Wednesday, March 10, 2021

The Best Tackle For You




         There are many people out there who want to learn to fish, and many who have been fishing for years who have questions about the right tackle. One of the most-asked questions from folks I took fishing was.... What should I buy to fish with?  Every guide knows that the success of a fisherman who hires him depends to a great extent on whether or not he can use what he has properly.  I can take you fishing, but you have to make the lure land where it should, and do what it should in the water.


         If you want to catch bass, you need to learn to use an open-faced casting reel, and it needs to hold relatively heavy line.  I use some of those casting reels for bigger bass on reservoirs… heavier line and stronger rods.  When you are fishing in lakes for larger bass, 5 pounds or heavier, you need 10 pound line, minimum. The men who caught the monster bass from Midwest reservoirs back in the sixties and seventies used 20- pound line. Some of them caught had caught a half dozen bass in the 10-pound range.  Heavier line stretches less, so it is easier to set a large hook in the bony jaw of a big bass with the heavier line.


         If I want to fish a stream for big smallmouth, I might want to go with a more limber rod, a little shorter because of the restrictions of overhanging limbs when I am casting, and lighter line, perhaps eight or ten pound test. But lighter line the clearer the water. And some smallmouth fishermen would argue that they prefer spinning gear with line only six pounds.  I use that too, of course, when I'm fishing smaller lures.  You can't effectively fish large crank baits, large spinner baits, buzz baits and big topwater lures with a light spinning reel. 


         Heavy spinning reels can be used for heavy fish of course, with stronger line and stiffer rods.  Up north they go for trout and walleye of considerable size with heavy spinning gear and 10 to 12-pound line.  But here in the Ozarks, my spinning reels are used for lighter fish, smaller lures with lighter line.  Casting reels should be used with lures and weights of 3/8 ounce or larger.  Light spinning reels should be used with lures smaller than 1/4 ounce.


         No, you can't effectively cast a little quarter ounce jig with an open faced casting reel and 12 or 14-pound line.  Fishermen learn with experience that a jig falls in the water in direct proportion to the diameter of the line. With four-pound line, a small jig drops much faster than it will with eight-pound line.  That's why crappie fishermen like the spinning reels with light line.  For crappie, use a light, limber little rod which helps you feel a slight tap, and gives you a fight out of a fish that doesn't resist all that hard, and doesn't take a strong hook-set.


         I use medium spinning gear and 6-pound line for white bass when they are hefty, the three- or four-pound specimens not found often.  Most of the time, when I am fishing a spring spawning run for whites that only average a pound, I want four-pound line on a light spinning rod.  If I am going to fish for hybrids or stripers, I want to use heavy casting gear, and if the stripers are big enough, strong rods and 14- or 20-pound line.  Same thing for big catfish when using live bait.  But then, when I fish for stripers on Norfork with guides, we are using long light rods and only eight-pound line.  A 20-pound fish can't break it if the drag is properly set.


         When I go to Canada to fish for smallmouth, muskies, largemouth or northern pike, I use casting gear and strong line 10 to 14 pounds, and you have to use steel leader.  Sometimes, just for kicks I fish for smallmouth in Canada lakes with light action spinning tackle and six-pound line.  For walleyes that are usually less than four pounds, I use that same gear, but heavier spinning gear for lakes that have six- or eight-pound walleye.  The thing about walleyes is, they usually are found in unobstructed waters up there, and they aren't going to run away from you.  They usually stay deep and under you.  Big bass don't do that, they find something to get around, and you have to horse them a little.


         Though I often fish with the heavy casting gear for bigger fish, I just love to fish with an ultralight spinning outfit, and four-pound line for smaller fish; trout, white bass and crappie, even goggle-eye and bluegill.  Sometimes in the summer, I like to find a cool shoal on an Ozark river late in the afternoon and cast a small floating minnow-type lure for smallmouth from 10- to 15-inches long.  What fun that is on the light tackle.  Of course, sometimes an 18- or 20-inch bruiser takes your lure and leaves you wishing you had a heavier outfit.


         It is wise to stay away from push-button reels if you want to become a serious fisherman.  I guess they are okay for kids, or inexperienced fishermen who won't fish very often, and with a really small youngster that's only five or six years old, that's what you begin them on.  But start a youngster that is 10 or 12 years old, learning to cast the better tackle, and you'll be glad you did.


         Well, as you might guess, I take a variety of tackle on most fishing trips, different rods, reels and lures almost all the time, but never more than three rods and reels.  I suggest you learn to use types of fishing gear one at a time and practice casting to a two-foot ring in your back yard until you never miss.  Then hire a guide to teach you the rest.  If you want to learn to fish, a good guide is the best investment you can make.  BUT… I said hire a good one! That takes some research.  In this day and time there are lots of  ‘guides’ trying to pay for a bass boat rather than trying to teach you how to fish.


Write to me at Box 22, Bolivar, MO  65613.  The website is And my email address is lightninridge47@  




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