Our Guide to Fishing Tackle & Gear

This section of the site talks exclusively about fishing tackle – the different equipment they we anglers simply can’t manage without. As well as giving an overview of the various types of tackle, we’ll give ideas and opinions on the gear you might need for each alternative kind of fishing, and we’ll even make some suggestions for specific tackle out there – which we’ve either tried or heard good things about. If you’re new to angling or looking for advice on specific bits of kit, we hope this might steer you in the right direction.

Fishing rods and poles

For recreational fishing, anglers will need a fishing rod, or pole, and reel. The rod (often called ‘pole’ in the US and ‘rod’ in the rest of the world) could be a simple stick or could be a sophisticated rod, expertly crafted from hi-tech materials. Older rods were produced from bamboo, cane or even, in the UK at least, tank aerials, but these days most fishing rods are made from fiberglass, graphite or a combination.

The leading brands are constantly progressing their products and tend to produce better rods annually. Rods come in all shapes, lengths, strengths and sizes – with multiple different models available for catching different types of fish in different circumstances or locations.

Read more about these in our fishing rod section >>

Reels

With fishing reels, there is just as much variety, if not more. The reason for this is that, depending on whom you talk to, there are at least three different styles of reel. These can largely be classified as follows: centrepins and fly reels, fixed spool or spinning reels, and multipliers. As most people will know, reels are used to let out and pull in fishing line – enabling anglers to fish at distance.

They are invariably attached directly to the fishing rod and come in a range of sizes depending on the amount of line they need to hold, the speed at which they need to retrieve, and the style of fishing they are intended for.

Read more about these in our fishing reels section >>

Hooks

At the fish end of our tackle, we need various items of equipment to help us snare our quarry. The most obvious thing we need is a hook, so that we can get a decent hold on the fish by snagging them in the mouth. Hooks are manufactured in almost endless configurations: there are single hooks, double hooks and treble hooks, and any number of different materials, shapes and sizes.

Fishing tackle

Terminal tackle

Most anglers will know that invariably you need a whole lot more than just a hook on the end of your line. You might need a weight, for example, to be able to cast the hook the required distance, or to get it to the right depth. You might also require a special leader material – maybe steel trace when fishing for species with sharp teeth, like sharks, barracuda or pike, or a shock leader when casting a long distance with a heavy weight. You might need a float, so you can keep the bait off the bottom, or a swivel to keep your line from twisting. These items are known, collectively, as terminal tackle – presumably because they sit at the end of the line, or thereabouts.

Fishing line

Possibly the most critical item of a fisherman’s gear is fishing line. This is the ‘rope’ we need to haul our fish out of their lies and into our keep nets. There are hundreds of different types of fishing line, which can vary in diameter, length, feel, colour, breaking strain, elasticity, fabric and even shape. Historically, fishing line was predominantly manufactured from synthetic fibre, but today nylon is used heavily. With constant breakthroughs being made in materials science, there are also several alternatives. Braided lines are becoming increasingly popular – not least because the lack of stretch gives a more immediate contact with the bait and fish. You’ll also find sinking fluorocarbon lines, and ‘cofilament’ lines (as opposed to monofilament) – known for their superior strength and fine diameter. From hooklinks and shock leaders to running lines, the options are plentiful and can be a bit dazzling. And this is before we make mention of fly fishing lines. Fly lines are altogether different. Much heavier in weight, they are designed to enable anglers to cast long distances without heavy baits or weights. Fly lines can float or sink, with different densities determining their behavior. As well as the differentiation into floaters, sinkers and fast sinking lines, there are different length fly lines, and different tapers, designed for different styles of casting and various weather conditions. Shooting heads, for example, help an angler cast long distances into strong winds, while double taper lines will provide a more delicate presentation. If you’re thinking of buying a new line, we would suggest you speak to an expert. An experienced angler would be able to advise you on the preferred lines types for different types of fishing, the strength of knots, how easy they are to cast, the amount of stretch, reliability, camouflage, resistance to abrasion and a whole lot more.

Bait and baiting

No blog about fishing can be complete without discussing the different types of bait. Possibly the most obvious thing to say about bait is its massive variety. Of course there are natural baits, like redworms, grubs, larvae, hemp, nuts, and various types of meat and fish. These may be fished in all kinds of ways. Then there are fabricated baits like bread, sweetcorn and boiled baits – sometimes called ‘boiles’. There are also lures that are designed to make fish attack such flies, crankbaits, plugs, spinners, jigs, spoons and flies. Bait selection will usually be dictated by the fish species you’re pursuing. Carnivorous fish such as barracuda, sharks, pike and, say, trout feed on smaller fish and other marine animals and will chase flashy baits, thinking they are live prey. Some other species of fish are harder to catch on artificial baits. Carp, for instance, are a common species of fish found all over Europe and the UK, but are usually caught on edible baits like bread flake, luncheon meat, boiled nuts and flavoured particle baits. It is possible to target almost any species with a fly, including carp, chub, bream and mullet, but this is not the norm.

Lures and flies

Lures and flies are collectively known as artificial baits. They can be used when spin fishing, jigging, trolling and fly fishing – in fact any style of fishing where the bait is meant to imitate some kind of live bait. Probably the most popular style of lure fishing is ‘spinning’ – one of the names given to what is possibly the most common style of fishing – in which an artificial bait is cast out into the target areas and brought back in using a spinning reel (probably either a multiplier or a fixed spool reel). Although, strictly speaking, spinning refers to baits that actually spin, the term is often used more generically for any kind of lure, such as a plug, crank bait, jig or even fly.

Tackle boxes and fly boxes

You’ll probably find that, in addition to rods and reels, the majority of anglers will probably have a tackle box, spilling over with bite indicators, winkers, hooks and swivels, random pieces of line, disgorgers, beads, a few dead critters, and all kinds of things they no longer recognize. The older guys might say you’re not a proper angler until you own a “bag of tricks” and you’ll soon find that you need somewhere to keep your hooks and all your terminal tackle.

The tackle you use will depend largely on the type fo fishing you choose to participate in. Some anglers prefer to catch big fish or ‘trophies’ (you may well have visited such trophy hunters’ houses or possibly been to bars, pubs or hotels which have stuffed fish all over the walls). Others prefer to focus on numbers. Match fishermen, for example, compete to see who can catch the most fish, amounting to the greatest combined weight, in a specific period of time.

It’s probably the case that most fishermen, whether they know it or not, secretly yearn for that monster fish or want to catch more fish than anyone else, but the sport of fishing isn’t just about landing the maximum size or number of fish.

Many anglers will be able to tell you about fishing trips where the sport has been too easy! The fish would take the bait no matter what was offered, which took the challenge out of the sport and, in many ways, also the fun. A bonanza is not always the best outcome. After a day on the river bank, most anglers like to feel a sense of achievement. The hunter in us wants to hunt, it doesn’t want a slaughter. If the fish are suckers and could be caught by anyone using any method, there’s no challenge and limited satisfaction.

The tackle we employ is therefore a combination of what’s required to catch the fish, and what will leave us with the most satisfaction at the end of the day.

Image source: Tittletackle.com