I always think it’s a good idea to start a young or inexperienced angler fishing with live bait. Nothing appeals to a fish’s appetite better than the real thing. The tackle needed for live bait fishing is inexpensive and easy to use and find. All the sporting good stores will have a good selection of tackle and rods and reels — even gas stations close to Alabama waterways are usually well stocked.
I like using a medium to medium-light action rod with any reel you feel comfortable with and 4-8 pound test line. Even a cane pole will work. The tackle you need is really very simple: a size #2 or #4 live bait hook and size BB or 3/0 split shot and some type of cork or bobber. Simply tie on the hook, crimp on a couple of split shots and attach the bobber. Add whatever type of bait you want: red wigglers, crickets, wax worms or minnows. Cast out the set-up and wait for the cork to disappear, then give the rod a jerk and reel in your quarry.
Moving up to lures.
If you’re using artificial lures, almost unlimited choices make selection and picking confusing, expensive and at times overwhelming — especially for the beginner.
There is a lure type, color and/or style made for every condition and situation. Start by knowing that you do not need all of these to catch fish. I like to remind myself that a fish’s brain is the size of a black-eyed pea, so keep it simple. Don’t fall for all the colors and glitter you see on a website or at the tackle store.
Start with the color.
- I use four basic colors or shades of the color: green, brown, white or black. Most of the prey that makes up the fish’s diet will be one of these colors or some variation.
- I use lighter colors — whites and greens, in low-light conditions (dawn or dusk or cloudy), and the other colors as the sun comes up. I may add a little chartreuse (lime-green) or red to the lures for flash.
Select the type.
Again, let’s keep it simple. Fish eat minnows, small fish, bugs, worms, crawfish or some unfortunate creature that ends up in the water. In general, the larger the lure you use, the larger the fish you could catch. Bream and crappie will like the smaller lures, and bass and other larger predators like larger ones. The lures to use would be the ones that mimic these food sources.
- Minnow or fish-shaped lures like crankbaits, stickbaits or topwater floating lures are very effective.
- Another lure that mimics minnows is a spinnerbait. It has one or two flashing blades that vibrate as you reel it through the water, along with some type of skirt.
- Try a jig and chunk combination. A jig is a painted head with a hook and skirt attached, with a trailer added to the hook. There’s an endless number of color combination you could use — stay with the basics, at least at the start.
- Another popular and inexpensive type of lure is the plastic or rubber worm. Simply, it looks like a large earthworm and is available in countless colors and styles. If a certain color or style doesn’t work for you, try a few different ones until you find something you and the fish like.
- The last lure to have is the top water lure. This could be a buzzbait, frog, popper or any other type of lure fished on the surface of the water. These lures are most effective in shallow water and in low-light conditions. They resemble some type of forage animal that is fleeing across the surface, trying to get to safety. The bites are mostly reaction strikes and can be very explosive (and fun to watch).
All types of lures found on the web or at outdoor stores can and will catch fish, given the correct conditions. Know what you would like to fish for and don’t be afraid to ask for help. Many employees at outdoor stores are there because they love outdoor recreation and can help steer you in the correct direction. Buy a core selection as outlined above, and then try to expand your options as you learn more and have more success. You don’t have to spend a lot of money to have an effective tackle box. Remember, many fishing lures catch more people than fish.
Meet Clint Nail
Clint is one of Shoreline’s fishing experts who shares his wisdom and knowledge about fishing and the right ways to enjoy our lakes. He is an avid fisherman and outdoorsman, and a consistent competitor in fishing tournaments statewide. When Clint isn’t fishing, he’s a chemist for Alabama Power.