outfit might look something like this:
- 7” spinning rod/reel combo
- 8lb mono or braid for rivers
- 10 x swivel
- 6 x single hooks in different sizes (1/0)
- 2 x ball sinkers A float
- 3 x spinning lures (rapalas, tasmanian devils etc)
- 1 x packet soft plastics (minnows)
- 1 x tackle box
- 1 x bait knife
- 1 x pair polarised sunglasses
While for surf fishing you would look to add;
- 12-14 foot spinning rod/reel combo
- 15lb mono or braid for surf fishing
- 30lb leader
- 2 x flasher rigs
- 1 x packet soft plastics (crabs)
- 4 x sand gripper sinkers
- 1 bait knife
- 1 x packet of dead baits (squid, pilchards, prawns etc)
If you weren't quite sure what half of those things ever were, we'll now go through and explain the different items on the list, and their uses.
But first, let’s talk licenses.
Fishing Licensing in Australia and New Zealand
Before you start fishing in Australia or New Zealand, you are going to need a recreational fishing license. Depending on where you live and plan to fish, you may need to buy a fishing license specific to that region.
Make sure to jump online before you head out and purchase the correct license for your chosen destination. They are not expensive at all, and easily purchased online.
Now let's look at some of the gear you need to start fishing in more detail.
Rod and Reel Combos
There are a number of easy techniques you can use for catching fish. If you are fishing in shallow fresh water from a wharf, even a long stick with some fishing line tied to the end will do for catching small bait fish. But rod and reel combos are so affordable, that they make the perfect first choice for beginner anglers.
Fishing Reels for Beginners
If you're starting from scratch, check our Guide to Fishing Reels to give you some great background on options.
Look for a combo with a spinning reel. They are the easiest to control while casting, fixing overruns is simple as you have clear access to the spool, and they are often lightweight and inexpensive. They are also some of the most versatile reel designs around; a spinning reel can catch fish from the wharf, the boat, or the shore.
Learning to cast well is a great skill to learn as it allows you to get close to the fish you are targeting without the need for a boat. Casting is great fun for kids too. If you are looking at taking your little one out for the first time, have a read of our Guide to Fishing with Kids for some helpful advice and tips.
Most beginner reels will come pre-spooled with line saving you the hassle of doing this yourself.
There are two main types of line used by anglers: braid and monofilament. Monofilament has more stretch and is more forgiving, but doesn’t provide as much feedback as a braid. Braid is great for detecting bites as it is much thinner and lighter than mono. When you are just getting started, mono is a good way to go as it's easy to tie knots with than braid, and very versatile. Mono is perfect for our spinning rod + reel set up as it is great for casting. 8 – 10lb line is as heavy as you will want to go for freshwater fishing, as anything above that will hinder your reel's ability to cast: the heavier the line, the less effective it is for casting.
Opting for lighter line such as 5lb will make fishing a little more challenging. This is a good idea if you plan to target smaller species.
Fishing Rods for Beginners
Spin fishing rods are suitable for beginner fishing. Look for something lightweight with a flexible tip. They are tapered with a slow action (flex down the length of the rod) so as to provide good power at the butt of the rod, while also allowing you to flick your lure or bait a fair distance. Starting out, it’s good to go for a fishing rod between 6 and 7 feet long for river fishing (12-14 for the surf). Some fishing rods can be broken down into two sections. This is great for fishing from wharfs, or the beach as it makes it easier for you to transport your rod.
Once you’ve got your fishing rod, reel, and line sorted, it’s time to get set up with some tackle. Terminal tackle includes hooks, sinkers, swivels, clips – basically all of the additional gear that you will tie to your fishing rig in order to catch fish.
If the idea of buying terminal tackle and tying your own fishing rig seems daunting at this stage, fear not: there are premade easy rigs out there on the market designed to take the hassle out of fishing. Flasher rigs are a perfect example of easy rigs that really work. Great for fishing from the wharf, they can catch fish even when no bait is attached to the hook. Most easy rigs are attached via a simple clip system, so all you need is a swivel attached to your main line.
As we mentioned earlier, swivels are used to connect two pieces of fishing line - usually the mainline and your trace.
Swivels are also available with clips that are great for swapping out rigs on the fly, great for saving time tying knots while you are fishing.
You’ll notice some sinkers come with swivel attachments as well to prevent breaking off when the line twists.
Trace / Leader
Fishing trace is the section of your line that to which you tie your terminal tackle. Trace is connected to your main line usually using a swivel which allows the trace to spin independently from the main line, reducing the chance of it breaking when it gets twisted while fighting a fish.
Trace is thicker and heavier than your mainline, designed to help prevent busting off on structure underwater or getting cut by a fish’s teeth.
Go for 10 – 20lb trace when you are starting off; that should be more than enough to handle the species you are likely to be targeting, and you can still catch a 10kg Snapper on 10lb trace, so long as you have the skill (and a bit of luck).
Hooks come in different sizes and configurations suited to catching different sized fish of different species. Single hooks, double hooks, and treble hooks are available and used in different fishing scenarios. Stick to single hooks when you are starting out before trying different combinations.
Make sure you get a range of sizes starting from 1/0 up to 8/0 for larger fish species such as Snapper. Different hook shapes are good for different fish species and baits, so for now try experimenting with a couple of hook types, such as circle and recurve hooks, before building a bigger arsenal.
Sinkers are very much like hooks in that there are a million kinds out there on the market today.
One of the easiest rigs to make is the paternoster rig using a teardrop sinker at the bottom. This rig is great as it allows you to tie multiple hooks via loops along the length of your trace.
A paternoster rig with a swivel / clip at the top, two hooks tied on with loop knots running down your trace, and a drop sinker at the bottom is perfect for catching a range of different species.
Sand Grippers are perfect for fishing sandy bays when surf fishing.
Artificial lures imitate struggling baitfish under the water, enticing predators to attack. Lures come in different styles and sizes depending on where and how you plan to catch fish.
Spinning lures are a great choice, designed specifically for a spinning rod and reel combination. Spinning lures are designed to be cast and retrieved slowly, encouraging a fish to bite. The great thing about lures is you don’t have to worry about smelly bait — it’s a clean and simple way to catch fish.
Soft Plastics are another great option for a clean alternative to bait fishing. Soft plastics behave in a similar way to spinning lures, but rather than being made from metal, soft baits (as they are also called) are made from synthetic plastic compounds which wobbles and moves in a way very similar to baitfish.
Try a selection of soft baits and spinners of different colours and sizes and see what works at your fishing destination.
Fishing Accessories & Tools
A big part of fishing is preparation. Make sure you keep your gear organised and find the fish before you drop a line using these essential accessories for any first fishing trip.
You’re going to need something to keep all of your gear organised. A tackle box is the angler’s tool box, with all of the compartments you need to contain and keep your hooks, sinkers, line, and everything else separate.
A [good sharp knife is invaluable on your fishing trip. It can be used for cutting line, and for cutting bait into bite sized pieces.
In order to catch fish, sometimes you need to see where they are. Polarized sunglasses cut out the glare created on the surface of the water by the sun enabling you to see beneath the surface, and find where the fish are hanging out.