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Catch Fish with the Right Tackle

Catching fish, whether in freshwater lakes and streams or along the Southern California coast, requires us to be equipped with the right rod, reel, tackle and either bait or lures, depending on the type of fish we want to catch and the body of water into which we are dropping our hooks.

If you are a beginner, consider starting with a light rig, not too big or expensive, but big enough to catch fish up to roughly 10 pounds. A combination rig is the best way to purchase a rod and reel, especially if you are new to fishing. The rod and reel in a combo rig are matched in terms of maximum weight capacity, level of quality and even in color, eliminating the need to make these decisions yourself.

Combo rigs are usually much less expensive than a rig curated from high-end, precision equipment. After you have acquired some experience fishing in different settings and get a feel for what you need, go ahead and splurge on an expensive rig. You will find a wide selection of light rods and reels at an affordable price at Big 5, Dick’s Sporting Goods, West Marine and many other sporting goods vendors.

Before you invest in a fishing rig, there are some things you need to consider in terms of the size and level of action of rod, type of reel, weight of fishing line and the various hooks, swivels, sinkers and lures you will use in pursuit of fish.



The beginning angler is probably best served by a light, fast-action rod with plenty of bending capacity, allowing you to feel what is going on below the water’s surface. When you are standing at the edge of an ocean pier or on the side of an inland lake, you want to be able to feel every slight nibble of a fish curious enough to sample your bait. A light rod transmits slight movements to your hands so that you can snap the pole up quickly, hopefully lodging the hook through the upper side of the fish’s mouth. Light rigs, such as those from Competitor, Zebco, Plusinno, Eagle Claw and Berkley, are easy to handle and easy on your wallet.

Fishing in our coastal waters, such as Redondo Beach, Los Angeles Harbor, Newport Harbor or San Diego Bay, can offer some good medium-level action from halibut, mackerel, bass, sheepshead and a variety of rays, which, believe it or not, are good eating. To nab these creatures, use a medium-weight rod with anchovies, shrimp or squid for bait.

If deep-sea fishing is your goal, you will want a short, slow-action rod capable of handling fish weighing 30 pounds or more. Deep-sea rods are thick and strong, some having a small pulley at the tip to allow hauling in a heavy catch without snapping the line. Instead of using bait, you will probably have better action with a shiny, colorful lure with a large treble hook. Out at sea, you won’t feel the little nibbles from one-pound fish; you will feel the rod being pulled down by perhaps a tuna, yellow tail or mahi mahi, just one of which will feed a small family.



The reel you choose needs to be within the same weight rating as the rod you have chosen. Check the numbers on each piece of equipment to make sure they are rated at roughly the same range. There are three types of reels: spin cast, spinning reel and bait cast. A spin cast reel is similar to a spinning reel, except the spin cast is covered by a cowl with a small hole, allowing line to be released or reeled in without your having to worry about tending the line with your fingers. To cast the line, push down on the release lever as you swing the rod. A spin cast is perfect for beginners and kids who want to enjoy the thrill of fishing without the hassle of a bird’s nest of line forming on the reel while casting. Daiwa, Abu Garcia and Pflueger offer quality spin cast reels at very affordable prices.

A spinning reel has an exposed reel mounted parallel to the rod. To cast, flip the bail back until it clicks into place, and then while holding the line with your thumb, swing as you release the line. It takes a modicum of practice to ensure the hook, line and sinker all head for the direction you intend – instead of giving yourself a nose piercing!

If you plan to be fishing for larger game aboard a boat at sea, you will be best served by a bait-cast reel mounted on a short, heavy-action rod. With a bait-cast rig, you do not cast the line; you drop it into the water from a moving vessel, controlling the spin of the reel with your thumb to prevent a bird’s nest. Believe me, this will take a bit of practice, but it is a rather simple maneuver once you get accustomed to this type of rig. Competitor, Zebco, Plusinno, Eagle Claw and Berkley produce dependable, affordable spinning and bait-cast reels.



In your tackle box you should have a replacement spool of fishing line, various sizes and types of hooks, plus a collection of sinkers, brass swivels and several pre-made line-and-hook sets ready to deploy. You can find hooks already knotted to their leaders at your local sporting goods store or chandlery, but the knot is actually very simple to make. Knowing how to prepare your own hooks and leaders saves you money and allows you to customize the leader with the size and weight of hook you want and the length of line you need.

Another handy tool is a fish cutting board with a clamp, such as those offered by Intruder and Bass Pro Shops, to hold the tail in place while you scale your catch with a serrated scaling knife. You will also need some means of measuring the length and weight of your catch to ensure you are abiding with California Department of Fish and Wildlife regulations.

As a fishing beginner, lots of practice in different aquatic settings will help you pick out the equipment best fitting your needs. Remember to keep your California fishing license with you just in case you get stopped by a CDFW officer.

Tight lines!

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