Gear Up: Your Beginner Fishing Kit

If you’re getting back into an old hobby or picking it up fresh, these equipment essentials will help outfit your first fishing kit.

Whether it’s a relaxing pastime or professional pursuit, there’s a reason so many outdoor explorers are hooked on fishing. Or, more accurately, there are many reasons that over 50 million Americans partake, annually, in angling experiences across our nation’s waterways—from the banks of the river, on the open ocean, or the local lake, but all looking for the same thrilling tug on a cast line. Ample access to bodies of fresh- and saltwater, plus plentiful options for varying styles of fishing in every city and state: These factors only help open the sport to all. Don’t get overwhelmed, though. Make a few simple tackle considerations first (i.e., the gear to connect you to the fish), then factor accessories and other possible extras, and you’ll be ready to rig up and join in on the go-fish fun. 

Rod and Reel

Choosing the proper rod and reel combination (“combos”) can be an intimidating task with so many options available. The type of fish you’re targeting and the water in which they live will help to determine the best setup. But for ease of use and for growth in the sport, a medium-action spinning combo will handle various lures and baits for the most scenarios that you’ll begin to fish. 

As you level up your abilities, you’ll make deeper considerations on your rod and reel. From light to heavy and short to long, the fishing rod options are endless and can be as specific as to the lure you’re using. When choosing a more advanced reel option, determine the strength of the drag and the amount of line you’ll need on the spool. 

Budget-friendly combos can range from $50 to about $150, while technique-specific combos that fill the boats of tournament anglers can range in the thousands. The most important distinction of rod and reel selection is simply to have one that you’ll use! 

Terminal Tackle (Hook, Line and Sinker)

Equipping yourself with hook, line and sinker is your next step. Starting with your fishing line, you’ll first need to inspect the rod and reel you have—is it pre-spooled? If not, you have a few considerations to make: line weight, material, color and brands. As a beginner, these considerations shouldn’t be made too complicated as a clear monofilament that matches your rod and reel’s suggested line weight will suit your needs. 

Regardless if you’re planning to fish with artificial lures or natural bait, then hooks, weights and bobbers are the next key components in every tackle box. Fishing hooks come in all shapes and sizes, but single, non-snelled hooks (without a leader attached to them) are a great start to hold both bait and lures. Sinkers will help get your hook and line out to its intended location while also keeping your hook underwater (an assortment of removable split shot and casting sinkers are the way to go). Lastly, floats and bobbers keep your bait in the strike zone and help to indicate when a fish has taken an interest in it—a simple snap-on float will do. 

Lures vs. Bait

In most cases, it’s true that starting with a natural bait (meaning: live critters that fish normally prey on) can be a quicker path to success than an artificial lure (designed to actively court, attract and trick fish by mimicking their normal prey). But if you’re looking for more of a challenge, lures are your best bet. When outfitting your fishing kit, a mix of both options will allow for the best success.

Artificial lures come in many different forms. When narrowing down which to tie on, the best way to decide is to think like a fish: Where will the fish be and what will they eat? Many of these questions can be answered by considering the type of fish, body of water and time of year you’re targeting the fish. With categories ranging from hard and soft baits, to bladed baits, subsurface and topwater lures, the options are endless. The one thing to keep in mind when tying a lure to the end of your line: Does this imitate what a fish would typically eat? 

The same stays true in choosing a natural bait, matching it with the prey that your intended target is hunting is the best way to fool them into biting your hook. As an example, a standard bait used across the country for most freshwater fish in rivers and lakes are worms. Found in most any bait shop or even in your backyard, worms will fool trout, panfish, catfish, bass and most any other freshwater dwellers. Other great natural bait options include live or cut bait like minnows, shrimp or bait fish and even household meats like chicken livers or hot dogs, which of course, can be found at any local grocer. 

A boy looking at the fish in his hands while his dad holding a fishing rod


With your first fishing kit assembled, you’re ready to hit the water and start casting. Add a few extras as needed to help make your trip even more successful.

  • A tackle box or bag to transport and stow your gear.
  • A pair of pliers to cut line and remove hooks from fish.
  • If you choose to go the live bait route, a bait bucket will be helpful.
  • A cooler if you intend to keep and cook your fish
  • A fishing net if you want to avoid the age-old, “one that got away” tale.

Final Factors


Fishing Licenses and Regulations

Depending on where you’re fishing, licenses and regulations vary. But, one thing is for certain no matter where you are; abiding by state and federal regulations ensures you’ll be able to continue to fish. First off, you’re not breaking laws, and you’ll also be fishing with a positive, conservation mindset knowing you’re contributing to the health and habitat of local waterways. And don’t expect rules to only apply to anglers looking to keep what they catch. For instance, national parks and marine sanctuaries have special fishing regulations that apply, plus many public waters across the country are restricted to barbless hooks and fly fishing-only. Best practice: Know before you go. 


Once you’re hooked and out in the elements, you’ll quickly realize that choosing the right fishing apparel will go a long way to extending your time (and comfort) on and near the water. Layers and waders will suit you best for colder days, while UV protection and the right eyewear will set you up for warmer, sunnier waters. Think about footwear based on the terrain as well—where you’re going to be and the type of shore that you’ll be navigating. Finally, don’t forget to add a U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jacket if you plan to fish offshore on a boat, board, or kayak


Pics or it didn’t happen, right? If you’re planning to practice catch and release, having proof of your catch is important. First, ensure that you’re stable and ready to keep your electronics (whether camera phone, action camera or DSLR) from going into the drink. Next, have your camera easily accessible when you finally land your catch. Keep that catch in the water until you’re ready to snap the picture; then, with the fish facing the camera, click away. (Share your catches with us on social media by tagging your photos @publiclandsshop).

All articles are for general informational purposes.  Each individual’s needs, preferences, goals and abilities may vary.  Be sure to obtain all appropriate training, expert supervision and/or medical advice before engaging in strenuous or potentially hazardous activity.