For those new to fishing and now rather taken with the sport and looking forward to making it a premier part of the current year's itinerary, let me provide some basic guidelines to getting started properly without breaking the bank.
If you were to begin with just one rod/reel outfit for angling in our state, might I suggest a 512-to-6-foot light-action fiberglass or composite spinning rod attached to a spinning reel appropriate for holding 4-to-8-pound line. You should be able to acquire a combo of this nature of at least passing-grade quality in the $40-to-$60 range. If you have a spare spool option available, take it. Put 4-pound mono on one for your panfishing (bluegill, crappie, rock bass, white bass) and 8-pounde for walleye or large or smallmouth bass. If limited to one spool, compromise and load it with six.
Aside from brand names, pick an outfit that feels comfortable to you, as you are essentially commencing the ambitious part of your angling career with just this one combo, with no option to switch to.
My own versatile "river rig" that I opt for whenever I'm just venturing out locally and don't wish to load up excessively, is not lacking in quality, as it seems every season I wind up using it more that my other eleven more specialty-oriented outfits. Be sure to check the drag on the reel, its most important aspect. The rod will eventually emerge as the more important of the two fundamental tools. If you currently only will have one, make sure it is limber enough to efficiently cast even very small lures, while at the same time exhibits enough backbone to set the hook effectively when fishing jigs or soft plastics.
Here are some tackle box essentials for getting started with at least a minimum of inventory:
n Swivels: ball-bearing only, to put it plain. Those cheap, brass "snap-swivels" that are so popular with the 90 percent of fishermen who catch 10 percent of the fish caught are to be avoided at all costs. Use ball-bearing swivels ahead of your spoons and in-line spinners to add precious weight, reduce line twist, and allow for better action.
n Weights: a splitshot assortment is a good place to start, followed by a representative assortment of worm weights for your soft plastics angling. Jigheads: colors should include black, white, red, and chartreuse in sizes from 164-ounce to 14-ounce.
n Bobbers (floats): in this category it is preferable to have just a few quality offerings than a plethora of those red and white round plastic jobs whose insensitivity is rivaled only by their susceptibility to easy breakage.
n Snaps: not "snap-swivels"! These inexpensive and handy tools make switching any crankbait or "plug" a breeze, while also allowing the bait to run properly.
Suggested Artificial Baits
Even though your early outings may well be utilizing live bait (when in doubt, use minnows), as you grow in the sport, so will your ambitions and needs for greater challenges and bigger fish. Here are some suggestions for artificials to increase your chances initially:
n Soft Plastics: worms in various colors -- lean towards black and purple variations -- are a staple, but also include some twister tails to match your jigheads, crawfish imitations and tubes.
n For particularly younger fishers, perhaps growing bored and dirty using just live bait, an effective early lure option is in-line spinners like Panther Martins, Mepps and Roostertails, among many others.
n Crankbaits: these can get pricey, so begin with just a few standards in sizes to match your line size, like Rebel Crawdads, Rebel 112-inch minnows, and a couple Big Os.
Jack Kiser is the host of "Buckeye Angler" TV and the "Hunting & Fishing Show," which returns to the air Sunday evenings and Saturday mornings March 31, with Steve Jones. You may contact him on the Facebook site for either.