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Fishing Trip Checklist

We’ve all been there. Season after season, year after year. You get up early to arrive at your favorite fishing spot. By the time you arrive, the sun has barely risen. You hold your favorite rod and reel in your hand, with the perfect lure on the other end of it. After identifying where your quarry is, you cast right into the spot, and the bait drops into the water with a soft splash. You crank and pause the reel again and again until you feel the bite of a fish. It pulls on your line, but you pull harder. The fish is as good as yours now. As you reel it in, you hope for the perfect trophy at the end of the line.

There are a thousand reasons that people fish. But the common factor between all of those is simply to catch big fish. The pursuit of the perfect fish keeps us going out again and again, trying a hundred different rods, reels, and baits.

For this reason, it’s good to have a kit of your favorite baits and lures. You should also keep a multi-tool or a pair of needle nose pliers in your tackle box when you need to dig a hook out of a fish. If you’re going to keep any of your fish, you’ll need a cooler and a knife. There are a few other items on our list that are worth considering, too. It’s important to be prepared, you don’t want to leave things to chance on your next big day out.

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Most anywhere you fish will require a license, so make sure to bring it with you so you don’t get fined. Bring a printed version of the license, and take a photo of it on your phone so you have a digital copy as a backup.
Regulations are set by the fish and wildlife department local to your fishing area, and they can vary even within the same body of water. Make sure you bring your regulations with you for easy reference: they often include specific parameters for things like size limits and restricted areas. You don’t want to get out on the water and realize you can’t remember what size fish you can bring home!

Your fishing rod and reel are one of the most important pieces of equipment you’ll bring with you on the water. Before choosing a rod and reel, you’ll need to know what size fish you’ll be targeting, where you’ll be fishing from (dock, wading, or boat), what kind of line you’ll be using, and whether you’ll be fishing in saltwater or freshwater. Rods are generally anywhere from 4’-14’; made from fiberglass, graphite, or a combination of the two; and come in slow, medium, or fast action, all of which affect your casting power, control, and the durability of your rod.

Reels generally offer a choice between spinning reels, conventional reels, and baitcaster reels. These reel types will impact how you cast and how you reload your line. Reels often have sizes in the name, which indicate their dimensions and line capacity.

You’ll need something to attract the fish—and that’s where bait or lures come in. Before determining how to attract your fish, you’ll need to know what kind of fish you’re targeting and what they generally eat in the specific body of water you'll be fishing. If you’re fishing in darker waters, bright lures will draw the eyes of the fish, while natural colors work well in clearer waters.

Lures, plastic worms, flies, jigs, plugs, spoons, spinnerbait, and soft plastics can all help you bring in a specific species of fish in the right conditions. The followng are recommended lures and baits for some of the more popular fish species.

Largemouth bass – Bass will readily take a number of artificial lures and baits. The most popular lures for bass fishing include crankbaits, plastic worms, crawfish bait, spinner baits and swimbaits.

Walleye - Walleye can be caught using a variety of soft and hard artificial baits. Soft jerkbaits and minnow baits are favorites for walleye and should be in every angler's tackle box. A standard Jig head also works well but needs to have a soft plastic or other bait attached. You should also have a good selection of paddle tail swimbaits and soft plastic worms.

Trout – Trout can be caught using a variety of baits and lures. What you use to catch a trout will depend on your fishing method. Fishing in a river or lake using a traditional cast and retreive technique we recommend live worms, inline spinners, spoons or some good old powerbait. If you're going to fly fish, you'll want to make sure you have a good assortment of dry flies, nymphs and streamers.

Northern Pike – Pike aren't picky eaters but they like lures that are flashy and attractive. A few lures that are proven pike catchers include spoons, spinnerbaits and crankbaits.

Crappie – Crappier are voracious litter feeders and will take a variety of baits. The most popular baits and lures for crappie fishing include live bait, jigs, jigging baits, small crankbaits, jerkbaits and spybaits. One of the most effective presentations is a simple jig head with a soft plastic attached, or a hair jig.

Perch – Effective baits for fishing perch include small worms, maggots, wax worms and casters. Perch will also readily take small lures including jigs (with a worm attached), grubs, small crankbaits, minnows and spoons.

Bluegill – Bluegill love small worms, maggots, wax worms and mealworms. If these are available, use them. Bluegills will also take artificial grubs, inline spinners, spinnerbait and jig heads tipped with a small worm or soft plastic grub.

Musky – Muskies take many of the same baits and lures used to catch Northern Pike. Like Pike, Muskies will readily take a shiny or flashy lure. Best lures for targeting musky include spoons, spinnerbaits and topwater baits.

Catfish – If you're targeting catfish, you'll want to use a good catfish bait. Catfish will take nightcrawlers, worms, chicken livers, minnows, crawfish, stink bait and shrimp.

If you’re targeting fish that swim deep in the lake, you’ll need your lure to reach them. Sinkers give your line some extra weight to make that happen. Sinkers are usually made of steel, brass, or tungsten. The deeper you want your lure to go, the heavier your sinker should be.
Fishing line is a must—and be sure to bring more than you need, as breaking line is very common. You’ll need to know the type of rod you’re using, what fish you’ll be targeting, and what conditions you’ll be fishing in before choosing a fishing line. Fishing line is available in braided, monofilament, and fluocarbon varieties. These vary in affordability, buoyancy, stretch, and tangling.
Have you ever successfully brought a fish to shore, only to struggle to actually land it? Nets can help you bring a fish in once you have it on the land side. Particularly if you’re targeting bigger fish that can be difficult to manage, a fishing net helps you to contain the fish in a safe manner. Hand net, guide nets, and mid-length nets offer different sizes based on the type of fishing you’ll be doing, your conditions, and your portability concerns.
Multi-tools can help you cut your line, get hooks out of the fish, and fix minor things that go wrong with your equipment or your boat.
Needle-nose pliers are ideal for getting a hook out of your fish’s mouth—without getting the hook into your thumb instead!
Sometimes you have to cut your line. Having a pocketknife or even a set of nail clippers will help you quickly cut your line and move on. Make sure your knife or clippers will be strong enough to cut through your line, especially if you work with a particularly sturdy type of line.
Fillet knifes help you clean your fish while you work on the next catch. Cleaning outdoors, and bleeding in the water, can simplify your process and get you closer to enjoying those fish when you get home. A fillet knife should be the appropriate size for your target fish.
If you’re planning a fishing trip, you’re probably planning to have some success—which means you’ll need a plan for bringing your fish home with you. Pack a fish cooler with ice or ice packs, especially if you have a long drive home.
A stringer can help keep your catches organized. Single line stringers will put all your fish together on one line, while chain stringers have separate clasps for each fish.
It’s likely you’ll have regulations dictating what size fish you can legally take home. Make sure you’re in compliance by bringing a measuring tape and scale with you that you can easily use.
Caring for your equipment helps you return to the water season after season. Bring a rag to help dry off your fishing gear—and yourself when needed!
You don’t want to spend half your fishing trip searching for the right lure. A tackle box is a great way to keep things organized. Determine how much space you need in your tackle box, and whether you want a hard plastic box or a soft bag to store your essentials. Then, make sure your tackle box has an organizational system that works for you.
Whether it’s a GPS system or an old-fashioned map, make sure you know where you’re going and how to get back. If you’ll be heading to a remote place, make sure you will have GPS navigation or have a backup in case you don’t have signal.


A pair of boots or waders can keep the cold and wet away from your feet, which can make a big difference in an angler’s mood. Rubber fishing boots and waders are a popular choice since they’re waterproof, provide insulation, and give traction over slippery surfaces. When choosing your pair of boots, consider how deep you plan on wading into the water, and make sure you have good traction to keep you safe. If you’ll be doing a lot of wading, you might consider cleats or lugs to keep you even more rooted to the earth.
If you’ll be wading far from your tackle box and want to keep your gear with you, a fishing vest can be a great help. Fishing vests provide extra warmth as well as plenty of extra storage for accessories and gear. Consider just how warm you want your vest to be, and what kind of pocket system works best for your specific needs.
Fishing can be rough on your palms. If you’ll be holding your rod all day, and especially if you might get into battles with fish, a pair of fingerless gloves can provide extra grip while protecting you from blisters and chafing. Open fingers will allow you to manage small detailed gear like hooks and lures. Look for a pair of gloves that will provide extra traction when holding the rod, stand up against the elements (including sun protection), and fit your hand well.
Even if it’s just a poncho added to your tacklebox, a bit of rain preparation can keep you from throwing in the towel on a full day of fishing.
Pants directly impact your mobility, and anglers need to do a lot of kneeling, squatting, and sitting on rough terrain. Find a pair of fishing pants that are durable, comfortable, and provide some organization and storage for your gear. Some anglers like zippered fishing pants that convert into shorts if they’ll be out over a wide range of temperatures, or if they need to wade deeper into the water.
A fishing hat should keep the sun out of your eyes, repel water, cover your neck, and remain on your head even if a big gust of wind comes through. Breathable fabrics and UPF protection can help keep you comfortable, and many fishing hats will have a loop around the neck to keep from blowing off. Baseball caps work in a pinch, but a wide-brimmed caped hat covers all the bases.
Beyond offering needed sun protection, the right sunglasses can help you see more clearly into the water. Look for polarized, blue tint sunglasses that will help your eyes cut through the glare of the sun on the water, allowing you to search for fish beneath the surface.
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Protection from the Elements

Make sure your sunscreen is waterproof. UVA/UVB broad-spectrum is the best bet for fishing. Apply before you head out to the water, and then intermittently throughout the day.
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It’s important to bring at least the bare essentials of first aid out with you on the water. You might especially prioritize wound and blister care, as fishing is more likely to cause these injuries. You can find first-aid kits that come with essentials based on the number of people in your party.
If you’ll be heading out on a boat, having some pills to treat seasickness can make a huge difference for your trip. Many of these pills are best taken the night before—check the instructions on your brand of choice, and make sure to plan ahead.
If you’re leaving shore, make sure you have as many personal flotation devices as you have people. These are legally required and help ensure your safety on the water.
If you want to use your phone for GPS or to take photos, you’ll want to bring it along in a waterproof case to help protect it.
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Nutrition and Hydration

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Personal Hygiene

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