With many hatcheries opening up for the spring and early summer months, eager anglers are ready to get their lines into the water for the first fishing trip of the season. Yet, with excruciating anticipation of the sight of the first glimmer of scales breaking the surface of the water. However, this excitement can be short-lived as an essential piece of gear is forgotten or not considered. Whether you’re fishing from the shores, knee-deep in a creek, or trolling from a boat, here is everything you need to plan a spring fishing trip.

The Basics for a Fishing Trip

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There are some basics that should be brought with you no matter how you’re fishing. Here’s a list of the basics for your fishing trip.

1. Fishing License

No angler should leave home without a fishing license or a copy of their fishing license on their phone. More so, depending on the allowance of the license, different species and catch limits vary under each specific license.

2. Rod

There won’t be any fishing if you have no way to cast your line into the water. A fishing rod is a key instrument that through a bend tip delivers resistance and power against a hooked fish. Furthermore, these will vary depending on what you are targeting. Freshwater species will use a medium-light, medium, or medium-heavy. The material that the rod is made out of should also be considered, from lightweight fibreglass, durable carbon fiber, and graphite for a more sensitive bite. 

3. Reel

You won’t be doing much catching if you have no way to retrieve the fish. Reels are another essential piece of equipment that allows for the spooling of fishing lines, tension, drag, and retrieval speed. When deciding on a rod for a fishing trip consider the following: gear ratio which is how many rotations the reel makes per one crank or 4:1. Accordingly, this is known as the retrieval speed. Alternatively, drag is important as it controls the tension in a dog fight. This allows the line to be released if the fish runs or applies tension to pull the fish in.

4. Tackle Box

A tacklebox house all the essential baits, and hooks, that add to the catch. Ideally, this should include the essentials like sinkers, bobbers, extra fishing lines, swivel hooks, and a leader. Yet, the primary purpose of tackle boxes is to safely transport fishing lures and hooks without sticking anyone. Any good tackle box will be in a hardshell case with dividers.

5. Spinners

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Spinners are metallic rotating bait that encaptures “gill flash” which is what predatory fish see in the water from feeder species such as minnows. This flashy bait is effective in catching, rainbow trout, dolly varden, salmon, cutthroat trout, grayling, brown trout, and steelhead.

6. Spoons

Being larger than a spinner, this curved spoon comes in a variety of shapes, colour, and sizes. Use a smaller spoon in a deep pool for pike, salmon, and brown trout. Or a larger spoon in a lake to catch steelhead or lake trout. Anything with a gold undertone is effective.

7. Fishing Line

Selecting the right fishing line is important with monofilament being the most common. A monofilament line is ideal in situations where there’s high abrasion such as rocky outcrops. As such, the material has a high elasticity in comparison to the fluorocarbon line. On the other hand, the fluorocarbon line is thinner and appears more invisible in the water. It’s best for bass fishing with hard baits like crankbait, topwater baits, and suspended lures.

8.  Bobbers

Typically, a plastic red and white ball which acts as an indicator on the surface of the water. Thereupon, a nibble will signal to the surface that a fish is on through a bob. Bobbers are used when live bait such as worms are suspended in quiet areas like near water lilies, reeds, or bullrushes. More so, to target panfish such as sunfish, bluegill, white crappies, and black crappies.

9. Swivel Hooks

Available in a variety of clips or snap-offs. Swivel hooks make it easier to quickly remove your line in areas where snagging can occur such as near fallen trees. Additionally, they allow the line to untwist in areas where there is fast-moving water near a dam or after rainfall. Every good tackle box should be stocked with these as you never know when they’ll come in handy.

10. Soft Plastic

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Soft plastic baits come in handy against the Salmonidae species such as salmon and trout when using worms. Alternatively, tubes are effective in capturing smallmouth bass or panfish. Trout and salmon can’t resist bubblegum pink or fiery red on a wacky rig. Whereas panfish and smallmouth bass often become more active near sunset so opt for glow-in-the-dark tentacle tubes but you’ll surely want these for a fishing trip.

11. Crankbait

Crankbait can be used to target a variety of species but most notably are largemouth bass. As such, these hard baits work in a large area of a water column and at a specific depth.  Anglers will want a variety of baits with lures in colors, from shad, crawdad, to natural baitfish like minnows or perch. Crankbait should be casted on a monofilament line where rocky outcrops or weeds may be present.

12. Topwater Bait

Buzzbait, poppers, walking bait, and frogs; are all forms of topwater bait. Alas, topwater bait work by covering a large amount of water while quickly being cranked back. In return, the motion attracts predatory fish that feed off of small birds, frogs, and mice. Pike, largemouth bass, muskies, and if the season is right trout will hit these.

13.  Suspended Bait

Opposite to crankbaits and topwater bait is suspended lures. These baits act more playfully in the waters and in return attract finicky fish. Like, by hanging in water columns these lures are at eye level to the target species, which will entice them. On a clear day, these can draw any bass within 15-20 ft. Furthermore, if you’re fishing in saltwater, these are effective against stripe bass. Try suspended minnows, suspended twitch bait, or suspended jerkbait to name a few options.

14.  Deep Water Bait

As well, deepwater baits run beneath the water like suspended lures and are best in the summer when the fish run deep into cooler water. With a broad variety such as swimbait, bucktails, a large spoon, and deep-diving lures the possibilities are endless. Alas, other baits or live bait can be used with weights, a carolina rig, or drop shot setups. Additionally, the color blue is effective in deep water.

15. Pliers

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Once you’ve landed a fish, you need to remove the hook from it. This is done easily with a pair of pliers or forceps as you wriggle the fish free preventing any harm to yourself or the fish.

16. Knife

Alas, if you plan on keeping your catch, you will need a knife to remove organs and fillet the fish. Like so, a fishing knife with more flex in the blade will give a clean cut against the skin. In return, you won’t waste as much meat unlike a dull or durable knife that might leave hacked or torn meat.

17. Scale

If you’re after trophy fish, it’s ideal to have a scale on board to see how much your monster catch weighs. Furthermore, it puts doubt to rest for naysayers when you have proof to show. Alternatively, if you believe you broke a record, it’s evidence in your hands to present to the local conservation authorities.

18. Ruler

On the other hand, to ensure you don’t get in trouble with the ruling conservation authorities, it is wise to have a ruler to measure species that are close to not being allowed. In certain bodies of water, fish may only be permitted if they are above or below a certain size. Thus, if you were caught with an illegal fish, that leads to a fine or seizure.

19.  Landing Net

Without a landing net, it will be difficult to safely and quickly get the fish out of the water. As long as the fish remains in the water, the chance of a hook being rejected or the line snapping increases. Likewise, a caught fish increases the risk of harming itself as it flails around this is why it’s critical to get the fish into the landing net as soon as possible.

20. Rashguard

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A rashguard provides shelter from the sun’s UV rays; some are made with SPF-protected material. Used in many aquatic sports, they offer a layer of lightweight protection and allow the skin to breathe while preventing sunburns that could put an end to your fishing trip.

21. Sunscreen

Protect the areas of your body that can’t be covered up by a rashguard such as the ears, face, and neck. Sunscreen is crucial in preventing cancer and other skin ailments from the sun’s harmful UV rays. There has been long a rumor that SPF on fishing lures will prevent an angler from hitting. Although, this can’t be confirmed sun protection should be a priority and there are many touch-free examples like spray, sticks, and sponge applicators on the market.

22. Lip Balm

If you’re putting in all the effort to protect your skin, you will want to protect your lips as well. Lip Balm provides a protective barrier, from dry air and wind. There are many bands that offer SPF or sun protection in their lip balm. After all, the lips are made up of skin and can get burnt.

23. Sunglasses

Along with protecting your skin and lips, you should protect your eyes. With the sun at its peak, it will produce a glare on the surface of the water that can be harmful to your eyes. Sunglasses remove the strain from the glare with polarized sunglasses going a step further. Polarized lenses remove all glare together and all anglers to look clearly into the water.

24. Hat

Nothing ruins a fishing trip like a terrible sunburn on your face, ears, nose, or head. Furthermore, hats help to regular the body temperature and prevent heatstroke from too much sun exposure. If you’re found without sunglasses, a brimmed hat can help to shield the eyes and even neck.

On the Water

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In addition to the basics, there is additional equipment that should be considered when fishing or trolling from a boat.

25. Boating License

Before attaching the trailer, be sure to double-check that you have your boating license or an email proving your boating license on hand. Nothing puts a damper on a fishing trip like a fine for not having documentation at the request of the authorities.

26. Trolling Motor

A trolling motor is ideal when spending a day on the water. It’s a small motor on the bow of the boat that permits the boat to glide through the water quietly. Regular motors are loud and run the chance of spooking nearby fish. Moreover, these small motors can act as a backup in the event that the main motor stops working.

27. Emergency Kit 

Before pushing off from the dock, be sure to check that your emergency kit is on board. This should include an emergency rope, flotation device, a whistle, and a telescopic paddle in case you find yourself stranded in a body of water.

28. Life Vests

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In case of an emergency, there should be enough life vests for every person onboard the vessel. Life vests and lifesaver rings are personal floating devices that can save lives if the boat were to suddenly find itself in distress.

29. Water Shoes

Ideally, water shoes should always be present, especially if you’re launching a smaller boat or stepping onto a metal haul on a hot summer day. These inexpensive foot covers will protect you from sharp mussels, sticks, rocky boat launches, and hot surfaces.

30. Fishfinder

Fishfinders offer an insight into the locations of fish via sonar. As so, fishfinders also provide valuable information such as depth, temperature, trolling speed, and rock formations which are clues to where the fish may be.

31. Maps

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Maps of the waterways help to avoid any areas of concern such as waterlogged trunks, dams, shallows, reeds, and rapids; although this will vary depending on the map or device. Alternatively, fish finders can also offer maps of waterways and topographical information.

32. Boat Seats

Although, not completely necessary for fishing; if you’re on a boat for hours, you will want somewhere to comfortably sit.

33. Rod Holders

Not every vessel comes with rod holders installed, especially on smaller boats. These inexpensive additions can come in many forms, with the c-clamp fashion that can be attracted to most lips.

34. Stringer

If you don’t have a cooler onboard or an ice-filled storage compartment. Stringers are an inexpensive line or chain that sees a tether fed through the gills, out of the mouth, and tucked to the side of the vessel.  By using a stringer, the intention is to hold onto the fish by keeping it in the water until it can be cleaned.

35. Down Riggers

A downrigger can be used in many ways, as an additional rod, on a winch, on a cannonball, or on a boom. Its sole purpose is to keep the line down or at a specific depth.

36. Dipsy Diver

Similar to a downrigger, dipsy divers keep the lure down, but on a side plane. The idea is to strike fish that are spooked by the noise of motors or other sudden sounds in the vicinity.

In the Stream

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Like so, a fishing trip on a boat and a fishing trip in a river will need different gear. Before you wade into the water here are some items to consider for your fishing trip.

37. Waders

If you’re fishing in a stream, the water may not be warm yet. Waders are essential to protecting anglers against chilly water while offering a layer of dry insulation.

38. Fly Rod

No spring fly fishing trip would be successful without the fly rod that allows anglers to reach over the water while enticing fish with life-like grub. Rods are typically 7 to 9 ft. While smaller fish should be targeted with shorter rods and larger fish with longer rods for best practices.

39. Fly Reel

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You won’t be able to mimic insects in the waterway without a reel to slowly act out the lifelike actions in a swift water column. Reels come in different sizes, weights, and drag options.

40. Fly Line

A forward weighted fly line with an angler’s back cast will propel the fly through the air onto the water. While there is no set selection as to what line matches a fly to a rod and reel combo, it’s best to try different floating and forward weighted lines until you find a match you like.

41. Leaders

Typically, for a piece of monofilament or fluorocarbon line, the leader adds 7-12 ft of length. The leader is normally a clear piece of line that is thicker on one end and thinner on the other.

42. Tippets

Tippets offer protection to leaders while adding length before placing the fly on. Additionally, it’s another invisible layer that the fish can not see while the line swivels in the current.

43. Flies

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Flies are the bait that will be presented as a food source to the fish. Depending on the style of fly, it will either float on the surface of the water; a dry fly. Or, sink under the surface of the water like a dead bug; a wet fly. It is best to have a variety of both in different colors.

44. Vest

On the other hand, a fishing vest allows an angler to carry clippers, forceps, and a small tackle box of flies onto the water by a utility vest. This apparel is essential, so anglers don’t have to return to the riverbanks to change up a gear or remove line or fish. 

45. Clippers or Nippers

Clippers allow for precision trimming of excess material like an uneven fly material. Additionally, these nail-clipper lookalikes permit the cutting of tippets. Moreover, nippers are nearly identical to clippers but grant the removal of thicker or more durable material such as nylon.

Reeling it in

Alas, with so many items to consider from sun protection, essential equipment, and all the gear to land that fish, it’s easy to forget something. Whether you’re just throwing your line in for fun, intend on trolling, or fly-fishing, there are different items that need to be thought of. Ergo, with this master list, you’ll be sure to never be second-guessing the gear needed to plan a spring fishing trip.