All sports attract their share of equipment freaks, but, for my money, it’s hard to imagine one that befuddles the beginner with a wider range of gimmicks and doodahs than fishing. It’s possible to buy a separate rod and reel combination for just about any stretch of water that you’re ever likely to fish, artificial lures for any possible combination of quarry and water conditions and everything else from self-warming stream side seats to electric hook sharpeners. And, as your pursuit of flashing fins takes you down differing trails, a lot of those things might well become must-haves. For now, though, I’m going to try to set you up with a versatile, do-most-anything rig, without slashing too deeply into your food budget.
The core of your outfit, of course, will be the rod and reel. And, since we’re trying to pick out a simple, versatile, more or less foolproof rig, your best bets are probably 1) a bait casting outfit, 2) a spin-casting set or 3) an open-faced spinning reel and matching rod. There are enthusiastic fans of each option, and any of the choices would do the job, but I’m going to go out on a limb and suggest that you buy a medium-sized, open-faced spinning reel (one suitable for line in the six to 10-pound test range; have the salesperson load it with as much as it will hold when you buy it) and a medium action, six- to seven-foot fiberglass spinning rod. (The action, sometimes called power, should appear on a label somewhere on the rod.) With this rig, a few lures and a selection of hooks and sinkers, which will be described below, you should be able to go for most freshwater fish, in most types of water, and even catch smaller saltwater species.
Though many recommend a closed-faced, or spin-casting, reel for the beginner, I prefer the open-faced because it’s simple to operate and, well, open. When the line tangles during a cast (it will), you’ll be able to get at that bird’s nest without disassembling the reel itself. And, though an open-faced spinning outfit may take a little more practice than the closed-faced variety, I think it ultimately offers more casting distance and control.
Of course, you will have to practice. Fortunately, all you need to complete your training are an open field or large back yard and a small (1/4- to 1/2-ounce) lead sinker. Just tie the weight to the end of your line and follow the instructions in the accompanying sidebar. Don’t be discouraged when your first attempts at casting misfire. The correct rhythm and touch will come quickly, and in a short time you should develop enough casting range and accuracy to allow you to continue to perfect your skills while you’re fishing!