Tip 1: What Lures do you Need?
One of the best all-around lures you can have in your tackle box is an in-line spinner. These come in a range of sizes and styles, from very small to very large, and will catch everything from small panfish to gigantic muskies. To fish them, simply cast them out and reel them in – the flashing blade will do the rest. Experiment with different colours, blade styles and retrieve speeds until you find what works best. Whichever spinner you use, it’s a good idea to use a small snap swivel to connect it to your line to avoid line twist.
Another good all-around bait is a simple jighead tipped with a soft plastic curly tail grub or swimbait. These are incredibly versatile and can catch just about anything that swims. To cover all the options, get a bunch of jigs weighing between 1/8 and ½-ounces to cover various water depths, and plastics from 3 to 5-inches in length, depending on the size of fish you are targeting. There are several ways to fish a jig, from crawling or hopping them along the bottom, to swimming them with a steady, slow to medium speed retrieve.
Tip 2: Tackle Storage
The best way to store your tackle is in plastic tackle trays. These are ideal for keeping your hooks and lures separated by size or by species so that you can take only the tackle you need. Tackle trays are available in a wide range of sizes so they can accommodate everything from hooks and sinkers to soft plastic baits to crankbaits. There are even models designed for odd shaped lures like spinnerbaits. Most tackle trays are water resistant but there are also models that feature a rubberized gasket that makes them completely waterproof. A word of advice – it’s a good idea to leave your trays open at home for a few hours at the end of the day so that any water in the tray or on your lures can evaporate before it causes rusting.
Tip 3: Rod and Reel Selection
There’s no question that a spinning rod with an open-faced spinning reel is the best set-up for general, all-around fishing. This system is easy to cast, can handle a variety of lures and plastic baits and matches well with line from four to 12-pound test. One-piece rods are the most sensitive, but two-piece models are nearly as good and they are much easier to pack into a car trunk or back seat.
A good general purpose spinning rod will be 6 ½ to 7-feet in length with a fast tip section and a medium to medium-heavy power rating. This type of rod will cast long distances with most baits and will have enough strength to tackle all but the biggest of fish. The reel should have a quality drag system and lots of ball bearings for smooth operation. Look for a reel that includes a spare spool so you can have one filled with lighter line and the other with heavier line. That way you can easily switch from one to the other depending on the type of fish you are after and the size of baits you are using.
Tip 4: Using Leaders
Leaders can be used to add a section of different line or wire to the end of your main fishing line. For example, you might use a leader to attach a section of monofilament line to a braided line when you want the power of the braid but need a clear line attached to your hook or lure. You can also use a leader to attach a light section of line to a heavier mainline when you need a finesse-type presentation.
Wire leaders are typically only used to prevent toothy fish, like pike or muskies, from biting through your fishing line. Because they are stiff, wire leaders are best suited to use with fast presentations that trigger impulse strikes like trolling or when using fast retrieves with bigger baits.
Tip 5: Fishing Licenses
Fishing licences can be purchased through most tackle and outdoors stores, fishing outfitters/resorts/lodges as well as through the natural resources department of your provincial government. There is no test required to purchase a licence but it is required that it be on your person whenever you are fishing. Depending on which province you live in, you may need a single licence or there may be species-specific licences required for particular fish species. Before you head out on the water, check with your provincial natural resources department to be sure you are in compliance with all the requirements in your area.
Tip 6: Boat Operator's Card
In Canada, everyone who operates a powered recreational watercraft of any kind is required to have a Pleasure Craft Operator’s Card. There are no exemptions for age, engine size, the type of watercraft or the size of the lake or river. To get a Pleasure Craft Operator’s Card you need to score at least 75% on a test of basic boating rules and regulations that is administered by a recognized course provider. These include Power and Sail Squadrons, the Coast Guard and several on-line outlets. If you do not own a boat and plan to rent one for a day of fishing, most rental agents are authorized to administer an “on the spot” test that is effective for the time you are operating the rental boat.
Tip 7: Fishing from Shore
Just about any species that can be caught from a boat can also be caught from shore in certain locations at certain times of the year. For example, walleyes are easily caught during the first part of the open water season in the rivers where they spawn, or at the mouths of those rivers. Steelhead and salmon are also available to shore anglers when they make their annual spawning trips into rivers. Largemouth bass can be caught from shore wherever there are weeds or other cover while smallmouth bass can be caught around rocky points or around dams or rivermouths on lakes they inhabit. Pike and muskies can also be caught in shallow bays where there is good weed growth. Most larger rivers are home to various warm water species and can provide good fishing throughout the spring to fall months.