With the draw of warmer temperatures, you may be tempted to get outdoors and try something new, like fishing. This loved, half-time, has been around for thousands of years, and there’s nothing more satisfying than having a tug on your line and yelling “fish on” in the temptation of your catch. However, before you venture out for your inaugural fishing trip, there are essential items that every first-time angler should have.


1. Fishing License

Aside from a rod and reel, you shouldn’t leave home without your fishing license. This documentation allows for the conservation of habitats, restocking of areas with low fish counts, and research to be done. On the riverside, it’s an important piece of document that allows conservation authorities to know what fish you are permitted if you plan on keeping them. Henceforth, sports licenses will allow for a higher catch limit versus the least expensive conservation license. This will vary from region to region, so make sure you are aware of what the local laws are.

2. Camera

There’s a saying that goes “if you didn’t take a picture then it didn’t happen.” This is especially true if you’re fishing, if you land a big one, be sure to have a camera at your disposal to snap a picture. After all, you don’t want to be the angler telling the tale of the one that got away.

Essentials for Storage

3. Rod Case

Whether you’re using a rod and reel combination or a fly rod, the transportation of fishing gear is largely overlooked. Without using a case, you risk damaging your rod, such as the eyelets, and the reel if stored incorrectly.  Albeit, rod cases will vary in pieces per rod, size, and type. They can range from inexpensive to expensive depending on the maker and style.

4. Tackle Box

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Arguably one of the most important pieces of equipment on this list, the tackle boxes allow for the safe transfer of hooks and lures. Often a tote or hardshell case filled with sections and dividers, a tackle box allows for the movement of tackle without sticking yourself or others with a hook. When you’re not actively using it, it’s an organizer for all the different baits you may have from hooks, weight, spinners, soft baits, and topwater bait, you name it.

5. Cooler or Bucket 

If you aren’t actively practicing catch and release, you will need an area to store your fish. This is where a small-medium collier or simple bucket comes into hand. Fill the container with some water and fill it up with your catches until you are ready to dispose of the fish. On the other hand, if you’re planning on using live minnows as bait, you will need an area to store them before use and have a bucket or pail on hand.

Tackle Box Basics

6. Fishing line

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Whether you’re feeding the fishing line onto your reel for the first time or if you need some riverside emergency line, a spool of either monofilament or fluorocarbon fishing line should be kept on hand.

7. Hooks

Having a variety of hooks including, octopus hooks, treble hooks and red hooks in different sizes will allow you to experiment, change up your technique, and target different sizes of fish. Most importantly, if a fish got away with your hook, you have spares.

8. Swivel hooks

As a fish time angler, you will undoubtedly want to have swivels in your gear. This attachment permits easy removal of your line if you get snagged. As well, the swivel will untwist itself in areas of current or obstructions.

9. Lures

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Of course, a tackle box wouldn’t be what it is without all the colorful fishing lures. Common lures that every tackle box should have included are, soft plastic and glow-in-the-dark worms and tubes, spinners, spoons, top water baits, crank bait, suspending minnows, deep divers, jerk bait, and jig heads.

10. Leaders

Although not necessary, leaders are good to have on hand, especially if you’re targeting more elusive fish species like trout. These extended lines help conceal the mainline and add a layer of protection against breaking.

11. Sinkers

Also referred to as weights, sinkers are perfect in areas with current or fast-moving water and help to keep your line in place. Slit shot sinkers are the most common and appear as small metal balls with a split that is pinched onto your line. Rubber sinkers are twisted on and off,  or bells are another option.

Essential Tools

12. Rods

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You won’t be catching anything without your rod and reel. These items can be sold together or separately and come in a variety of materials, lengths, and rigidness. Shorter rods will allow more strength for powerful fish, whereas longer rods will grant you a longer cast. Made from composite for versatility, graphite for lightweight, or fiberglass for endurance and affordability, rod selection is up to your preference.

13. Spinning Reel

Determining the proper reel, on the other hand, can be tricky with variables such as reel size, gear ratio, and drag systems. For a definitive reel size, consider the strength of the fishing line needed or the pound test. In general, with a smaller reel, you should aim for a lighter line. Spinning reels wrap around a spool at the crank of the handle. Gear ratios refer to the number of times the line spools per one crank, or 4:1 (4 spooled rotations per one crank).  Gear ratios are used as a measurement of speed for retrieval, with a 4:1 gear ratio this would be considered slow and ideal for larger fish. A drag system is important for when a fish is hooked, when the additional line is needed to be let out in a fight. Without a front or rear drag system, you run the risk of having your line snap.

14. Landing Net

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To safely pull the fish off the line, you will need a net, to ensure that your fish is safely caught. Without the net, a wiggling fish runs the risk of snapping the line or getting away with a hook or lure still in its mouth. The net allows a safe barrier for both fish and anglers to finish the catch.

15. Forceps or Needle-nose Pliers

Having a pair of forceps or pliers on hand is essential, as some fish species have teeth and spines. For the safe removal of a hook, simply use a pair of forceps or pliers and wriggle the hook free from the fish. Secondly, if you find yourself in a situation where you need to cut your line loose, squeeze the sharp tip of the forceps or pliers to release your line.

Angler’s Apparel

16. Hat

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Nothing puts a damper on a fishing trip like heat stroke or a bad sunburn. Wearing a hat while on the water, your head and neck from the sun’s UV rays. Heat escapes from the head, and wearing a hat under the hot sun will help your body to regulate its temperature. On the other hand, if it’s raining, or you’re stuck in a sudden rainfall, a hat will help protect you. 

17. UV Rashguard

Whether you’re along the banks of a river or inside a boat, being exposed to the sun and UV can have its consequences. Even if it’s partly cloudy out, you can still get a sunburn from high UV. This is why it’s important to keep yourself protected. Rash guards add a layer of protection, some rash guards are made with UV-resistant material with SPF 50+ properties. If you’re in the market for a rashguard consider one with SPF to block UV that is long sleeve and light-colored.

18. Neck Gaiter

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Although Rashguards are effective in covering up and preventing sunburns, they fail to cover the neck area. Paired with a hat, a gaiter can cover the head, neck, ears, and mouth entirely.  Alternatively, in the winter months, gaiters can add a layer of warmth as well as protection from the wind.

19. Polarized Sunglasses

Protecting your eyes from the sun is just as important as protecting your skin and when looking at the water glare for hours on end. Glare can harm your eyes that can range from strain to degeneration or other eye diseases over time. This is why it’s important to protect your eyes. Polarized sunglasses are specialized lenses that reduce glare and allows anglers to peer into the water.

Skin Protection

20. Sunscreen

Fisherman and sunscreen have long been at a standoff. There’s this notion that sunscreen will prevent you from catching it if you get it on your lures. Regardless, of whether this is true or not, it’s important to protect yourself. However, there are ways around this sunscreen myth with many touch-free sunscreens such as aerosol sprays, sponge applicators like Dermatome, and the Neutrogena Sunblock Stick. This way, your lures will remain sunscreen free, and you don’t have to worry about your fish count.

21. Insect Repellant

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A key part of many fish species’ diet is feeding off flies that hit the surface of the water. Thus, as an angler, you should anticipate being around insects, especially if you’re fishing in streams, shorelines, or riverbanks. Like Sunscreen, insect repellant can get on your lures and affect fishing. Although there have been studies done to verify this, it’s still a mystery how insect repellant deters fish. Alas, it is a necessity to be outdoors. For best practices, apply insect repellant before departing for fishing, and washing your hands after application. Thus, you will be protected, and your lures will lack any DEET scent.

Essentials Only

Being a first-time angler can be overwhelming and there’s much to consider, storage, equipment, sun protection, and the tackle box essentials. If you stick with these essentials for first-time anglers, your big fishing day will go without hassle. Whether you land your first fish is up to you, and above all, don’t forget to have fun.