Beginner’s Guide to Fishing Rods + Tackle

June 2, 2023
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Fishing requires minimal gear; in fact, you can get started with just a few basic items:

  • Fishing rod
  • Line
  • Tackle (including bait)
  • Freshwater fishing licence

Rods, Reels, and Lines

Get off to a good start by choosing the right rod and reel combo – for you, and for the type of fishing you plan to do.
A good choice for beginners is a light rod about 1.2 to two metres long (four to six feet). This is ideal for trout and other small fish, lightweight, and can handle smaller tackle very well.

Fishing Reels

Fishing reels store line on a spool. Some have an adjustable friction device known as a “drag,” which maintains tension on the line as it’s pulled off the spool. Proper adjustment of the drag serves two important functions when a fish runs: first, it prevents the spool from over-spinning, releasing line in a controlled, orderly fashion without tangling into a mess (or “bird’s nest”); second, it provides a braking force that slowly tires the fish without breaking the line.
Two basic rod and reel set-ups are SPINCASTING and SPINNING. It’s important to match the rod with the proper reel.

Spincasting Reels

A spincasting rod has the reel mounted on top of the rod, with the line guides facing upwards. On a matching spincasting reel, notice that the line is stored under a cover, and feeds from a small hole in front. These reels are very inexpensive and easy to cast, making them ideal for young children.

Spinning Reels

A spinning rod holds the reel underneath the rod, with the line guides pointing directly toward the ground. The line guides start larger than on a spincasting rod, and become smaller closer to the tip.

Spinning reels are a step up from spincasting reels, but still relatively inexpensive. Spinning reels use a metal bar (called a bail) to hold the line on the reel. As the reel handle is turned, the bail also turns, winding line neatly onto the spool.

See Casting and Retrieving For Spinning Rods.

Fishing Line

A good quality fishing line is essential for your angling success. You can always get solid advice at your local tackle store, but here’s a quick guide to the three main types of line.

Monofilament: The most common type of line, it’s typically clear or green, but each colour is almost transparent under water. Monofilament is a great all-purpose fishing line that can be used anywhere.

Fluorocarbon: Primarily used for leaders, this line looks like monofilament, but is virtually invisible underwater.

Fusion and braided lines: With these lines, the materials are either braided or fused together to make a single strand of line. This makes for an extremely strong line with a very thin diameter, and very little stretch. Since these lines are highly visible, they are generally used only as main line.

Understanding Line Terms

These are some of the things you might see on line packaging at your local fishing tackle store.


Line strength is expressed in terms of “test,” and is measured in pounds or kilograms. The higher the test number, the stronger the fishing line. This number will be clearly labelled on any line you buy, and it’s important to use the right test line for your targeted species and fishing conditions. Most rods and reels are also labelled with a suitable line weight or test, and following what is recommended will help the equipment to function properly.


This simply means how visible the fishing line is to the angler (not the fish). The fishing line box will generally be labelled as high visibility, low visibility, or invisible.


This is the diameter of the line. It will be labelled clearly on the box, and is measured in either thousandths of an inch or hundredths of a millimetre.

Tackle and Accessories

Here’s a simple guide to the basic tackle you’ll need. Let’s work backwards, starting from the hook. Remember that your local tackle store is a great place to ask for advice on what works best for fishing in your area.


Hooks come in many shapes and sizes, each designed with a different purpose in mind. All rivers, streams, and some lakes in B.C. require the use of single barbless hooks. If you buy a lure or spoon that has a treble hook, you can easily replace the treble with a single hook, and pinch the barb flat on any hook with a pair of pliers. Hooks can be attached to your main line or a leader with an improved clinch knot.


Bait is any food or substance used to attract the fish and tempt them to bite. Bait falls into two categories:
Natural baits: worms, roe, and krill.
Artificial Baits: artificial substances that are scented or flavoured to attract fish to bite.

As your angling experience grows, you’ll learn which baits are the best for catching each species. Some waters in B.C. prohibit the use of bait. For complete definitions of bait and the “Rules on Bait Usage,” consult the B.C. Freshwater Fishing Regulations Synopsis before you go fishing.


Spoons: These wobble and dart in the water as you reel in. Their movement makes them look like wounded baitfish, which entices fish to bite. Depending on the water and type of fish you are targeting, there are hundreds of different designs, colours, and sizes of spoons to choose from.

Spinners: As a spinner moves through the water, its rotating blade at the front of the lure produces vibrations and flash which can trigger a fish’s strike reflex. Again, there are many to choose from.

For tips on which bait or lure to use for each species you are targeting, read Fishing Techniques for Beginners.


A leader is a short piece of fishing line that goes between your main fishing line and your hook or lure. The material and breaking test strength of the leader will depend upon on the type of fishing you do. Usually, the leader’s breaking test should be less than that of the main line, so that you only lose some leader if you break off on a snag or play a fish too hard. When fishing for larger fish, choose a heavier test leader; in clear water, you’ll probably need a lighter, thinner leader. You can tie your leader to a swivel using an improved clinch knot.


Weights (also known as sinkers) are usually made of lead or tungsten, and come in various shapes and sizes. Weights help you to cast further, and sink your bait or lure down to the fish.


Swivels are used to join your heavier main line to your lighter leader. Since each loop end of a swivel turns independently, it also helps stop your line from twisting, especially when using high-action wobbling lures like spoons. The two most common types are the barrel swivel (a closed loop at each end of a barrel), and a snap swivel (a quick-release snap on one end, and a closed loop on the other).


Floats (also known as bobbers) help keep your hook off the bottom, and allow you to adjust the depth you’re fishing. Easily moved up or down your line, floats let you place your bait, lure or fly right where the fish are swimming.

Learn how to put all the gear together and set up your fishing rod, ready to catch fish, in the next article.