The great thing about fishing is that every single person's motivation for the experience is different, but the expected outcome is the same: ENJOYMENT! That enjoyment may come from spending the day on the water with a loved one, winning a local jackpot tournament, catching a bunch of fish, catching a monster fish, feeding the family or an exponential amount of other reasons. Regardless, the path to that enjoyment starts with purchasing the right equipment for your needs and understanding how that equipment works.
Whether you're looking to go fishing for the first time or looking to take your interest in the activity to the next level, in Oklahoma your route to purchasing fishing equipment likely goes through two channels: big box retail and online shopping.
For most, one of these retail chains is where you are likely to purchase fishing equipment: Walmart, Academy or Atwoods. For those who live in and around Oklahoma City or Tulsa, you may also go to a Bass Pro Shops or Cabela's. In rural areas, local farm stores, gas stations, bait shops or specialty stores might be your easiest access to fishing equipment. No matter where you shop, there's a few important things to know when purchasing fishing equipment.
Fishing is composed of four elements: ROD, REEL, LINE and TACKLE. Each plays an important role in successfully catching fish. For the majority of the people who fish (1-7 days spent fishing a year), the fishing equipment industry is not tailored around your needs. It grows and advances based on the needs of professional anglers, guide services and avid anglers (20+ days spent fishing a year). This can create confusion for those just looking to wet a line and maybe catch a fish or two.
Fortunately you do not need to memorize the Bass Pro catalogue to get yourself the right equipment that will best suit your needs and get you value economically. If you can follow these simple steps, you will be well on your way to a lifetime of fishing memories needing nothing more. But if the fishing bug strikes you along the way and you want to advance to the intermediate, avid or professional category, these steps will build you the best foundation possible to grow on.
The first thing you need to go fishing is a fishing rod. If you are planning on buying your first fishing rod or are inexperienced at fishing with the equipment that you already have, your easiest most cost effective purchase will be to buy a rod and reel combination that is already spooled with fishing line. That will leave you with only three steps between purchase and your first cast: stringing the line through the rod's eye guide holes, tying the line to a lure or hook with a fishing knot and setting the reel's drag. Before we get that far ahead, let's get you the fishing rod that is perfect for you!
The two main types of combo rod and reel are spincasting and spinning.
Spincasting are the easiest for new or inexperienced anglers. These are reels where the line is completely enclosed and casting takes places by pressing a button. These combos are the easiest to cast and have the least line twist issues. They also tend to be the least expensive and line is almost always spooled on the reel at the time of purchase. The two brands you are most likely to encounter are Shakespeare and Zebco.
Spinning combos tend to have more model and price options than spincasting combos. The higher priced models typically do not have line on the reels, which adds an additional purchase and knowledge requirement. The models that do have line spooled on the reel are a mixed bag of quality when it comes to castability and line twist risk (the two biggest frustrations and barriers for all anglers). Shakespeare tends to have the most spinning combo models that are already spooled with line. Abu Garcia and Lew's make up the largest retail space of spinning combo models, but they are rarely spooled with line.
As you become a more experienced and confident angler, you may begin looking to tailor rods and reels to best fit a certain style of fishing or to catch a particular species of fish. When you get to that point, you might look to purchase a rod by itself and purchase a reel separately to go with it. Making an informed and cost effective choice in this space will require further individual research both online and in-store. The best way to get good information to form your own opinion is to search engine type or YouTube search "best fishing rod for __________" (fill in the blank with what you are looking for).
Rods are classified by their ability to cast certain sized weight. This is typically listed on the rod between the grip and first eye guide hole. There are five main types of rods: Light, Medium-Light, Medium, Medium-Heavy and Heavy.
- Light and Medium-Light rods are meant to throw weight in the 1/32nd ounce to 1/8th ounce range with fishing line that is 4-pound, 6-pound or 8-pound test (break strength). These rods are great for ponds, creeks and small lakes. They are great for sunfish, crappie, trout and bass/catfish under 4-pounds.
- Medium rods are the best all around value for most anglers. They are meant to throw weight in the 1/8th ounce to 1/4th ounce range (the most common sized lures) with fishing line that is 8-pound, 10-pound or 12-pound test (break strength). These rods are great for all types of water bodies and fish species ranging from 1/2-pound to 10-pounds.
- Medium-Heavy and Heavy rods are meant to throw weight in the 1/4th ounce to 1-1/2 ounce range with fishing line that is 10-pound to 30-pound test (break strength). These rods are typically for more specialized forms of fishing or species. These rods are great for large bass, striped bass, striped bass hybrids and catfish on big reservoirs and their tailwaters.
For new and inexperienced anglers, the best value for a spincasting combo is going to be in the $25 - $50 range (Zebco 33 is hard to beat). The best value for a spinning combo is going to be in the $50 - $80 range. If you fall into the 1-7 days a year fishing, a combo in this range may last you a lifetime.
For anglers looking to upgrade equipment without breaking the bank, the best value is on spinning combos in the $80 - $120 range. Each brand has a great option in this price range that will match fishing performance with rod and reel lifespan.
While there is no shortage of rod and reel combo brands to purchase, below is a list of what you are most likely to encounter when you go shopping in-store or online for a spincasting or spinning rod and reel combo. They also tend to be the most popular in terms of quality and cost value.
- Spincasting: Under $25
- Spinning: Under $25
- Spincasting: $25 - $50
- Spinning: $25 - $50
- Bass Pro Shops TinyLite
- Shakespeare Trout
- Shakespeare Bass
- Shakespeare Lake/Pond
- Bass Pro Shops Quick Draw
- Bass Pro Shops Stampede
- Shakespeare Catfish
- Bass Pro Shops MegaCast
- Jimmy Houston Catfish
- Quantum Bill Dance Special Edition
- Shakespeare Striper
- Bass Pro Shops Micro Lite
- Bass Pro Shops Crappie Maxx
- Bass Pro Shops King Kat
- Spincasting: $50 - $80
- Spinning: $50 - $80
- Ugly Stik GX2
- Penn Fierce III
- Bass Pro Shops Tourney Special
- Okuma Aveon
- Pflueger Monarch
- Bass Pro Shops Crappie Maxx Quick Tip
- Penn Wrath
- Bass Pro Shops Borealis
- Pflueger Trion
- Zebco Bite Alert
- Abu Garcia Max X
- Profishiency TrueTimber
- Bass Pro Shops Micro Lite Elite
- Quantum Bill Dance Catfish
- Ugly Stik Bigwater
- Abu Garcia Max STX
- Spincasting: $80 - $120
- Spinning: $80 - $120
Spincasting reels are the cheapest and easiest to use. A conveniently located button unlocks the spool (part that holds line on the reel) allowing for the user to cast. These reels are closed-faced meaning you can't see the line on the spool. The closed housing of a spincasting reel helps the user avoid getting line twists and other line issues that plague users on other types of reels. This type of reel is best for new and inexperienced anglers.
Common Spincasting Reel Brands
Spinning reels are the most popular and commonly used fishing reel. They are known for their drag settings that allow the user to fight large fish with lighter rods. This type of reel is great for casting light weight in the 1/64th ounce to 1/16th ounce range with light, medium-light and medium action rods. When line, rod and lure weight are not paired accordingly, spinning reels are the most susceptible to line twists and "bird nests" during casting or retrieving.
Common Spinning Reel Brands
Baitcasting reels are the most difficult of the three major reel types to master. Baitcasting reels require the user to adjust settings on the reel to achieve peak baitcasting performance, unlike spincasting and spinning reels that just require the user to set the drag. Baitcasting reels are most popular amongst avid bass anglers.
Common Casting Reel Brands
New and inexperienced anglers get the best value for reels by purchasing rod and reel combos in the $25-50 range. Experienced anglers who spend less than 20 days a year fishing will find the best value for reels by purchasing rod and reel combos in the $80-120 range. When the price of a reel is more than the price of a $99 rod and reel combo, the user is essentially paying for a more advanced drag system. These expensive reels have more gears, higher line retrieval speeds and smoother drag.
As you become a more experienced and confident angler, you may begin looking to tailor rods and reels to best fit a certain style of fishing or to catch a particular species of fish. When you get to that point, you might look to purchase a reel by itself and purchase a rod separately to go with it. Making an informed and cost effective choice in this space will require further individual research both online and in-store. The best way to get good information to form your own opinion is to search engine type or YouTube search "best fishing reel for __________" (fill in the blank with what you are looking for).
There are three main types of fishing line available on the market today: monofilament, fluorocarbon and braid. While all three types of line will catch fish, applying the appropriate line to the appropriate situation will lead to more fish hooked up and more fish landed.
All fishing reels and rods were designed to hold a particularly sized line. Reels will list a set number of line poundage per yards (such as 6lb/210yds) and rods will list a line class (such as 6-10lb). What this is really referring to is not so much the line’s pound test, but rather the line’s diameter. However, these classifications were created when the majority of anglers were spooling their entire reel with monofilament line, which has been the primary line used by anglers for the last half century.
Technological advancements in fishing line have seen fluorocarbon and braided line ascend to the mainstream market. Why is this important? Because the same pound test for each of these three types of fishing line have differences in overall line diameter, which can make it difficult to pair the appropriate line when the rod and reel are telling you that they require line with a certain pound test for optimal casting and retrieving performance.
For example, let’s say you have a spinning reel that says it will hold 165 yards of 10-pound line, so you purchase one 165 yard spool of 10-pound braided line and put it on your reel only to realize that you didn’t fully spool the reel. Why? 10-pound monofilament, which is what the reel was referring to has a line diameter of .011 inches and 10-pound braided line has a diameter of .008 inches. Below is a chart to show a breakdown of the three line types when it comes to pound test and line diameter.
(For reference, we used Berkley Trilene XL for the monofilament line (2-30lbs), Berkley Trilene Big Game for the monofilament (40-60lbs), Berkley Vanish for the fluorocarbon line and Spiderwire Stealth for the braided line)
As you can see, if you have a reel classified for holding 180 yds of 12-pound monofilament line, you could actually spool 180 yards of 40-pound braided line or 180 yards of 14-pound fluorocarbon line. This increases the break strength of your fishing setup without sacrificing total amount of line. The more expensive fluorocarbon and braided lines will typically have a slightly smaller diameter when compared to this chart, but 1/1000th of an inch is not going to make a difference for this discussion.
For optimal casting, retrieving and fish fighting performance always stay within the line and lure weight classification ranges that your rod and reel recommend on their labeling. Remember those classifications are tailored for monofilament line, so if using fluorocarbon or braided line make sure to match the diameter equivalent.
Monofilament line is a buoyant, water-absorbent line that has long been used by anglers on traditional spinning, spincasting and casting reels for its cast-ability and availability at mainstream sporting-goods stores. Unlike fluorocarbon, monofilament line floats and has the most stretch-ability of the three types of line.
Due to it being relatively inexpensive, monofilament is typically used as a main line, meaning the entire reel is spooled with monofilament and the lure is tied directly onto that line. Because of the line’s buoyant properties, it is great for topwater lures and as a leader when fishing off the bottom. Also, due to its stretch-ability, it is a great option for crankbaits because the fish can turn and swim with the lure allowing you time to get a good hook set. A fish is also less likely to throw a hook tied on monofilament line when it goes airborne. The stretch-ability is also helpful when it's cold or the fish are finicky and you need them to hold the bait just a second longer so you can get a hook set.
A disadvantage of monofilament line is that it has a lot of line memory when it sits on a reel, meaning if you try to throw a lure that is too light for the line class of the rod the cast will more than likely result in line twists (the most common line problem anglers face). How do you get the memory out of a monofilament line on a spinning reel? Just add water. Unscrew the drag clip off the top of the reel and pop the spool off the reel. Hold the spool under warm to hot running water and rotate to make sure all of the line is getting some direct contact from the water. Heating the line like this will remove nearly all of your memory before hitting the water.
Monofilament provides the best fishing and price value to all anglers, but especially new and inexperienced anglers.
Common Monofilament Line Brands
Fluorocarbon line is all the rage in today’s fishing community. Up until the last 5-10 years, fluorocarbon line has been used primarily as a leader and not a main line due to its lack of cast-ability and expensive price. However, improvements in technology have fixed that problem and anglers have taken advantage. Unfortunately, it is still about twice as expensive as monofilament line, which is why most still use it as a leader instead of a main line.
Advantages of fluorocarbon line are that it's nearly invisible under water because it has about the same refractive qualities as water and though it stretches some, it's more sensitive than monofilament. It is a great option for finesse fishing techniques in clear water. Three feet is typically enough leader when connected to braided line. Anything longer will require casting your connection knot through the guides of the rod which can lead to abrasion and knot failure, but may be necessary when using light spinning equipment in super clear water or if the fish are finicky. It’s really just up to what you as an angler are comfortable with.
If fluorocarbon has any disadvantages, it's that it sinks and may not be as abrasion-resistant as monofilament. This can negatively affect fishing topwater lures. It can also lead to line breakage when casting or fighting a fish after retrieving your line through or along hard structure like submerged wood and rock.
Common Fluorocarbon Line Brands
Braided line has been around longer than most anglers realize, but advancements in cast-ability and break strength compared to line diameter have made braid a favorite line selection of anglers.
Braided line cuts through grass and wooden structure better than monofilament and fluorocarbon line, making it an optimal line for casting into heavy cover.
Braided line has no stretch giving it superb feel for the angler in regards to contact with their lure or bait. But because of that lack of stretch and superior break strength, tying braid directly to your hook is a risky endeavor, especially for bank anglers.
Why is it risky? It is nearly impossible to break your line or knot when you get snagged. This is problematic at small bodies of water because anglers end up cutting their line leaving, in some cases, several dozen feet of line in the water as opposed to simply losing the hook or lure at the spot of the snag. Tying on a short monofilament or fluorocarbon leader with a double Uni-knot will go a long way to reducing stress on your rod and reel when snagged as well as decrease fishing litter in the water and on the banks.
If there is any “significant” disadvantage to braided line, it’s that it may be more visible to fish than monofilament or fluorocarbon. In heavy cover or low light conditions, though, that probably doesn't matter. Braid also does not perform well when run through rocks. Rock will easily fray and cut braid resulting in line breakage, which is where a monofilament or fluorocarbon leader comes in handy.
The great advantage to braided line is that you get added break strength to your fishing setup without sacrificing the amount of line on your reel, which comes in very handy when fishing in deep water or when hooked into a big fish that wants to take a lot of drag. For example, you can put twice as much line on a reel with 30-pound braid than you would get from 30-pound monofilament or fluorocarbon due to line diameter. Not to mention the overall smooth casting without the fear of the dreaded line twists.
Common Braided Line Brands
The largest category in the four main elements of fishing, fishing tackle poses the most confusion and barriers to new and inexperienced anglers. It can also leave experienced anglers stumped from time to time. This is because every brand makes a similar bait and color and every fishing tips article and website lists a different bait and color that works best.
You can eliminate most of the confusion by focusing on two things: What do fish eat? How do I imitate what they eat?
What do fish eat?
The majority of fish species that anglers encounter in Oklahoma have one primary source of food: other fish. Other staple food sources include insects, crustaceans, reptiles and amphibians.
How do I imitate what they eat?
When it comes to imitating what fish eat you have two basic options: artificial lures and live bait. Artificial lures consist of two primary categories: hard baits and soft baits. In Oklahoma, live bait consists primarily of worms, grasshoppers, crickets, minnows and shad.
New and inexperienced anglers have the best chance of catching fish utilizing live bait. This approach simplifies what you need from the store to the water. Small to medium sized bait-holding hooks in sizes 2, 4 and 6 are cheap, dependable and easy to find. Adding a piece of split shot a few inches up the line from the hook helps keep the bait in the strike zone. Adding a medium-sized spring or round float (bobber) 2-3 feet above the hook completes the setup. A cup of red worms or nightcrawlers from the bait store is a good starting point as well as a bucket of minnows.
Simple cast and retrieve lures that imitate bait fish are also great for new and inexperienced anglers. Inline spinners, curly tail grubs and swimbaits are affordable, easy-to-fish options. Simply stand at the water's edge, cast these lures straight out and reel them back in at a steady pace.
1/8th ounce is a great weight option. Hard baits like inline spinners will have the weight listed on the packaging. Soft plastic baits like curly tail grubs and swimbaits are best in the 2" - 3" variety. They typically need to be paired with a 1/16th, 1/8th or 1/4th ounce jig head. The most productive colors tend to be shades of white, black, chartreuse, blue, green, orange or purple.
Below is a list of the most common brands that you will find in-store or online for Oklahoma's most popular species: Crappie, Sunfish, Bass and Catfish. For the new or inexperienced angler, we've listed the top lure choice for each brand. These are simple cast and retrieve lures that are effective at catching fish from the bank April through October (peak bank fishing time in Oklahoma) in all types of water.
Common Crappie/Sunfish Brands
- Bobby Garland (Oklahoma Favorite)
- Strike King
- Top Lure: Mr. Crappie Sausage Head Jig
- Top Colors: Monkey Shine, Tuxedo Black-Chartreuse, Pink Tuxedo
- Mister Twister
- Bass Pro Shops
- Top Lure: 1/8th oz. Original Rooster Tail
- Top Colors: Frog, Grasshopper, Hammered Silver White
- Top Lure: Pond Favorites Lipless Crankbait
- Top Colors: Black Back
Common Bass Brands
- Top Lure: Series 200
- Top Colors: Viral Perch, Silver Minnow, Chartreuse Blue Back
- Top Lure: Pond Magic
- Top Colors: Firebug, Moss Back Craw, Junebug
- Top Lure: Bluegill
- Top Colors: Natural Bluegill
- Bomber (Oklahoma Favorite)
- Top Lure: Model A
- Top Colors: Chartreuse Blues, Chartreuse Shad, Black/Chartreuse
- Strike King
- Top Lure: Mini Pro-Buzz Buzzbait
- Top Colors: Black, White, Chartreuse/White
Common Catfish Brands
Soft plastic lures, commercially-produced bait and live bait typically needs to be paired with terminal tackle. Below is a list of the most common brands that you will find in-store or online for hooks, jig heads, weights and swivels.
Common Hook Brands
Common Jig Head Brands
Common Weight Brands
Common Swivel Brands
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- Stringing Fishing Line
- Knot Tying
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- Setting Reel Drag