I think somewhere along the line, the preparedness community has gone the wrong way, and this is leading new Preppers into making bad decisions. And, this is no different for fishing items. Some preppers have purchased gill nets that they have not tested, pocket fishing kits, and filled Altoids cans with way too few supplies. We value compact designs, or the thrill of packing as much junk into the smallest space possible. These trends lead us to overlook practical and long-term use. So let’s take a look at the basic equipment that you will need, and a few long term solutions.
Fishing Rods and Reels
There are many different types of fishing rods and reels. I have dozens of rods and reels; with most being specialized for a particular fishing technique. However, for basic fishing purposes, you only need a few rods and reels. I recommend avoiding the box store $20 specials, because high quality equipment usually costs more. However, there is one exception to this rule. If you are selecting only a few rods for your collection, I recommend purchasing Ugly Stik rods. The Ugly Stik brand is a perfect selection for budget rods (less than $50), and they are some of the strongest rods on the market. You can usually find them on sale at box stores. I have literally closed doors on Ugly Stik rods, without damaging the rod. While not the best rod on the market, for the price and durability they are hard to beat ( I could purchase 8 Ugly Stik rods for the price of one of my high-end rods).
The type of reel I recommend for beginners is a spinning reel, also known as an open-face reel. There are also baitcast and spincast reels. Spincast are great for children, but are typically designed for smaller fish and ease of use. Most spincast lack the features to fight large fish, such as a reliable drag system, although you can land a large fish using a spincast. Baitcast are the most accurate and the strongest, but also the most difficult to learn. Spinning reels are the best all-around fishing reel, they are easy to learn and use, and can have great drag systems. Additionally, some spinning reels come with multiple spools, which can be setup with different types of lines; so one reel can be used for multiple situations.
When determining which reel to use, look for one that has a high amount of ball bearings. I like the micro or 10 series reels for pan fishing, 20-30 series reels for general fishing, and a 50+ series reels for larger fish. The difference between the series is the line diameter the reel is designed for, and the size of the spool (which holds the line). Therefore, the higher the reel series number, the larger the reel. Some manufactures may not identify their reels by 10,20, etc. series, just compare them to ones that do.
When selecting rods, you will need to determine if you want a one-piece or two-piece rod. I prefer one-piece rods, but two-piece rods can be broken down and easily thrown in the trunk of a car. I think a two-piece rod is ideal for most Preppers. Another option is a telescoping rod; I store a telescoping rod in my Bug Out Bag (BOB). Lastly, if you use a spinning reel you need a spinning rod, baitcast reel a baitcast rod, and spincast reel a spincast rod.
7’ Medium Heavy – Great for catfish and other large fish. I have used this combo for many years. The rod is excellent, but the reel leaves a lot to be desired.If you are looking for a reel upgrade, I would look at a large saltwater spinning reel (50-90 series).
Telescoping Rod – Can be stored in your Bug Out Bag, in a PVC shell for protection. I would pair it with a micro or 10 series reel.
Terminal tackle consists of hooks, weights, swivels, and fishing line; basically anything that is not a rod or reel. Without these items, catching fish will be hard (unless you plan on using a gill net, which will cover later in a later article). When selecting your terminal tackle, you need to consider the size and species of fish you plan on catching. As stated in the first article, smaller is usually better.
Additionally, the amount of terminal tackle items you store should be a major consideration. The old saying, “Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day; show him how to catch fish, and you feed him for a lifetime”, holds true to the Prepper Mentality. On one hand if you know how to fish, you should be able to feed your family, or teach someone else to fish [to feed their family]. On the other, fishing items will be a highly barter-able item; even if people can fish, more than likely they will not have an adequate amount of supplies to catch fish over a long duration.
Having the appropriate amount of supplies is one reason why I do not like those small Altoids can survival fishing kits. Sure, one of those kits can help in a pinch, but what happens after you lose the five hooks in the kit or destroy the 25’ of fishing line. So, what is an appropriate amount of supplies?
The following items are tailored towards freshwater fishing, and will allow you to catch various species of fish. By having these terminal tackle items, you will be equipped to catch many fish over a long duration.However, the types and quantities should only be considered a baseline of what I think you will need for personal use.
When dealing with hook sizes (1-16), the larger the number, the smaller the hook. However, if the hook size is followed by a “/0” (1/0, 2/0, etc.), the larger the number the larger the hook.
Aberdeen Hook | Sizes: 4 and 6| Quantity: 50 each – Aberdeen hooks, sizes 4-10, are small and are designed for panfish and trout. I prefer the thin wire models, as they keep live bait (minnows) alive longer. Additionally, with the long shank it is harder for the fish to swallow the hook; which is not a big issue in a survival scenario. This past weekend, while fishing for panfish I was able to land two 5 lbs. catfish using a size 6 Aberdeen Hook.
Circle Hook |Sizes: 3/0 and 5/0 | Quantity: 25 each – Circle hooks are designed to hook a fish in the corner or top of the mouth, reducing kill rates. I find circle hooks as the best catfish hook, as I have a good hook rate and once hooked I rarely lose a fish. Size 2/0 and 3/0 are perfect for smaller catfish, but are more than capable of catching 20+ lbs. catfish. If you are targeting large fish, you may also want to invest in 5/0 or larger circle hooks.
Bait Holder or Plain Shank Hooks |Sizes: 1 and 2| Quantity: 50 each – Bait holder hooks are the most common hooks in fishing kits. Bait holder hooks have several bards that keep bait from falling off of the hook, and are great choices for medium to large fish. Plain shank hooks are very similar in design, but they do not contain the extra barbs to keep bait on the hook. I prefer plain shank hooks when using Blue Gills as live bait.
When selecting weights, also called sinkers, ensure you select weights that can be used in multiple situations. From a Bass fishing perspective, we have weights for everything. However, in a survival situation your weight selection can be very basic. When selecting your weights, you must match the size to the condition. The general rule is the smaller the weight, the better. Fish can feel the resistance the weight causes, and will sometimes let go of your bait. However, if you are fishing heavy currents, thick vegetation, or deep water, a larger weight is best. I believe fish prefer a slower fall rate of your bait, because it looks more natural. Therefore, in some situations no weight is best.
Split Shot Weights, sizes assortment, quantity 200 – Split shot weights are clipped onto your line. Split shots are not designed to cast you line that far. I use split shots with bobbers, to assist in casting distance and to give the bait a faster drop rate to the strike zone.
Bass Casting Sinkers, sizes 1/4 ounce and 1/2 ounce, quantity 100 – Bass casting sinkers are a great weight, however I usually see people using the wrong size or more than one sinker at a time. The sizes recommended above are for fishing for panfish, or when you do not need to cast more than 50’.
Disc Sinkers | Sizes: 1 ounce and 2 ounce | Quantity: 25 each – Disc sinkers are designed for fishing in heavy current, but can also be used if you are not fishing in heavy current (simplifying weight selection). The 1 to 2 ounce size is perfect for fishing lines in the 10+ lbs. range, and when casting distance is important.
Having a good selection of fishing line is important. Certain lines allow for more sensitivity, some are more abrasion resistant, some float, and some sink. There are many different types of fishing lines, so I will simplify the selections. When selecting your line, the most important thing is to account for the test size, the lower the test size, the weaker the line; the easier it is to break under a load.
8 lbs. Monofilament – Monofilament lines typically float and have moderate stretch. They are excellent when fishing with bobbers, since the line will not sink. 8 lbs. test limit is not terribly strong, but is perfect for smaller fish, such as panfish. Don’t get me wrong, you can catch a very large fish with this test size, but it could break easily. When fishing with light test line, your reel should have an excellent drag system, which will allow line to be stripped from the reel while fighting the fish. Again, most spincast reels have horrible drag systems.
12 lbs. Fluorocarbon – Fluorocarbon lines are very sensitive, abrasion resistant, sink, and are nearly invincible under water. I primarily use fluorocarbon line when fishing for Bass, as it is an excellent general purpose line. The 12 lbs. test limit is a good choice for most fish. Fluorocarbon lines are more expensive, and may be brittle in cold water.
30 lbs. Braided Line – Braided lines are extremely strong, and have a much smaller diameter when compared to other equivalently-sized test lines (for instance 30 lbs. braided lines are approximately the same diameter as 8 lbs. test monofilament). This size braided line is perfect for fishing heavy cover areas, and will handle most large fish. Braided line is also a great choice for tree lines. However, braided line is visible underwater, so you may require a mono/fluoro leader for certain water conditions.
Bobbers are great for panfish or situations when you want to keep your bait off of the bottom. Sometimes fish are suspended in the water column, maybe above a submerged tree. Without a bobber, you will more than likely get tangled in the tree. Bobbers also allow you to change the depth of your presentation. For instance, let’s say you are fishing in 10’ of water, but the fish are suspended at 5’. You can adjust the bobber on your line to match the 5’ depth.
I prefer foam clip on bobbers with lead weights. I would avoid the more common and less expensive hard plastic bobbers as they are easy to crack rendering them useless.
Torpedo / Cigar Foam Bobber, Weighted, sizes 1 ½” and 3”, quantity 10 – The smaller size is perfect for panfish, while the larger size can be used when fishing with large live/cut bait.
There are many different types of swivels, so to simplify your selection I recommend having only two types.
Three Way Swivel, Size 4 (55lbs), quantity 20 – Three way swivels allow you to attach one end to your primary line, one end to a leader and a hook, and the other to a leader and a weight. Leaders are a fancy way of saying an added length of line, which can be a different line test size than your main line. I prefer using three way swivels when fishing for catfish.
Snap Swivel, various sizes, quantity 20 – Snap swivels provides the ability to quickly change a lure or other setup, without cutting your line to tie on a different presentation. With a snap swivel, you simply open the snap, add on a different lure, close the snap, and start fishing again. While possible, I have never had a snap swivel open while fighting a fish.
By stocking up on this equipment, you can greatly increase the odds of catching fish for an extended period. Like I stated earlier, those survival Altoids cans can work in a pinch, but they are not realistic for long term use. Take the time now to go to your local box store, and pick up cheap fishing supplies, or order the supplies from the links we provided. If you live in an area with plenty of water, fishing items will be highly barter-able. We will discuss nets in our next fishing article. Until then, Tight Lines.