Beginners Guide to Bass Fishing

My wife often joins me on the water when I fish and has recently wanted to try fishing herself. So I have begun teaching her how to fish. Unfortunately like many others, we don’t live on a lake or have one close by. So to get the most out of each trip to the lake and avoid getting skunked, a lot of learning needed to be done at home before hand.

There are tons of fishing tips online but there isn’t an easy to follow guide to walk a new angler through everything they need to know to catch their first fish. So I set out to create the easiest way to learn bass fishing.

What You Need to Get Started Fishing

  • State Fishing License – Depending on age.
  • Fishing Rod and Reel
  • Fishing Line
  • Fishing Lure or Bait and Hook

Fishing Rod and Reel

The fishing rod and reel are vital pieces of equipment for fishing. The rod aids in casting your bait/lure out and fighting a fish in when you catch one. The reel dispenses and retrieves line as you fish.

There are 2 styles of rod and reel that are used in bass fishing. They are casting rods which are paired with baitcaster reels and spinning rods which pair with spinning reels. There is a third type of reel you will see at chain retailers or gas stations called a spin cast or push button reel. These reels are generally targeted at kids and should be avoided. They tend to get messed up and break very quickly and are not suitable for larger fish like a bass.

Types of Rods & Reels

  1. Casting Rod: Used for most bass fishing techniques, can handle much heavier lures.
  2. Spinning Rod: Used for lighter baits when finesse bass fishing or fishing for smaller species.
  3. Spincast Rod: Only recommended for small children who will lose interest quickly.

Baitcasting vs Spinning Rod – Which is better for beginners?

For new anglers a spinning rod is the best choice. A spinning rod is ideal for finesse bass fishing which includes some great beginner bass baits. A spinning rod will also allow you to fish for smaller species of fish like crappie or bluegill which can also be fun.

A baitcaster is better for your second rod. Baitcasters are ideal for most bass fishing applications because they are better equipped to handle heavier lures. Because of this it isn’t unusual for bass angler’s third or fourth rod to be baitcaster as well.

For a more in-depth look at both Rods and Reels check out these additional guides:

Rod Selection Guide

Reel Selection Guide

Recommended Fishing Rod & Reel For Beginners

I recommend you buy your rod & reel individually and avoid combos. In most cases buying the two separate will get you a better setup for less money. A decent budget rod & reel will cost about $50 each. Where you really start to see a big jump in quality for price is around the $100 range.. Of course the best of the best really jumps up in price. As a beginner don’t worry about the super high end gear. Most anglers will fish their whole lives and never need a combo that expensive.

Budget Spinning Rod & Reel:Daiwa Aird X 7′ Medium paired with a Shimano Sedona FI 2500

Best Value Spinning Rod & Reel: Shimano SLX 7′ Medium paired with a Shimano Nasci 2500

Budget Casting Rod & Reel: Daiwa Aird X 7′ Med Hvy paired with a Daiwa CC 80 7.5:1

Best Value Casting Rod & Reel: Dobyns Fury 7′ Med Hvy paired with a Shimano SLX 7.2:1

Fishing Line

There are three types of fishing line: braid, fluorocarbon, and monofilament. Each type of line has pros and cons but as a beginner don’t worry too much about it right now. I recommend starting with Maxima Ultragreen monofilament in 8lb for spinning rods and 10lb for casting rods. As you grow as an angler you can branch out into the other line types. We have a complete fishing line guide where we break down the benefits of each type and when it’s best to use them.

Now that you have your rod, reel, and line picked out you can set it all up. The steps are slightly different depending on if you have a baitcaster or spinning reel so read whichever guide matches your rod.

Bait to Catch Bass

The final thing you will need to get before hitting the water is a hook and bait. Choosing a bait can be overwhelming for a new angler. To make it easier we created a beginners bait guide that covers multiple bait styles that are great for learning important fishing techniques while still catching fish. We also have in-depth guides and recommendation for all the other styles of lures that you can follow as you get more experienced.

But if you just one bait to hit the water with and catch fish I recommend picking up a pack of Senkos or another plastic worm, 3/0 Gamakatsu Offset EWG hook, and some bullet weights. These three things are fairly inexpensive and allow you to set up a texas rig. A texas rig is extremely weedless so it wont get hung up as much as other baits. It works everywhere and doesn’t matter if you are fishing from the bank, kayak, or boat.

After mastering the texas rig pick up a couple more pieces of terminal tackle to fish a wacky rig and a drop shot rig. Both these rigs can use the same soft plastic worm as the texas rig and are great beginner bass baits.

How to tie on hooks and lures

Most hooks and lures are best to be tied on with a palomar knot. It is quick to learn, easy to tie, and very strong. Of course there are other fishing knots that you should learn over time that are better for other situations.

Where to Fish

When looking for a place to fish close by one of the best ways is to search Google Maps. Maps will show smaller lakes, ponds, rivers, and creeks that may not be listed else where. Be sure to check that the bodies of water you find can be legally fished or ask for permission if the water is on private land.

Your state’s fish and wildlife department should also have a list of recommended fishing areas throughout your state.

How to Cast a Fishing Rod

Casting is a vital part of fishing and the technique will vary slightly depending on which reel you have. We recommend you check out our baitcaster casting guide or spinning rod casting guide depending on which you have.

How to Catch a Bass

Now that you have everything you need and know how you use your rod and reel its time to hit the water and catch your first bass.

Detecting Fish Bites

Detecting a fish bite is not always easy. Bass don’t always hit baits like a train making it obvious. Sometimes it is very subtle and many bites can go unnoticed. The number one thing to detecting bites is to pay attention.

  1. The first thing to pay attention to is watching your line. If your bait is sitting on the bottom and your line starts moving there is a good chance a fish picked it up.
  2. Similarly you should watch your rod tip. Your rod tip will have a normal bend when reeling in or working your bait. If you notice it bounce or bend in any way that that you haven’t noticed on other casts it could be a fish.
  3. The third this to pay attention to is the feel of the line. Your fishing line will transfer vibrations up it and can give you an idea of what your bait is doing. Again what you are looking for is a change in vibration that is different or you wouldn’t expect. For example you may lift your rod tip up to hop your bait up off the bottom and if you don’t feel the bait hit the bottom then its likely a fish ate it when it popped up.

Detecting bites is easier on tight line however some lures or techniques require slacker line. When deciding how much slack to allow just make sure your your hook set motion can remove all the slack. Learn more by reading out more in-depth guide on detecting fish bites.

How to set the Hook

If you detect a bite or think you did it is important to set the hook. Hook sets are free. If you don’t set the hook fish will often spit your bait right out of their mouth and you will lose them. To set the hook quickly lift your rod tip up or swing it to your side. This action will help remove any extra slack in the line and drive the hook into the fish’s lip or mouth. When setting the hook your rod will load up and help keep the hook pinned while you fight the fish in. To learn more read our in-depth hook setting guide.

How to Reel a Fish in

After setting the hook your rod will load up which means it is time to reel the fish in. Use the flex of the rod to absorb direction changes and steer the fish. When steering the fish try to keep them away from any cover that your line could get damaged by or tangled up in. Keep your line tight, allowing your line to go slack makes it easier for fish to spit out baits.

When the fish swims towards you reel in. When they are swimming away let your drag tire them out while using your rod to try and steer them.

How to Land a Fish

Landing a fish basically means getting them out of the water. Smaller fish can be simply lifted out of the water with your rod but larger fish a little more effort. There are two ways to land a bigger fish safely.

The first one requires that the fish is tired out and not still fighting. If this is the case then you can grab the fish by the lip and lift them out of the water. Be careful not to grab close to the hook especially if they are treble hooks. You don’t want to grab the fish and have them shake the hook into your hand.

The second option is using a net. A net is much safer and can land fish that are still fighting.

Unhooking & Releasing Fish

After landing the fish it is important to get the fish unhooked and back in the water as quickly as possible if you are not keeping them. For removing hooks I recommend using some pliers. Pliers aren’t required but make it a bit safer and make it a lot easier to get hooks out that are deep in the fish’s mouth.

Once unhooked lower the fish back into the water so they can swim away. Avoid throwing or dropping them from long distances.