Rigging Your Pole

So you've acquired some fishing gear, learned how to cast and studied your quarry. Now it's time to arm your fishing pole for action.

Rig for the kind of fish you want to catch

How you rig depends partly on the kind of fish you hope to catch. Catfish usually search for food near the bottom, so you need weight to keep your bait near the fish. Crappies and many other panfish often swim a few feet beneath the surface, and a bobber will hold your bait up where the fish can see it.

Keep it light

Generally, use as light tackle as you can. Holding your bait on the bottom of a pond on a calm day, for example, doesn't require a large sinker. One or two split shot will do, and the lighter weight is less likely to alert fish that are sampling your bait.

Filling the reel spool

Follow the instructions that come with your reel and line before filling. Thread the line through the spool cap or under the bail to start. Tie one end of the line to your reel spool with an overhand knot, and then reel it on. Most spools of line come with suggestions on how to avoid line twist when filling your reel. The reel is full when the wrapped line is about 1/16 of an inch from the outside edge of the spool. Don't allow knots in your line, except at the end. Knots both weaken line and make it difficult to cast.

How a drag works

Fishing reels have a drag to prevent the weight and pull of a fish from snapping the line, making it possible to land even large fish with light lines.

Before fishing, set the drag to release line before the breaking point of the line is reached.

When a big fish is pulling, line will come off the reel, sometimes making a clicking sound. Learn to recognize when the drag is letting a fish run and don't reel during that time, or your line will twist. Avoid the temptation to tighten the drag while fighting a fish.

Use a bobber

Similarly, use a small, streamlined bobber and balance it with enough split shot beneath that the fish can pull your bobber down without much resistance.

Bait your hook

What you should use for bait also depends on the kind of fish you're after. The best all-around bait is probably a worm or a part of a night crawler, both of which will catch panfish and trout as well as most larger species. Hook the worm several times through, or pinch off part of a night crawler and run the hook through it. Keep baits fresh. With few exceptions, fresh bait will attract more bites than old bait.

Artificial lures

Most fishes will eat just about any animal they can fit in their mouth, and artificial lures typically work best if they resemble one of the following:

  • Fish
  • Crayfish
  • Worms
  • Insects
  • Frogs and other amphibians

Live bait

Using live bait can be very effective. Be sure to use it responsibly and don't dump unused bait into Missouri waters. Unwanted animals can invade local water and ruin your fishing!

The following live or processed baits work well:

  • Fish
  • Crickets and grasshoppers
  • Worms
  • Crayfish

Other baits

The following food-based items work well as bait:

  • Cheese
  • Hot dogs
  • Chicken livers
  • Stink bait (a fermented mix of cheese, chicken livers, blood, and flour)
  • Dough bait

Improved clinch knot

Run the end of the line through the eye of a hook about 6 inches and fold it back on itself. Holding both pieces of line in your fingers, rotate the hook about ten half-turns. The doubled line between your fingers and the hook will now be twisted.

Insert the end of the line through the space between the first twist and the hook eye.

Bring the tag end of the line back through the loop made by the previous step. You'll find it helpful to use the fingers holding the hook to help you guide the end through the loop.

Pull on both the line and the tag end to tighten the knot and shut it up to the eye. The knot will come together more smoothly if you moisten the line with saliva before tightening. Trim the tag end about 1/4-inch away from the knot.

Bait and lure suggestions to attract specific fish

Here are some ideas for baits and lures to attract specific fish. Note how sizes and lures are based on the size of the fish. Don't expect bluegills, for example, to eat a big minnow or muskellunge to attack a small fly.

Bait Suggestions
Fish Bait and lure suggestions
Bass crankbaits, jigs, minnows, night crawlers, plastic worms, spinnerbaits
Bluegill insect larva jigs, flies, small spinners, worms
Carp dough balls, worms; usually do not strike artificial bait
Catfish cheese, stink baits, worms; occasionally take crankbaits or jigging spoons
Crappie jigs, minnows, small crankbaits, spinners, worms
Muskellunge bucktail spinners, large minnows, oversize plugs
Trout flies, grasshoppers, minnows, small plugs (especially crayfish imitations), spinners, worms
Walleye crankbaits, jigging spoons, jigs, minnows, night crawlers