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Fishing Essentials: What Do You Need to Go Fishing?

A young person in a grey tank top is holding a red and black fishing reel in their hands and turning the handle.

Nothing captures the essence of summer quite like a day of casting a fishing line into a calm lake or river. If you think fishing is something you would enjoy (or if you've taken a break from your glory days as an angler and would like to try again), you're probably wondering what you need to go fishing.

Fortunately, fishing is a simple hobby that doesn't cost much to explore. With a few fishing essentials, you can easily get started. Grow your collection of bait and lures as you grow your fishing skills. If you're looking for the ideal summer hobby, look no further than fishing!


Must-Have Fishing Gear for Beginners

An adult and two younger people stand on a dock, casting fishing lines into a lake at sunset. The fishermen are wearing shorts and dressed for warm weather, and the lake appears calm with a golden yellow glow.

If you’re new to fishing and ready to get your toes wet (pun intended) with this classic summertime activity, you’ve come to the right place! If your kids are begging you to take them along fishing this summer, but you aren’t sure what beginners need for fishing, we can help! We’ll cover the basics of freshwater fishing gear and preparation—all the fishing essentials you need to know before you cast your first line!

Basic Fishing Equipment List

If you aren’t quite sure that fishing is going to be a new hobby or just a one-time activity, you can get by with just a license, rod & reel, line, and bait, but the additional fishing accessories are nice to have—even for the occasional angler.

Below we'll explore why each item on the list is vital to your fishing success.

Fishing license

The US Fish & Wildlife Service insignia on a brown background. The logo depicts a blue duck against an orange skyline, with a trout jumping out of the water below and reads "Department of the Interior" across the bottom.

One of the biggest fishing essentials is a fishing license. Without a license, you can get fined and cited for illegal fishing. Now, will you always get caught? Probably not, but play it safe by making sure you have a license before hitting the water on a public lake or river.

Licensing requirements vary by state, but it's important to know that purchasing a license directly contributes to conservation efforts nationwide. By buying a fishing license, you're giving to the agencies that help preserve the environment so that we can all enjoy it responsibly.

Visit the US Fish & Wildlife directory to quickly find your state's licensing application and learn more about the specifics of fishing licenses in your area. Children under 12 aren't required to have a license in some places, and additional guidelines may apply. But for adults, getting a fishing license is quick, easy, and is a fishing must-have for all new anglers.

Fishing Rod, Reel, and Line

Now, everyone who fishes knows that part of the fun of fishing is the gear. So, the first fishing essentials you need to start with are a fishing rod, reel, and line. You can almost always find a rod/reel/line combo all in one package—these are perfect for beginner fishermen or children.

A spin casting rod is the most popular of this must-have fishing gear. These rod and reel setups feature a pistol-like grip with the reel mounted on top of the rod. Hold down the push button on top of the reel to cast the fishing line as you bring the rod back overhead, then release it as you cast forward. A spin casting rod and reel are the best way to cast further distances and place your bait exactly where you want it. If you’re not sure how to start fishing, a spin casting rod will make it easy.

Look for a 6 or 7-foot medium-action rod with either monofilament or braided line. If you've never cast a fishing line before or are teaching a child how to cast, it's best to practice in an open area outdoors until they get the hang of it. You should start with weights only (no hook) for safety.

Live bait or fishing tackle

A fishing rod stands out against an aqua-blue and orange skyline. A silver lure and hook hang from the line.

Now that you have your rod and reel, you're ready to learn how to start fishing. First, of course, you'll need something to make the fish bite (and hook them when they do).

You’ll want to get a set of fish hooks and fishing tackle. Fishing hook sets may come with sinkers and snap swivels, which make changing out the lures and hooks much easier. If you're new to fishing, you should stock up on several sets, as hooks can get easily caught and lost.

Fishing tackle comes in hundreds of different forms: lifelike soft baits, spinning baits, hard lures painted in thousands of different ways to mimic natural prey, rubber worms, and other small critters—the list goes on and on!

If you're new to fishing, choose a set of tackle that includes a few dozen types of lures so that you can choose one depending on the fish you're trying to catch. Each type of fishing tackle is designed to attract the attention of a different kind of fish (by mimicking the movements and look of their favorite food).

Now, besides fishing tackle, you may also want live bait. Live bait usually means buying a small tub of worms (nightcrawlers, red wigglers, and earthworms are most common) or tiny larvae like bee moths. Many independently owned Do it Best stores offer live bait, so check your local store first!

The Best Fishing Accessories Beyond the Basics

As mentioned in the best fishing equipment list above, there are several items that are helpful to have in your fishing toolkit. If you’re setting up your tackle box (and you’ll definitely need a tackle box), you may want to add the following items:

  • Multitool: A multitool is absolutely necessary for a variety of small tasks, including cutting fishing lines, bending hooks, or removing a hard-to-reach hook from a fish you've caught. We even have specialized fishing pliers available. It's especially important to have a multitool if you plan to catch and release.
  • Extra fishing line: Having additional fishing line is one of those things that people forget. But the truth is, you never know when you'll need an extra fishing line—not having it in your tackle box can cut a day of fishing needlessly short.
  • Snap swivels: These are extremely handy and make attaching hooks or lures to your line far easier for a beginner or a child. Kids especially enjoy switching out their lures and bait; a snap swivel makes it quick and easy.
  • You'll want to have quality hooks, sinkers, and bobbers on hand for live bait fishing. These essential fishing accessories help you keep an eye on your line, get a better cast, and reach the fish.
  • If you're fishing with tackle or any of the above accessories, a multi-compartment tackle box is necessary to keep your gear organized. As you learn how to fish, your tackle box will become an excellent option for carrying around all the fishing equipment you'll collect.

How to Start Fishing: Fishing Tips and Tricks

A neon orange and yellow bobber floats atop a blue waterway.

Now that you know what you need to go fishing, you’re ready to start! Gather your license and fishing essentials, and head to your local fishing spot.

It may surprise you that even urban areas can be home to freshwater fish species, including large and smallmouth bass, bluegills or red ears, crappie, and walleye. You will likely want to catch and release depending on your familiarity with the water conditions (and your ability to clean a fish).

Takemefishing.org is an excellent place for young anglers and their parents to learn more about this lifelong outdoor activity. Check out the video and visit their site for a wealth of information about fishing and the type of equipment you need. If you're wondering what you need to go fishing (beyond this list), they have many helpful instructions and tips, including fishing safety, tying fishing knots, and how to get a fish OFF the line without harming yourself or the animal. It's a great resource for all anglers!

If you're ready to start fishing, stock up on all the essential fishing gear at your local Do it Best store. With a bit of preparation and practice, you'll like to agree that fishing is an awesome and relaxing hobby—a great way to spend your summer!

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