Outdoors: Jump into the joys of fishing

July 2, 2013 

This past Sunday, I was standing on the dock of my family’s place on the river, tossing a football jig. I was slowly moving it across the bottom of the river when a nice 4-pound largemouth engulfed it. As soon as I landed the fish, I called to my favorite hunting and fishing partner, Maggie, to bring my 3-year-old nephew down for a look.

We had just started Xander fishing a few weeks ago, but until this point, he hadn’t seen a fish of real size. The sight of this bass brought on a wide-eyed look of amazement in his young eyes.

“Can I touch it?” he asked.

“Sure,” I said. “But be quick about it. We’ve got to get him back in the water as quickly as possible.”

As the three of us released the bass and watched it swim safely away, I noticed how Xander followed the fish’s path with his eyes, smiling the whole time. That grin remained on his face even after that bass had disappeared far into the murkiness that is Wylie.

Seeing his expressions and excitement over this fish that was, to him, larger than life made my mind drift back to the days of my youth – when there just wasn’t much else for me to do but fish.

Back then, we only had three channels on the television and sometimes, if you contorted your body a bit, you could adjust the antenna well enough to pick up one more.

At that time, video games and cellphones were still just ideas in somebody’s head.

Boy, I’m feeling old.

What I did have was a big old pond right outside our backdoor that provided many days of summertime entertainment with fishing rod in hand. For as far as technology has now taken the day-to-day lives within our homes, I’m very thankful for having grown up in that manner. I believe that the newfangled gizmos are an excuse to never venture out and explore all that the outdoors has to offer.

Back then, before I really understand how to fish, we thought that it was as simple as tying on a lure and playing “cast and retrieve” all day. Occasionally, we’d get lucky and something would bite. But we had no understanding of the technical side of it all. We never gave much thought to things like the patterning transitions that fish go through depending upon time of year, water temperature, how structure and bottom contours are used by the fish, and other factors.

As we find to be the case with everything in life, had I known then all that I know now, a lot more fish would have been caught.

That said, everybody has to begin somewhere. No article found here or on an outdoors television show can teach these lessons as well as actually getting out there and doing it.

Whether you’re new to fishing or have a youngster that you’d like to get started, taking that first step is a pretty obvious one. You’ve got to get your hands on a rod and reel. Any beginner is probably best suited going with a spincasting outfit for its simplicity and ease of use.

Spincasting reels are a hybrid of sorts. They mount on top of the handle, like a baitcaster would, yet feature a spool that sits aligned with the rod as does the spool on a spinning reel. The primary difference between it and both of its “parents” is that the spool is fully enclosed; this removes many of the potential hassles and simplifies the process of using it.

To make a cast, you simply push the button on the back of the reel, holding it down until the casting motion is made and you’re ready to release the line.

Outfits can be found pretty cheaply at any tackle shop or discount store, and come in a number of rod lengths and line strengths. I’d recommend starting out with a 6-foot rod and reel spooled with 8-pound test line.

Most of these combos come already spooled with line, but I’m not sure that I’d trust it to be exactly what you need. Often, they tend to be filled with 6-pound test. Plus, monofilament fishing line deteriorates over time, and you have no idea just how long the rod and reel you’ve found have been in the store.

Refilling the spool with fresh 8-pound test will not only put your mind at ease in terms of the quality of the line, it will provide a bit more toughness for you as you learn to play the fish the during the fight. Despite a difference of only 2 pounds in strength, 6-pound line doesn’t provide anywhere near the margin for error needed by most anglers whom are just starting out.

The best way to get started with something new – and to stick with it – is by finding success early in the process. To accomplish that, you’ll need the right selection of lures and artificial baits. Let’s take a look at several of the “must have” offerings for any beginner’s tackle box.

There’s not a lure on the market that has been responsible for as many first catches as the trusty old beetle spin. Bass, bream and most every other freshwater species find this simple little jig outfitted with a small harness spinner to be dang near impossible to resist as it flutters by.

They can be found in any store that carries tackle. They are available in a ton of colors and are cheap, selling for a little over $2 for a pack of one or two (depending upon size).

I’d go ahead and pick up several packs in both light and dark colors so that you can find exactly what’s working best on any given day.

A shallow running crankbait would be the next thing I’d grab off the shelf. These lures feature a hard plastic body with a small, clear, plastic lip that allows them to dive just under the surface. They can be fished in a variety of ways, such as on a steady retrieve or running it down, pausing to let it float back to the surface and then repeating.

My last selection for anyone starting out would probably be an inline spinner such as a Rooster Tail or Panther Martin. These lures are exactly as described, having a small spinning blade attached just behind where it is tied on and a treble hook on the tail end.

Throw in a clear, flat-sided Plano or Flambeau tackle box for around $6, and you’ve still only spent around $50 for it all. That’s a small price to pay for the level of enjoyment that they’ll give you.

Get out there and give it a try. I’d be willing to bet that you’ll be “hooked” in no time.

Brad Harvey is a freelance writer in Clover. Visit his web site at www.bradharveyoutdoors.com or follow on Twitter @BHarveyOutdoors

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