Some years ago an old friend retired and was given a fishing rod and box of tackle, instead of a watch.  “I’ve always wanted to learn to fish,” he said, “and now I’ve got the time.”  He made several visits to a local lake, caught nothing, and gave his equipment away.  “I just didn’t know what to do,” he explained.

Lots of other people are in the same boat, old, young, in-between, would-be anglers who don’t know what to do, and are simply confused by fishing jargon (crankbaits, pig and jig, working structure, etc.)  So, here are the absolute nuts and bolts of learning to fish, the sport boiled down to its simplest terms.  Cut this column out, hang it on the wall, pass it on to a relative or friend.  If they follow these instructions, they WILL catch fish.  At least most of the time.

 The first thing you’ll need is basic gear, and the place to buy it is at a good sporting goods store, or a department store that specializes in sport gear and has clerks that know their business.  Getting it from a place where the salesperson can’t tell a rod from a 12 gauge shotgun is pointless.  You’ll need a rod and reel first, and the best for beginners is a combo kit that has rod, reel, and line already in place.  Get a closed face reel, because they’re simple to cast.  Just squeeze the lever and release it as you whip the rod forward.  A clerk can demonstrate this.

You’ll need two kinds of very inexpensive gear, one set for float and a second for bottom fishing.  The float should be one of the thin pencil types, not a round red and white one that offers resistance to biting fish.  Buy a small packet of No. 6 hooks and a small packet of splitshot that are a little smaller than a dried pea.  Tie the hook on lines end, clamp a splitshot about six inches above, and clip on the float about 3 – 3 1/2 feet above that.  You’re in business.

Farm ponds with their abundant bluegills and bass are ideal for float fishing, so you’ll need to drive on country roads and knock on a few doors.  But once permission has been gained, bait that hook with garden dug worms, purchased waxworms, or a piece of nightcrawler, and toss it out.  Not to the middle of the pond, but where most of the fish are – within 20 – 30 feet of shore.  Then let it sit, moving the float toward you a little every 30 seconds or so.  That float should start sliding under with a fish on the business end soon.  If not, cast in other directions, and move along the shore until you find a hotspot.  Nothing to it.

For bottom fishing, you’ll need a few one ounce sinkers and a packet of snelled No. 6 hooks.  These are hooks with line already attached and a loop at the end for easy tying onto your line.  Tie two snells about a foot apart with the sinker on lines end a few inches below the bottom snell.  Again, nothing to it.  If you’re heading up to Lake Erie for pier fishing, place minnows on the hooks, toss the baits out a short distance and maybe a second rig out a little further, tighten line, and wait for the rod tip to start bouncing.

If you’re fishing a larger lake for bottom feeders like channel cats, carp, bullheads, etc., bait with nightcrawlers, shrimp, or chicken livers, and again toss out the morsels, tighten line, turn your rod tip at an angle, place it in a forked stick, and tighten line.  When you get a good bite, start reeling.  Will these two techniques produce a full stringer every time?  Of course not.  Even veterans don’t score every time. But they’ll work for you, and turn any amateur into a successful angler most days.

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