Fishing can be hard for someone just starting—the choice in rods, reels, bait, lures and lines can be mind-boggling. So, when first learning how to fish, keep it simple, light, and close to home.
Light fishing line with small bobbers, weights, hooks and bait can help you get some excitement on the end of the line fast. Beginner anglers (kids or adults) may tire quickly and often give up while waiting for a giant bass to bite. Most beginners would rather pull in 25 minnow-sized bluegill than wait for one trophy catch. Already know the basics? Check out these more advanced fishing tips.
If you are looking for additional information to get started, you can learn more fishing tips about:
Tips for Beginners
- 7 Fishing Tips for Beginners
Tip 1: Start simple
A cane pole is a good way for new anglers (and especially young kids) to start fishing – no overhead casting required. Spincast gear is a rod and closed face reel with a push button for easy casting and reeling. The next step is ultra-light spinning gear – these open-face reels are a little harder to use but casting distance and accuracy improves.
Tip 2: Lighten your line
Monofilament ("single strand of plastic") line in a box, spool, or reel, labeled 4LB or 6LB will do the job. "LB" stands for "pound test" and it’s the amount of force it takes to break the line. Light line has more flexibility and sensitivity than heavier line. Unless you’re targeting monster catfish or muskies, light line is your best bet.
Tip 3: Bag the big bobbers
Bobbers (or floats) are used to provide a little extra weight for casting, suspend your bait in the water at a certain depth, and to alert you when to "set the hook" (which is reeling in the line slack and pulling up on the rod above your shoulder). The harder the bobber is to pull under, the harder it will be to hook a fish. Small, thin "pencil-style" floats will help convince the fish to take your tasty bait and bite the hook. "Slip" bobbers also work well. Slip bobber rigs cut down on the amount of line needed at the end of the rod and may make it easier to cast. Small ice fishing bobbers can provide a light touch any time of year.
Tip 4: Sink it with shot
Sinkers (or weights) help with casting your line out and getting your bait down to the fish. A properly selected weight can create "neutral buoyancy." Ideally, you want your bobber to just barely float upright on the top of the water. Your bobber will sink if there’s too much weight. Squeeze small BB-sized split shot sinkers onto your line, one at a time, until your bobber nearly sinks from the weight. Since there is very little resistance when the fish takes the bait, it is more likely to bite the hook and run.
Tip 5: Small hooks = big catches
Use hook sizes 6 to 10 (size 6 is larger than size 10). Fish won’t readily take large hooks unless they are feeding like crazy. A subtle presentation is often needed to catch wary fish. Tiny hooks also allow smaller fish to "inhale" the bait, rather than nibble the bait off the hook. If a fish swallows the hook and you want to return the fish to the water, simply cut the line as close to the hook as possible and release the fish. For a safer hook, smash down the barb with pliers or use barbless hooks.
Tip 6: Great big gobs of worms won’t do
There’s no need to use a large night crawler on your hook. Smaller live bait such as red worms, wax worms (bee moth larvae) or crickets work best. Keep the bait approximately the size of your hook, so the fish is less likely to steal your bait. You can also cut the bait to fit your hook. When you’re finished with the bait, give it to another angler, bring it home for the next trip, or throw it in the trash. Never dump your bait into the water – releasing bait could introduce an aquatic invasive species.
Tip 7: Fish Local
The best place to go fishing when you’re just starting to learn is a place close to home. Regardless of whether it’s an urban fishing park or a retention pond in your neighborhood, find a spot to fish that doesn’t require a lot of travel time. You can find public fishing sites across the state with our Where to Fish map.
- Basic fishing videos
- How to fish by Take Me Fishing
- Online Intro to Fishing Course by International Game Fish Association
The International Game Fish Association (IGFA) designed this 2.5-hour online course for youth and/or novice anglers to learn the basics of recreational fishing. The course is also a great resource for educators and youth leaders wanting to teach youth about fish, aquatic environments, fishing skills, and fishing ethics.
IGFA is a partner of the Indiana DNR.
- Fishing and boating information from Into the Outdoors
Learn how to be safe, have fun, and be successful while fishing and boating by reading informative tips and watching entertaining videos from Into the Outdoors. Classroom lessons are also available.
Fishing Beyond the Basics
- How to start fishing with a spinning combo by Take Me Fishing
Ready to step up from spincast gear? This video is a good next step to our basic fishing tips above; it explains how to cast a spinning combo and shows different types of lures.
Take Me Fishing™ content is produced by Recreational Boating & Fishing Foundation, a national non-profit organization that is a partner of the Indiana DNR.
- Which fishing lure to use?
Want to fish with a lure but don’t know which one to use? Here is a helpful guide that describes six different lure types and suggests what lure color to use based on water color and weather conditions.
Learn more about lures and other fishing equipment.
- Species and habitat specific fishing
- Advanced fishing tips by Take Me Fishing