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.
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.
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.
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.