Fish­ing 101

Life­time of an­gling be­gins with a few sim­ple steps

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - ARKANSAS OUTDOORS - BRYAN HEN­DRICKS

Ad­vanced an­glers have ac­cess to vol­umes of in­for­ma­tion about tips and tac­tics, but what about peo­ple who want to learn to fish?

With such a wide ar­ray of tackle, lures, boats, depthfind­ers and other “es­sen­tial” equip­ment, en­ter­ing the fish­ing world can be daunt­ing for new­com­ers. The most suc­cess­ful bass tour­na­ment pros were once begin­ners, and they started with ba­sic tac­tics and equip­ment, too.

Here is a quick primer on how to get started:

FISH­ING FUN­DA­MEN­TALS

De­spite the fish­ing me­dia’s ten­dency to over­com­pli­cate, fish­ing is es­sen­tially try­ing to fool an an­i­mal to bite some­thing that is un­nat­u­ral in its nat­u­ral en­vi­ron­ment.

Live bait on a hook is the near­est ap­prox­i­ma­tion to nat­u­ral prey, so a fish is more likely to eat a live crea­ture more read­ily than an im­poster made of plas­tic or wood.

Some­times, you don’t even need bait. When I was 8 years old, I caught dozens of bream on a bare hook at a golf course pond. That was a once-in-a-life­time event, though. Bait is re­quired, along with line and a hook.

A pole or rod is re­quired, too, although as a child, I spent many days fish­ing creeks in and around Sher­wood with only a spool of cheap line from K-Mart. I un­wrapped as much line as I needed from the spool and sim­ply pitched the hook, line and bob­ber into the wa­ter and caught mul­ti­tudes of bream, cat­fish and even crap­pie. That’s mak­ing things un­nec­es­sar­ily hard, though.

You can catch plenty of fish from the bank, so boats aren’t re­quired.

All you re­ally need is de­sire and a sense of ad­ven­ture.

RODS

A fish­ing rod is es­sen­tially a de­vice to de­liver a lure to a greater dis­tance more ac­cu­rately than you can throw it by hand. It also tires and ul­ti­mately sub­dues a fish.

You can make your own rod from a wil­low branch or from a cane stalk. Cut a cir­cu­lar notch near the tip of the branch to hold the ini­tial line loop. Cinch the loop knot tightly into the notch and then wrap an ap­pro­pri­ate amount of line around the tip. Twenty feet is enough. You’ll have no more than 6 feet to 7 feet of line out at once, but the ex­tra reser­voir around the tip will en­able you to retie if your ter­mi­nal line frays or breaks.

From ages 6-10, I used a rod with a bro­ken tip that my dad put out to the trash. Fish­ing rods were com­par­a­tively more ex­pen­sive and harder to find in Lit­tle Rock in the late 1960s and early 1970s, so I was glad to have it.

Nowa­days, you can buy a fully rigged spin­ning rig com­plete with line for $20 or less. Pawn­shops and yard sales are good places to find tackle, too.

REELS

For begin­ners, you can’t beat a spin­cast­ing reel. It’s the push-but­ton type with a cone over the spool. It’s easy to cast and easy to re­trieve. Push the but­ton and re­lease the but­ton at the lure’s re­lease point.

While spin­cast­ers are con­sid­ered en­try-level equip­ment, some of the big boys use them on the sly. Woo Daves, who won the 2000 Bass­mas­ter Clas­sic, used a Ze­bco 808 to win a Bass­mas­ter tour­na­ment in 1991.

Spin­ning reels are the next step up, and they are al­most as easy to master as spin­cast­ers.

A spin­ning reel con­sists of an open-faced spool with an os­cil­lat­ing bail that wraps line around the spool while reel­ing.

To cast, lift the bail and pull down a small amount of line. Pin the line to the bot­tom of the rod with your fin­ger. Lift your fin­ger at the re­lease point to launch your bait. Pull the bail down to put ten­sion on the line and keep it se­cured to the spool.

Most spin­ning reels have a drag ten­sion­ing knob on the front of the spool, but some have the knob on the rear of the reel. Tighten the ten­sioner to pro­duce the de­sired amount of drag. Mainly, your spool should re­main sta­tion­ary when you set the hook. It should only let out line un­der strong ten­sion or from a strong jolt.

Bait­cast­ing reels are the fi­nal step in the pro­gres­sion. Be­cause of their abil­ity to back­lash, we don’t rec­om­mend them for begin­ners.

On the other hand, if you master a bait­caster in your be­gin­ner phase, your learn­ing curve will flat­ten im­mensely.

BAIT

Noth­ing catches fish bet­ter than a live grasshop­per. Not worms, not crick­ets, noth­ing.

Un­for­tu­nately, catch­ing grasshop­pers can be harder than catch­ing fish. They’re fast, and they can fly a long way. They are also es­cape artists.

I learned this as a kid when I im­pris­oned a big mess of grasshop­pers in a pa­per bag. With their caus­tic saliva, those hop­pers ut­terly de­stroyed that bag be­fore I reached the fish­ing hole.

If you use grasshop­pers or crick­ets, you’ll need a cricket bucket or a tube. Both are made of wire or plas­tic mesh. A bucket is open at the top, with a plas­tic flange that’s flush at the top of the bucket but ex­tends in­side. This pre­vents crick­ets and grasshop­pers from climb­ing out. Ap­par­ently they don’t know how to jump out.

A tube has a stop­per or a slid­ing tab over a ta­pered end. Open the top and shake a cricket into your hand.

Worms also work great, and you can dig your own from gar­den soil, com­post or de­com­posed leaf lit­ter. Put them in a can and cover them with moist soil.

The prob­lem with worms is that bream are ex­perts at eat­ing them with­out get­ting hooked. No mat­ter how well you thread a worm on a hook, bream will nip and tug un­til they pull the worm free.

Big bream are more likely to eat it whole, as are bass and cat­fish, but most of the bream you’ll find in creeks are small.

For my money, noth­ing works bet­ter than a small chunk of raw ba­con fat with a slight rib­bon of lean. The oil at­tracts all kinds of fish, es­pe­cially bream and cat­fish.

Ba­con is tough, so fish can’t pull it away from a hook. When a fish bites, it ac­tu­ally forces the ba­con up the shank. Just re­po­si­tion it af­ter you un­hook your fish. It will en­dure and re­main ef­fec­tive all day.

WHERE TO FISH

There are plenty of places to fish in cen­tral Arkansas, es­pe­cially in Lit­tle Rock.

You can catch cat­fish and bream from the bank at the ponds at MacArthur Park. You can also fish in Rock Creek in Boyle Park, where the Arkansas Game and Fish Com­mis­sion stocks trout in the win­ter, and in the Arkansas River at Mur­ray Park, and Cooks Land­ing at Mur­ray Lock and Dam.

Bank fish­ing is also avail­able in Maumelle at Lake Wil­lastein.

Chat­tanooga Times-Free Press/ERIN O. SMITH

Glo­ria Perez and Maria Perez, 3, fish from the bank re­cently on the Ten­nessee River in Chat­tanooga, Tenn. Us­ing the most sim­ple tech­niques and tackle, fish­ing can quickly and eas­ily be­come an en­joy­able ac­tiv­ity for the en­tire fam­ily.

Arkansas Demo­crat-Gazette/BRYAN HEN­DRICKS

There’s no telling how many an­glers got started with sim­ple spin­cast­ing rigs such as the Ze­bco 202 and Ze­bco Delta (left photo), which are sim­ple and easy to use. A spin­ning rig is al­most as easy and is more ver­sa­tile. As for bait, a cricket bucket (right photo, left) al­lows you to eas­ily trans­port and ac­cess crick­ets. Chil­dren like them be­cause they can reach in and han­dle crick­ets with­out them es­cap­ing. The Fra­bill Crawler Can keeps worms cool and fresh all day by way of an ice cham­ber on the bot­tom.

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