Fishing For Beginners: First Time Fishing Tips & Checklist

We all start somewhere, so it’s about time we shared our view of the basics on fishing for beginners. Fishing has always been known as a favorite pastime among friends, a form of recreation, a hobby and a sport. There are weekend anglers and tournament fishermen all over the country.

Some people even spend thousands of dollars every year on gear and tackle. But starting out in fishing doesn’t need to be expensive or complicated. There are a few things you should keep in mind, though, before you head to the tackle store.

Licenses and Permits

No matter where you go, you’re going to need a fishing license. You want to make sure that whatever you are going to fish for is in season, too.

Pick up a copy of the fishing regulations when you get your fishing license. This booklet will tell you which fish are in season and what other regulations are in place on the body of water you intend to fish. Above all first time fishing tips out there, this is the most important one.

You will want to know if there is a size limit to the fish you want to catch and also how many you can keep per day if you intend to bring fish home for dinner.

Fishing Licenses

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Once you have your license, check with the tackle shop to see if there is anything else you need for the species of fish you are targeting (such as a Trout Stamp for trout fishing), or if you need a special permit for the lake or stream you intend to fish.

Finding all of these things out ahead of time can save you a lot of grief, and a lot of money in possible fines. Remember, ignorance is no excuse where the law is concerned.

Rods and Reels

They type of rod and reel you choose will depend on the type of fish you will be targeting. You will find many good quality, yet inexpensive rod and reel combos for many different types of fish. Starting out with a spinning reel set up is probably you best bet. They are easy to learn to use and are much more forgiving for a beginner than a bait casting set up.

Again, tell the people at the tackle shop what you are targeting, and they will be able to help you select the right rod and reel for your application.


You will need some fishing line if your spinning combo does not come with line. Even if it does come with line, it is a good idea to change it out. You don’t know how long it’s been sitting on the reel, and it could be brittle and break easily when you hook into a fish. There are many different lines available – monofilament, braid, co-polymer, and fluorocarbon.

Many of the pros use fluorocarbon, but it can be a bit unruly and difficult to use for a beginner, so steer clear of it at first. Mono is a good choice for pan fishing or even walleye fishing.

Keep in mind that mono will stretch a bit and will break easier than braid. Many bass fishermen fishing in heavy cover will choose a braid because it is less likely to break and holds up well to being used in thick brush, wood, grass, or weeds. Again, your tackle shop can tell you the best line type and weight to use for the fish you are targeting.

Terminal Tackle

You’re going to need hooks for sure. And you may want to start out using bobbers for panfish like crappie fish. Don’t be intimidated by the amount of terminal tackle available. You certainly don’t need it all. Again, your tackle shop will be an invaluable resource here. Tell them that you are brand new to fishing, and what type of fish you would like to catch.

They can set you up with a small box of hooks, weights, bobbers, and other terminal tackle fairly inexpensively. They can also show you how to rig everything up. You will also find hundreds of videos on YouTube that can help you, if you have questions after you leave the shop.

Know Your Knots

While you’re at the tackle store, pick up a know guide. There are many different kinds of knots for many different applications. Chances are, starting out, you will only use one or two, but a good knot guide will help you out throughout your fishing adventures.

When you get home, practice making the knots on the card. You can make them with fishing line, or practice them with thread, yarn, string, or even rope. A good knot is essential in fishing. It is the one thing that is keeping your hook (and the fish on that hook) on the line. Without a good knot, you will certainly lose a lot of fish.


The easiest baits to use when starting out are live bait. Fish are more apt to eat live bait than artificial regardless of whether you buy the best lures or not. Getting more bites will help you learn what a bite feels like and how to properly set the hook. Night crawlers and worms an be easier to keep alive, but leeches and minnows are very effective, too. Try all of them in your new favorite fishing hole, or ask the tackle store what people have been catching them on. They are also a great source of information on where to fish, so be sure to ask.

An important thing to remember about live bait: Do not, for any reason, dump your live bait into the lake or river when you are done fishing. Unused bait should be thrown in the garbage if you are not going to use it before it dies. Releasing live bait into a waterway can result in fines, as it can introduce invasive species into the fishery.

Once you become a more experienced angler, you can try plastic worms, tubes, or other soft plastic baits. You may even start to use crankbaits or spinnerbaits. But for starting out, live bait can bring some of the best results.


fishing outdoors

Outdoor Dream Foundation Trip (Source)

Once you get your equipment home, it’s time to practice. Practice casting in your yard. Put paper plates out at varying distances on the ground and try to cast to them. When you’re fishing, you want to be able to cast accurately to the places you think the fish will be, no matter if you are fishing from shore, a well rigged fishing kayak, or from a boat. The more you practice, the more accurate you will get.

You can even experiment, as you become more proficient, with other types of casts such as pitching, flipping, or roll casting. YouTube is a great resource to learn more about different casts, too. There are hundreds of videos that will explain the mechanics of every type of cast, and you can watch them repeatedly until you understand the technique.

Have Fun!

Overall, starting out in fishing can be relatively inexpensive. It can be a great way to spend a day with the kids, or even just by yourself, sitting on the shore watching your bobber and enjoying the weather. Rely on the people at the tackle store to help you get the right gear, and don’t forget to look up any questions about fishing you might have on on our fishing tips articles, especially bass.

Youtube videos are also a great resource for anglers of all skill levels and not only as a fishing for beginners tutorial portal. It’s like having your own teacher right there in front of you all the time. Most of all, its important to have fun and relax. That’s what fishing is all about.

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