Ever since buying a waterfront, boat access cabin and a fishing boat to get there, I’m getting into fishing. I’m very excited about it. It’s a nice way to spend the day and if successful, provides dinner. It might seem odd to write about fishing on a home and garden site but it’s part of my vacation property and boating article series.
Now that I’ve explained the context for our fishing articles, here are the types of fishing methods available. FYI, I’m a newbie at fishing so I hired an experienced, avid fisherman who has fished all over the USA for decades doing all kinds of fishing. Here’s what he told me with respect to the different fishing options.
As an angler, you’re probably aware of the age-old fishing style of bank fishing. Tie a hook to your fishing line, thread a worm onto it, and chuck that wiggly thing out there. Sit back and wait for the inevitable bite, and you have a fish. What if I were to tell you there are five traditional fishing types with over 30 subtypes. There’s far more to fishing than just chucking a worm out there and waiting around for a bite.
I’m an avid angler. I make my living teaching, guiding, and writing about fishing. I’ve helped with several habitat reclamation projects so I could create more opportunities for inner-city access to prime fishing spots. I guess you could say I love almost everything about fishing, even those days when I don’t catch a thing. (They happen to the best of us.) Take a few minutes and join me while I go through the different methods and add in some techniques to help you catch more fish on your next trip.
The five main fishing methods are:
- Bait Fishing – As the name says, this is the bait a hook and cast technique.
- Spinning – Spinning is the most common type of fishing. Bait fishing can be combined into this category if using a spinning combo.
- Bait Casting – Bait casters are a type of rod/reel combo that isn’t made for the novice angler. They take practice and a certain amount of knowledge before attempting.
- Trolling – Trolling is very common on lakes when fishing for trout or salmon. Anything that holds in deeper water at a consistent depth is a prime target for trolling.
- Fly-Fishing – There are so many guides and books on this topic that will make you think it’s the most challenging endeavor to undertake. Ignore them and have fun. It’s not so bad. Trout aren’t as bright as people will lead you to believe.
Let’s break down each type and dig into some techniques.
Bait fishing is basically using any substance to attract and catch a fish with a hook. With that said, baits vary widely. Nightcrawlers, mealworms, waxworms, redworms, and all sorts of other worms make up about .1% of the total bait available for you to try. It’s all about what fish you want to target. Trout are known to enjoy power bait and salmon eggs. Bass like minnows, as do the toothier fish.
Baits vary, as do techniques. If you’re out for an evening targeting catfish, you’ll want to rig a weight to keep your bait on the bottom. Catfish are big fans of stinky baits. Nasty stuff like cut mackerel or chicken liver works well. Berkley makes stinky dough baits for catfishing that might save you some hassle. There are all sorts of catfish baits available, ranging from $2.99 to over $100.
Rig powerbait with treble hooks. Some anglers refer to them as cheese hooks. There are specific baitholder treble hooks that do a great job keeping the bait on while casting and retrieving. Once you find the depth your target fish are hanging out, you can use a bobber or float to keep the bait suspended at that depth. If there is an area you can’t cast to, a float will allow you to get your bait there by using the current, if available.
Banks and shorelines are popular spots for bait fishing. Since it’s difficult to use most fish finders from shore, the preferred choice is bait. Fish happen upon it and are attracted by the scent in the water. Most fish have excellent noses. They can pick the scent of food out from a long way away. Think of Jaws, only much smaller and with a little ball of powerbait.
There are fish finders that work great from the shore. For example, the Deeper series is a castable unit that even lets you make maps of the lake or river bottom so you can mark your hotspots for next time.
Another bait fishing technique includes using traps. Placing cut fish in a trap is perfect for crab, lobster, or even crawfish traps. Crawfish will eat almost anything. I’ve had my best luck catching them by baiting traps with hotdogs or raw chicken legs. The best thing about crawfish traps is that they keep the kids entertained once they are bored with fishing.
Spinning or spin fishing is using a spinning rod and reel. The combo is generally used for lighter lines and tackle. I use a variety of spinning rods ranging from an ultralight 5-foot rod with a Shimano Sedona spinning reel for backpacking trips into the high-country lakes chasing wild trout to an oversized 11-foot rod with a Penn Battle III for salmon fishing. I’ve got five other spinning setups in varying lengths between them. They all get used often, though some more than others.
Spinning reels are extremely popular due to their ease of use and durability. Think of them as the engine on the crane. They run the winch, pulling in and releasing the line. I still have a reel that I bought in my early 20s. I won’t say that’s over 30 years ago, but it’s more than 20-something. With proper care and maintenance, a quality reel will last several seasons and land hundreds, if not thousands, of fish. In fact, a friend and I happened upon a lake a few days after it was stocked, and we caught 68 trout in two hours. They would bite anything shiny and silver. Kastmasters were the lure of the day. The number of fish a reel can land over time is astronomical.
If the reel is the engine, the rod is the crane’s boom. It does all the heavy lifting. You need to choose the right rod for the species you’re targeting. You don’t need an 8-foot heavy action rod if you’re heading out after trout. That would work for catfish. A 6-7-foot light to medium rod would be fine. Trout put up a good fight but don’t require the biggest, toughest rod out there to bring them to the net.
On the other hand, a lightweight 6-foot rod can be outmatched by a bass. It doesn’t have enough “backbone,” or strength before t bends, to muscle the fish in. A medium or medium-heavy rod would do much better. Bass fight big. They don’t leave anything on the table.
Spinning combos are used for ponds, rivers, creeks, lakes, bays, inshore, and deep-sea fishing. Inshore fishing with a spinning combo is fun because the line is so heavy it looks like you’re reeling in a small monofilament rope. Tie a giant circle hook to the end of some wire leader, and you’re ready to add some bait. I like to stick a live croaker on there and cast it off the boat with a 4oz weight to drop it to the bottom. A few minutes later, it’s a shark on. I’ve spent quite some time fishing South Carolina’s coast catching bonnetheads and reef tips. I typically release them all, but the occasional bonnethead is too delicious to turn away.
Traditional reels are the go-to for deep-sea fishing, as they can hold far more line than a spinning reel, and they can have line counters to tell how much line is out. That’s particularly helpful when fishing in several hundred feet of water. A line counter will show you the amount of line out, letting you judge how close your bait is to the target.
Spinning combos for freshwater are great. The one big drawback is they aren’t typically geared toward tossing heavier jigs and lures. Most are going to handle up to 3/8oz at most. Due to this size limitation, anglers find that they need a different setup once they are ready to move into tossing larger, heavier lures and stick baits. That’s where the following method comes into play.
The bait caster differs from spin casting in three main categories. First, the reel is different. A spinning reel is constructed to wind the line around the spool sideways, then limit its release with a bail wire. The spool is fixed in place, and the bail wire rotates around the spool to feed the line on, reducing the risk of “birds’ nests” or massive tangles. Bait casters work very differently.
Bait caster reels are infamous for “bird’s nests.” They are mounted on top of the rod and have revolving spools. The line gets fed directly from the spool and rewound through the rod guides. No line twist happens with bait caster reels, and the casting distance is greater. Most reels come with a level winding feature that lays the line evenly along the spool. Here’s where things get tricky. Since the spool revolves, it keeps spinning on its own when you cast it out. That’s caused by the velocity of the spool. The reel has a braking system that will slow the spool, but if you don’t set it up correctly, or if the bearings in the reel aren’t very good, you’re sure to get plenty of “bird’s nests” to deal with. They are the worst and can take a promising trip from great to a royal pain in the boat in one cast.
Setting up the braking system isn’t too tricky, and there are plenty of YouTube videos that will take you through the process. I recommend spending some quality time with a weight tied on your rod in the back yard getting some practice casts in.
The next big difference is the rod. A bait caster rod has the guides on top, whereas the spinning rod has them on the bottom. The design keeps the guides from being pulled off while battling it out with big fish. The rod flexes down with the guides on top. Under the reel seat is a “trigger,” which gives you a comfortable grip on the handle while casting.
The third difference is the line. Bait casters are geared toward the heavier line. They fight larger fish, so they need the heavier line to support the extra weight. You’ll find that most casting rods have a stiff backbone. That’s to keep the fight in the rod as much as possible, so the reel doesn’t have to pull all the weight.
Bait casters are primarily used for casting lures and jigs. Bass anglers use bait casters almost exclusively. The ability to cast with exceptional accuracy allows anglers to sight fish and drop bait right in front of hungry bass. Since bass are opportunistic predators, getting a soft plastic in the right spot means the difference between landing a 10-pound largemouth and scaring every fish within 50-feet.
Trolling is an excellent way to catch fish in lakes and reservoirs. It also works well when deep-sea fishing for the big-game fish. Trolling is basically rigging up a rod with heavy line with added weight to get it to the desired depth, then the boat cruises along at a whopping .5mph up to 2.5mph, depending on the species.
Baits used vary from lures to live minnows. The rods are typically placed in rod holders at the end of the boat at a right angle to the boat’s direction. The fish bite the bait, and the rest is up to the angler. I’ve been trolling for kokanee salmon several times, along with lake trout, rainbow trout, and pike. Tuna fishing is usually a trolling affair. I’ve caught several while trolling. The best fish I caught trolling was a 28-pound lake trout. The reason it holds top honors is that it ate the kokanee salmon I initially caught. I guess the salmon turned into live bait for the big girl.
Trolling has its own set of accessories that come with it. Everything from downriggers to flashers and dodgers is almost necessary when going after some species. It can all add up to an expensive hobby.
The real trick to trolling, particularly for kokanee salmon, is to locate a school on your fish finder. Once you find them, drop your line about 1–2-feet above them and match their speed. While kokanee are plankton eaters, they are also quite antisocial. If they think your bait is a smaller fish trying to hang out with them, they’ll bite it out of spite. I’ve done very well with this technique.
Fly-fishing has had a bit of an elitist status to it for far too long. Sure, if you look at most of the rods in stores, they cost several hundreds of dollars. Did you know that you can catch a whole lot of trout on a rod and reel combo that might set you back $85? Flies are usually around $.99 each, which isn’t that bad if you don’t lose it in a tree your first cast. Buy three of them, catch four fish with each one, and you’re in the same ballpark as a dozen worms.
I love fly fishing, and I think everyone should try it. People all over the world go fly-fishing every day and have no idea what they’re doing. Yet somehow, they catch trout, bass, salmon, and weird, unidentifiable fish that I’ve never seen before. The places where it takes a thousand-dollar setup and 40 years of experience to land a couple of 15-pound trout are the places that get so much fishing pressure the trout turn their noses up at anything that isn’t delivered by the local river version of Uber Eats.
Use your common sense and practice casting in your yard. I learned to cast by tying a piece of yarn to the end of my leader. I stood in the backyard for hours casting over and over. Eventually, it stopped sounding like a bullwhip, so I thought I had made an improvement. The next day, my pop came out and took a nap in one of the lounge chairs. I cast for an hour until I could get that piece of yarn to land on his nose. He was sure it was a bee (he was allergic) and hauled tail into the house. I almost hyperventilated from laughter. My entire setup cost about $30 from Sears.
Fly-fishing is just like any other type of fishing. Find the right gear for you, practice, spend time on the water, learn, fall in love with it, and eventually upgrade your rod. Buy the best line you can afford. For a beginner, I recommend going with a 5wt rod and reel combo with 5wt wt. forward floating line. That will make sense when you see it in person.