The Ultimate Beginners Guide to Fishing Gear

So, you have decided to take up fishing. Great!  Well, have no fear, The Ultimate Beginners Guide to Fishing Gear is here to tell you what you need to know! Okay, now that you have decided to take up fishing, you need some fishing gear, right?  Your first question is; "What do I really need?" You've hit google. You've done searches, and you joined fishing forums. You are now so confused that you are about to give up on the whole idea!  You are asking yourself, "Is fishing really this complicated?"   I am here to help you sort it all out and get you going down the right road.  Fishing is fun, and it is easy.  Let me show you the way!

Why is fishing so complicated?

Fishing is not complicated; Fishermen are!  The first thing that you have to understand is that man has been fishing for thousands of years, long before Academy Sports, Walmart, and Bass Pro existed.  They were successful and survived off of fishing. They supported their families off of fishing. Guess what? They used virtually nothing that you have been told that you "NEED" by modern anglers.  I personally have caught way more fish in my life with a Cuban Yoyo handline than I have with a rod and reel. My father was a commercial fisherman out of Key West and we used to go out and catch 400 pounds to Yellowtail Snappers a night using nothing but a 50lb monofilament handline and a single 4/0 hook.  It was not the equipment we were using that made us successful, it was the knowledge we had.

Yellowtail Snapper Picture

Yellowtail Snapper

Cuban YoYo Hand line Reel

Cuban YoYo Hand line Reel

The Basics of Modern Fishing Equipment

Today, there is a plethora of fishing equipment to choose from and even more opinions on what is right. The Ultimate Beginners Guide to Fishing Gear is here to clear up some of the confusion. Let me break it all down into simple terms to start off with.

First, let's start off with fishing reels.   There are three basic styles of fishing reels. These are, Spincast Reels (Closed Face), Spinning Reels (Open Face), and Baicaster Reels (Round Reels).  There is another type of fishing called Fly Fishing, but that is a whole other specialized category of fishing that is beyond the scope of this article for beginners. Here is a basic break down of fishing reel types to help you better understand which reel is right for you

  • Spincast reels are the best reels for children and the beginning fisherman that has no experience at all.  They are easy to use and hard to mess up.  In general, they are very cheap to buy, but they are also cheaply made and do not last very long.  Fortunately, there are some well-built ones out there that I will talk about later.
  • Spinning reels are the most common reels used by fishermen of all classes.  They require a little more experience to use than spincast reels, but are easy to learn.  These come in a myriad of sizes and qualities and range in price from $15 to $2,000. They offer the best bang for your buck in the budget models, giving you a good capable reel for a low price.
  • Baitcasting Reel are the oldest style of fishing reels, and are a real workhorse.  They are the hardest to master.  They come in two designs styles, Round and Low-Profile.  Low-profile reels are specifically for lure casting and offer the most agility and precision casting of any type of reel.  Baitcaster come is a lot of sizes, from small to large enough to catch a Great White shark.  They do not come in Ultralight size because their design requires a certain amount of weight to work properly, so it is best to use a spincast or spinning reel for catching really small fish.  They range in price from around $30 to thousands of dollars.



Spincast Reels

One of the most well know and widely used spincast reels ever made is the Zebco 33.  I grew up using this reel to catch everything from trout to bass, to snappers.  This reel is still around and widely available for around $20.


Zebco 33 Spincast reel

Modern Zebco 33 Spincast reel



Unfortunately, the modern versions are not built quite as well as the older models that I grew up with.  They are still a very good beginners reel, but they do not last as long as the old classic versions.  My wife will only use a spincast reel, and she fishes hard, so, fortunately, for the die-hard spincast users, Zebco offers a professional quality spincast real that will last you for the rest of your life if you take care of it.  This is the Zebco Omega spincast reel.  My wife has caught everything from Bluegill Sunfish to Striper Bass on hers for years and it still works like new. They cost around $60 on and are worth every penny.


Zebco Omega Z03 Pro Spin-Cast Fishing Reel

Zebco Omega Z03 Spincast Reel


Spinning Reels

Spinning reels have been around a long time and are a very versatile reel.  Their simplistic design makes them cheaper to build and more durable.  Even a budget reel can be really good.  Although Top end professional models can reach into the hundreds or above a thousand dollars.  Really good reals can be had for $30 or less. Spinning reel sizes are ranked by numbers and start at 500 (micro-light) and then go up from there by 1000 increments, such as, 1000, 2000, 3000, 4000, etc, etc. A 1000 model is considered an Ultralight and is a great all-around reel with which you can catch tiny to large fish up to 20lbs.  Here is a picture of me holding a 22lb Smallmouth Buffalo fish that I caught on an $18 Ultralight (1000) spinning reel.

22lb Smallmouth Buffalo fish


Here is a reel similar to the one I caught this fish on.

Sougayilang DK1000 Spinning Reel

1000 Ultralight Spinning Reel


Now you can certainly spend a lot more on a spinning reel if you choose to go with models such as the SHIMANO Sedona 1000  or the Penn Conflict II 1000, but unless you are fishing professionally, there is no sense in spending all that money.


Baitcasting Reels

The most well-known brand in Baitcasting reels is Abu Garcia. I have Abu Garcia reels that are over 50 years old and still pulling fish in like the day they came out of the box.  The most well-known model is the 5000 which has been discontinued and replaced by the 7000, but if you watch garage sales and eBay, you can still find them.  If you can get a 5000, especially one that has a bait alarm clicker, GET IT!

Abu Garcia 5000 clicker side

Vintage Abu Garcia 5000 with Bait Alarm Clicker


The 5000 model has been replaced by the 7000 model.

Abu Garcia 7000 baitcasting reel

Abu Garcia 7000 baitcasting reel



The above round reels are designed for bank fishing and trolling.  They can be used for lure casting, but are not the best suited for this purpose. For lure casting, a Low-Profile baitcaster is the best choice.  There is a plethora of models and brands to choose from.  Unlike spinning reels where you can get away with a budget reel of decent quality, baitcasting reels are complex to build with lots of parts, so the cheaper you go, the greater the risk of getting a piece of junk that is going to fail you.  There are however some models coming out of China at a good price that perform surprisingly well.  I took a couple of KastKing Royale Legend to the Amazon last year and they held up well to monster Peacock Bass that would have destroyed a normal budget low-profile baitcasting reel.


 KastKing Royale Legend Lo-profile reel

KastKing Royale Legend Lo-profile reel





Just like fishing reels, fishing rods come in a mind-boggling variety of styles and choices.  The Ultimate Beginners Guide to Fishing Gear will help you work your way through the maze of choices. I will simplify these choices down for you so it is not so confusing.  Fishing rods come in three basic styles; Single-piece, Multi-piece, and Collapisable or Telescopic. Each style comes in one of a few different "Actions", that range from Light to Heavy.  Each action has a specialized targeted use.  Personally, I have always just gone with a Medium action rod for all purposes and never had any complaints.   Fishing rod range from $10 to hundreds of dollars, but I have never paid more than $100 for a rod in my life.  So let's take a look at some rods styles.


Single Piece Fishing Rods

One-piece fishing rod

One-piece fishing rod

Single piece fishing rod are the best.  There is no question about this.  They have the best durability, the best action, the best play, and are less likely to break.  Unfortunately, they are not very convenient to carry around.  I mean, how you going to fit a 7-foot long fishing rod in the trunk of your Honda Accord?  Being long and one-piece makes them difficult to travel with and more likely to get broken during travel.  So while they are the best, they are not always the right solution for everyone.  Here are some single-piece rods that I own and I love them, but I don't always use them because I can't take them everywhere I go.

  1. 8 foot Ugly Stik Bigwater Casting Rod (This is my shark rod. Click Here to see this setup).
  2. 7-foot Ugly Stik Elite Casting Fishing Rod (this rod is paired with KastKing Royale Legend reel above).



Multi-Piece Fishing Rods

Multi-piece Fishing Rod

Multi-piece Fishing Rod

Multi-piece fishing rods provide the best compromise between durability and portability. They are not quite as strong and durable as a single piece rod, but they can easily get the job done and last a lifetime.  Most rods come in two pieces but can come in as many as six pieces.  Obviously, the more pieces, the more compact, but also the more likely to have issues.   Here are some multi-piece rods I have owned for many years and caught a LOT of fish on.

  1. 2-piece 7-foot Ugly Stik Catfish (I own several of these and I have them pair with Aub Garcia 5000 and Record 60 reels)
  2. 4-piece Goture Xceed Fishing Rod (Here is a video review of this rod.



Collapsible Telescopic Fishing Rods

Telescopic Fishing Rods

Telescopic Fishing Rods

Telescopic rods are by far the most portable and convenient rods.  Being able to carry a 10-foot rod in your carry on suitcase, can have some distinct advantages. But with the portability, come a weaker rod that in some cases does not perform as well as their one-piece counterparts.  However, with the invention of carbon fiber, telescopic rods are not the bane of fishing they use to be.  In fact, some are downright good. The above 22lb Smallmouth Buffalo fish was caught on a telescopic rod!  Yep, that is right!   Here is a video of that catch, so you can see for yourself. Here is the rod that the fish was caught on and some other telescopic rods I own.

  1. Goture Telescopic Spinning Fishing Rod (Used to Catch the fish in the video)
  2. Sougayilang Telescopic Fishing Rod (Used to catch Peacock Bass in the Amazon).




There you have it. The Ultimate Beginners Guide to Fishing Gear. With the this information, you should be able to decide what you need to get started in the sport of fishing. Remember, you have the rest of your life to learn more.  So get out there and start fishing.  The only thing you have to decide is where to throw your line in at.  You can't start catching fishing unless your line is in the water. 

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