Two people prep to go fishing

Level Up Your Fishing

Once you’re hooked on fishing and ready to move beyond beginner basics, here’s the next tackle you need for more challenging outings and target species.

If you’re an angler who’s ready to upgrade their fishing kit from the beginner basics, adding a few new tools and choice goods can greatly increase your success in finding fish, hooking fish, landing fish, and, if it is your prerogative, eating fish. While a great angler cannot rely entirely on their equipment, certain gear items can greatly increase your chances for success in water all over the world. If you’re ready to take your setup to the next level, here are some of the best pieces of equipment, tackle, and apparel to make that next great catch. 

Rod and Reel

One of the obvious places to upgrade your equipment, of course, is the gear you hold in your hands all day long. And there are plenty of ways to upgrade your rod and reel, from a stronger and lighter rod, to a lighter, faster reel with more accurate and adjustable drag. Consider stepping up to a faster-action graphite rod that is stiffer in the body and more flexible in the last third of the rod. This will provide more power to snag fish and to cast farther, though it’s less forgiving for beginners without casting skills. The graphite layup boosts power and also allows more sensitivity to feeling fish nibbles. Combine that rod with carbon-fiber drag components (better equipped to dissipate the heat of reeling big fish), and you’ll be hauling in monsters in no time, be it bass out of lakeshore vegetation, or stripers a short way off the coast. (Take a deeper dive on the full breakdown of considerations for choosing your next rod and and reel.) 

Similarly, what you put on the end of your line can make a big difference. If you’re ready to upgrade from worms (though still often an excellent option), start delving further into the game that is mimicking your fish’s prey by introducing the right lure. As you get to know the fish in your area, one good bet beyond worms is an artificial bait like a large crankbait, which mimics prey fish such as mackerel.

Fly Kit

If you’re tired of the sometimes simple motions of baitcasting, consider changing your style of fishing entirely. Whether you are on saltwater, or placid freshwater ponds and streams, fly fishing can be a great way to add a new skill to learn when it comes to staying engaged on the water. 

You’ll need to find a new fly rod, a new fly reel, and can even try tackling the ever-intriguing skill of tying flies. But if you take this step, you, like many before you, might become entirely obsessed with this aesthetically beautiful variation. Start simple with a versatile setup like a 5-weight cast reel and a medium-action fiberglass rod that will serve you well catching many freshwater fish.

Foul Weather Gear

If you can be comfortable in uncomfortable weather, you can fish more. Getting the right fishing clothing to help you beat the heat, stay warm on cold mornings, and dry on rainy afternoons can give you more opportunities to catch fish—while the T-shirt and shorts crew stays inside dreaming of landing a bass on a sunnier day. 

A fishing-specific rain jacket can not only keep you dry, it can move with you in the right ways and provide access to all of your must-haves within arm’s reach with a slew of pockets and compartments. If you’re looking to get out into the water, especially if you’re fly fishing or just trying to prepare for wet and messy weather, commit to a pair of waders to keep your waist and lower half dry. These often come uninsulated, though, so be sure to layer in warm clothing, especially with cold, spring water. Here’s a full breakdown of other critical clothing recommendations

A man picks out fishing bait from a tackle box

Tools for Eating Fish

If you like cleaning and eating the fish you catch, then it’s well worth investing in a quality filet knife. Look for a knife with a non-slip handle, as gutting fish can get a bit…messy. Look for a blade that has a corrosion-resistant coating or finish, especially if you’ll be using it with saltwater fish. If you’re not sure what size knife to get, opt for one that’s close in size to the fish you’ll be fileting.

Also, be sure your fish is legal by measuring it with a ruler. Often you can find these built into the lids of coolers, but even a tape measure can work. A simple fish scale is another great addition to any angler’s kit—especially so that you can more accurately brag to your friends. Opt for one with a hook for putting through the fish’s lip for weighing. And if you’re a bit clumsy, look for one that’s waterproof. 

Fish Finder

With a portable device, and the benefit of depth-scouring sonar, a fish finder can be a great tool to get you more fish on the line, more often. Old fish finders needed to be mounted to boats, but today’s models are lightweight and portable—often, even battery-powered. These devices can help show you exactly what is under the water, be it shelves, water depth, and of course, fish.

These won’t work for the anglers who cast either from shore, standing in the shallows, or from atop a pier, but as your skills improve, you may want to head further in the water. And if you go that extra distance to fish from a boat, be it a motorboat or even a small canoe or kayak, a fish finder can let you know where the fish are hanging out. Surprisingly, they also work great for ice fishing.

Improved Bags

The more fishing equipment and lures you have, the more gear you’re going to want—and the more you’ll need to carry it all to new fishing spots. Hard-sided tackle boxes will work, but increasingly, fishing companies are making soft-sided bags that can carry many hard cases within them. These are not only great for organizing your gear; they’re also more comfortable to carry.

Look for a tackle bag with a shoulder strap or backpack straps for capable carrying and plenty of pockets for easy organization. Some bags have nice added features like handy-access velcro pouches and fold-down fly trays, so you can view all of your flies or lures without having to poke around in your bag. 

Fishing Tools

If you’ve ever tried to pull a roughly snagged hook out of a fish’s lip with your bare hands, you know just how useful a good tool can be. For many, a pair of needle-nose pliers will work. But if you’re ready to upgrade, consider fishing-specific pliers. These are often coated to resist corrosion from the water, and are spring-loaded so that they’ll open even as you snake them inside a fish’s mouth.

Look for fishing tools that will also allow you to cut fishing line. Many anglers like a multi-tool that comes with scissors for this purpose. Similarly, having wire cutters will also be helpful for cutting thicker lines and leaders. These can often be found at the base of pliers. Round it out with a knife, both serrated and smooth, and you’ll be all set. 

Fishing Rod Case

The nicer your fishing equipment is, the more you’ll want to protect it. To do so, consider a fishing rod case. These can either be soft-sided bags, which may require you to break your rod down into its various pieces, or hard cases. If you’re into fly fishing, many anglers go with hard-sided cases that make it easy to wield, or stow after a day on the river. Be warned, however: These hard-mounted cases can be long, often measuring anywhere from 4 to 8 feet (though some telescope for easier storage), and require you to attach them to the roof of your car or truck. Doing so, however, ensures easy access and transport or your fly-fishing combo no matter where you go. 

Whether you go for a soft case or a hard case, make sure that it is well padded on the interior for both your rod and reel to prevent any scratches or dings. And if you plan on storing it outside (like on the roof of your car), make sure there is some way to lock it for security.

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.