Fishing 101
The when's, where's and how-to's
Fishing equipment (tackle)

Rods and reels

Terminal (at-the-end-of-your-line) gear


Rods and reels

Spinning reelSpinning
Spinning rods and reels are very popular because they’re easy to use, allow long casts with light lures, and can be quite inexpensive. The first two or three line guides on a spinning rod are large, because the line “billows” off the end of the reel spool during the cast. To cast with a spinning reel, you open the wire “bail” that wraps line around the spool, holding the line with your index finger. Release the line as you move the rod forward and with a little practice you’re casting like a champ. Nylon monofilament line of 6- to 12-pound test works best on most spinning reels.

Spin casting
Spin-casting: Like a spinning reel, the spin-casting reel has a stationary spool, with line leaving and returning at one end of that spool. But the spool on the spin-casting reel is enclosed, so you can’t see it. The line is released by use of a thumb-button at the back of the reel.

Bait castingBait-casting: These reels differ greatly from both spinning and spin-cast reels because the spool sits perpendicular (cross-ways) to the rod rather than parallel to it. Because the spool moves during casting and retrieving, these reels are often called revolving-spool reels. Bait-casting tackle requires more practice, patience and skill than both spinning and spin-casting tackle, but once mastered, allows for pin-point casting accuracy and excellent line control when fishing and playing fish.

Fly castingFly-casting: As mentioned earlier, artificial flies are very light, making them virtually impossible to cast with most rods and reels. So fly casters use a special kind of line and a certain kind of rod that allow even the smallest of flies to be cast long distances. The line itself provides the casting weight, and the rod’s size and flexibility are matched to the line’s weight for best casting results. Fly-fishing line is thicker and more visible than other types of fishing line, so fly anglers use several feet of monofilament or other low-visibility material as a “leader” between the fly and the fly line.

Terminal (at-the-end-of-your-line) gear

Hooks: Fish hooks come in a wide range of sizes and styles, depending on the type of fishing and the size and species of fish you’re after.  Hooks consist of an “eye” or closed loop to attach the fishing line; a “shank” or horizontal extension; a “bend” that curves the shank down to the point; and a “barb” near the hook point to keep fish from sliding off once hooked. Most hooks have one point, but there are also double (two-pointed) and treble (three-pointed) hooks. Some hooks are incorporated into specific lures; others are attached below lures or bait.

Anatomy of a Fish Hook Relative Hook Sizes
Anatomy of a Fish Hook Relative Hook Sizes

Lures:  Fish need to be lured to the hook with something that imitates their food or triggers their territorial behavior or provokes their curiosity. Lures types include:

  • Spinners are pieces of metal or plastic, attached to the line directly above the hook, designed to spin in the water to attract fish.
  • Spoons are similar to spinners, but usually bigger, heavier, and designed to move differently (wobble, wave, etc.) to attract fish.
  • Spinner baits are combinations of spinners and artificial baits that camouflage the hook, attached opposite each other on a V-shaped base.
Spinners Spoons Spinner Baits
Spinners Spoons Spinner baits
  • Plugs are three-dimensional simulations of bait fish, often equipped with multiple hooks with multiple points.
  • Jigs are lead-weighted hooks camouflaged in artificial baits designed for the up-and-down motion of jigging.
  • Soft plastic lures simulate worms, grubs, fish, frogs and other natural fish food.
  • Artificial flies: Artificial flies are items such as fur, feathers, thread, tinsel or other materials tied around a hook to resemble an insect, a grub, a minnow or some other small morsel that a fish might eat. They are sometimes put together at the fishing site, once the fish’s local food source is determined.
Plugs Jigs Artificial Flies
Plugs Jigs Artificial flies

Bait: Anything that attracts fish by scent or flavor is considered bait, whether it’s a live worm, fish eggs, chicken livers, or an artificial device dipped in fish-attracting scent. Live fish are not allowed as bait in Washington sport fishing.

Floats or bobbers: Pieces of plastic, cork, or other material that floats are attached to fishing line above the lure and hook to suspend them in the water so they attract fish near the surface.

Floats Sinkers



Sinkers: Pieces of metal, rubber, or other material that readily sinks are attached to the fishing line above the lure and hook to take them down into the water or to the bottom, to attract fish that feed in deeper water.

Snap swivels: These are locking clips that can be tied to the fishing line so lures can be attached and easily interchanged.