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16 Essential Fishing Equipment & Gear for Beginner Anglers

Academy Staff
15 min read
16 Essential Fishing Equipment & Gear for Beginner Anglers

Planning your first fishing trip? Ditch the aisle overwhelm with our beginner fishing gear guide! We’ve listed out everything you’ll need to make sure you have a great time. So no matter if you’re a first-timer or a budding angler, you can feel confident in your tackle box and fishing kit before you head out.

Fishing Trip Tips for First Timers

Fishing isn’t a one-size-fits-all hobby or sport. Rather, it’s much more complex than you might initially imagine. Frankly, there’s just so much gear out there! So knowing exactly where to start can definitely be a huge hurdle to overcome alone.

We’ve curated this collection of essentials to help you choose the right stuff without all the fluff. As you go, you’ll learn as you fish what gaps in your tackle box or your gear you should fill or upgrade depending on a few factors:

  • How long your fishing trips are (day trips, overnighters, weekend stays, or extended week-long trips)
  • What species you prefer to catch (bass, trout, salmon, crappie, bluefish, catfish, etc.)
  • Where you tend or want to fish (saltwater vs freshwater, deep sea vs small lakes, etc.)

You’ll find only the essential gear specific to catching fish in this guide. For a more comprehensive list, we’ve created this fishing trip checklist that covers everything else you might need, so be sure to visit it for more information.

Best Fishing Equipment for Beginners

If you’re getting ready to head out on your first solo fishing trip, you want to make sure you’ll have everything you need to make it a success. Read through this beginner fishing equipment guide to learn about each item and its importance. You can also browse Academy’s picks for each type of equipment.

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Beginner Fishing Equipment Guide
Equipment Why It’s Important Our Pick
Rod & Reel Combo Your combo of choice is important and dependent upon how you want to fish as well as what you want to catch See all rod & reel combos
Fishing Line Another non-negotiable piece of gear that allows you to intentionally present your baits and lures and turn your rod into a versatile tool See all fishing lines
Hooks An intentional, diverse and tiny, but mighty, piece of equipment that makes it possible to hook and catch a fish with ease See all fishing hooks
Fishing Weights Fishing weights (or sinkers) help sink lures and baits to a specific depth See all fishing weights
Swivels A swivel’s most basic function helps anglers keep their lines untwisted and untangled as they cast or hook a catch See all swivels
Bobbers Bobbers can be a perfect tactic to use for all fishers because they give anglers the ability to present the lure or bait at intentional depths See all bobbers
Hard Bait Hard bait is better suited for fast, erratic movement to attract a fish’s attention See all hard baits
In-Line Spinner Lures A straightforward, easy-to-use type of bait that works to ensnare a fish’s attention with flash and vibration See all in-line spinner lures
Soft Plastic Lures Soft plastic baits are typically slower in their presentation to fish and pair well when you either know where your catch is or when using a fish finder See all soft plastic lures
Crimpers Having crimpers in your fishing toolkit can make fast work of securing your line knot, so it never slips Berkley XCD Sleeve Crimpers
Needle Nose Pliers A staple for anglers of all skill levels, needle nose pliers are essential for removing hooks from anything you catch Shimano Brutas 8 in Needle Nose Pliers
Shears Fishing shears are made with the line in mind, so you’ll never have to worry about fraying or compromising yours Bubba Medium Shears
Tackle Box Tackle boxes are a great choice for tackle durability and longevity since they offer the best security and organization Plano® Magnum Hip Roof 6-Tray Tackle Box
Tackle Bags Tackle bags are a more portable alternative to traditional boxes because they’re lightweight and are often more spacious than boxes Zebco Roam Series Utility Tackle Bag
Fish Finder While not all beginner anglers may need one right away, fish finders help with knowing depths, temperature, and more Garmin STRIKER 4 CHIRP Sonar/GPS Fishfinder Combo
Cooler Unless you plan to release everything you catch, you’ll need a place to store your fish See all fishing coolers

Rod & Reel Combo

The rod and reel you choose are two of the most important decisions you’ll make as a beginner angler. Rods are essential for casting the line, providing lure action, and fighting the fish. Reels bring the fish in.

So how should you choose your rod and reel combo? We have an in-depth article about the different types of fishing rods to help you choose yours. However, here are two important considerations:

  • Consider what type of fishing you want to do (e.g. fly fishing, saltwater fishing, freshwater fishing, etc.)
  • Prioritize versatility and ease of use so you can have the opportunity to explore different species, environments, and lures/baits

Fishing Line

Fishing lures, line, and reel all lay on a wooden table

Fishing line is another beginner angler essential because it connects the rod and reel with the fish. There are three main types of fishing lines to choose from including:

  • Monofilament Line — Monofilament line is constructed from nylon in one long continuous strand. It is the most popular type of fishing line since it is abrasion-resistant and stretches to absorb shocks.
  • Braided Line — Braided line is made up of strong, thin fibers braided together for a line that is almost twice as strong as monofilament. It will sink faster and cast farther than monofilament, but it is very slippery and difficult to cut.
  • Fluorocarbon Line — Fluorocarbon line is often used as leader material with a braided line. It is invisible underwater and abrasion-resistant.

Hooks

Fishing hooks are another angler essential since they’re the part that the fish latch onto. Every hook has a specific purpose. The most important thing to keep in mind is the size:

  • If you have a hook that’s too large, it will prevent a smaller fish from putting it in its mouth.
  • If the hook is too small, a bigger fish may swallow the hook whole.

Expert Tip:

It’s important to know what species of fish you will be fishing for ahead of time so you can get hooks that are the right size.

Fishing Weights (or Sinkers)

Sinkers are also important for a successful fishing trip, although many anglers may not realize their importance. A sinker is a piece of metal that brings baits deep into the water where fish are.

There are many styles and sizes, so you should keep in mind that choosing the perfect fishing weights can be just as crucial to fishing success as using the right lure or bait.

Expert Tip:

Using the incorrect type or size of weight can repel fish, whereas the proper weight can result in a successful catch.

Swivels

A fishing swivel is a handy piece of equipment that is made up of two rings connected to a pivoting point. It prevents your fishing line from getting tangled and twisted when you cast and reel.

There are many different types and sizes of swivels to choose from. It will depend on what species of fish you’re looking to catch, as well as the other equipment you’ll be using.

Expert Tip:

The design of the swivel makes the entire line rotate instead of twisting, which prevents wear and tear on your gear.

Bobbers

Bobbers, also known as fishing floats , are used to provide greater control over your bait and lure placement. They’re also used to let you know when a fish bites by providing a visual indicator. There are many different styles and sizes, but the two main types are the following:

  • Fixed bobbers — Fixed bobbers are versatile, widely used, and fixed in place on your fishing line. They can be placed at whatever depth you want and hold the bait where fish are feeding.
  • Slip bobbers — Slip bobbers are best used when looking for farther casts and greater depth control. They slide up and down your line, from the hook to the bobber stop.

Expert Tip:

They’re also used to let you know when a fish bites by providing a visual indicator.

Hard Bait

This type of bait is hard-bodied and stays hard throughout each cast. Hard baits are built from metal, plastic, or wood and have features like blades, weights, bills, and ridges to provide their action. Common types of hard baits are jerk baits, crankbaits, spinner baits, and spoons.

Expert Tip:

Hard baits are good to use when you’re unsure where the fish are in the water.

In-Line Spinner Bait

In-line spinner baits imitate bait fish with different degrees of flash and vibration, caused by one or more blades attached to the lure. These baits stimulate the sensory organ in predator fish that allows the fish to touch and feel objects at a distance, causing them to bite the bait.

In-Line spinners are among the classic staples fishers might eventually veer away from in favor of more flashy or trendy lures or baits. At the end of the day, this type of lure is versatile, reliable, and handy to stash in your tackle box!

Expert Tip:

Spinner baits are effective in catching species like trout, crappie, sunfish, and bass.

Soft Plastic Bait

A man holds a fish caught using a soft plastic bait

Soft bait is a soft plastic lure molded into a shape that resembles a minnow, crawfish, or other creatures that will interest predator fish. You should look for soft bait that resembles the prey of the species you want to catch. Soft plastics are suitable for any scenario where you know where the fish are.

Pliers & Shears

Fishing pliers, like the Berkley XCD Sleeve Crimpers , are another essential tool for beginner anglers. Common types include crimpers, needle-nose pliers, 90-degree pliers, and shears. They have many uses, including (but certainly not limited to):


  • Removing hooks
  • Cutting fishing lines or bait
  • Bending hooks
  • Rod and reel adjustments

Expert Tip:

You should look for pliers that have replaceable cutters and that are saltwater-resistant! For easy handling, choose one that comes with a lanyard.

Tackle Box

Tackle boxes are typically made from heavy-duty plastic to withstand harsh weather conditions. They are more organized than bags and often have detachable compartments and trays. The core benefit to having one as an angler is that they keep your lures, baits, and other small items organized and convenient to access while you fish.

Tackle Bag

Tackle bags are a more lightweight and portable option. They also usually have more space than boxes, but may not be as organized. If you go for a tackle bag, you should look for a waterproof design to keep your gear dry.

Fish Finder

A fish finder is a device that helps you find and catch fish using ultrasonic waves. It also offers information about the depth, speed, temperature, and fish hiding locations. It can be helpful for new anglers who don’t know much about locating fish. Popular types of fish finders include:

  • Down imaging: Down imaging scans send narrow sonar beams that scan for fish directly into the water underneath your boat.
  • Side imaging: Side imaging scans use short frequencies that generate detailed images but do not travel to great depths.
  • CHIRP: Compressed High-Intensity Radiated Pulse (CHIRP) sonar scans with a combination of multiple frequencies at once to produce more accurate pictures of what’s in the water.
  • 360 Imaging: 360 imaging is a sonar technology that emits sound waves. These scan in all directions around the boat.

Expert Tip:

When shopping for fish finders, you’ll want to consider the type of network technology the unit uses, size, display, and frequency needed for the type of fishing you’ll be doing.

Cooler

It’s always a good idea to have a cooler with you on any fishing trip! If you opt to use live bait, you’ll have a place where you can store them. On top of that, you’ll have a convenient place to store the fish you catch. You might also want to have a cooler with you to keep any snacks or drinks cool while you fish.

Have Fun Out There!

Now that you know all the gear you’ll need to fish successfully as a beginner angler, you’ll just need to call your buddies and plan your next trip. Before you head out to the lake, browse Academy’s fishing selections and stock up on your next new favorite tackle.