One of the most common questions I get involving fishing is how can I fish with the high cost of gas, tackle, boats, and travel getting so expensive? I answer this question with a simple answer: a budget. We all have been down this road when you want to do something so bad but there is no money left at the end of the month. No one is born with that “gold” tackle box in their crib or have a boat filled with rods and reels waiting on them when they reach driving age. We all have to work for what we have and we have to “Budget” our spending accordingly. You can fish on a budget you just have to follow it and not stray off of it for every new lure or boat that hits the market that and is sold as a “catch all bait” or “fastest boat” out there.
First off, I fish way different than the majority of people. I fish 12 months out of the year and most of my fishing involves bass tournaments. Weather I’m fishing a tournament or helping direct those I’m involved with I generally average 75 days a year fishing. If you add on the water time from my day job (which isn’t fishing) that usually puts my time on the water at almost 100 days a year on avg. So fishing on the budget is something I had to learn very early on. Some of the things you need to catch fish on and be budget minded are a good rod/reel combo, terminal tackle, a tackle box, & lastly a few good lures. Pretty simple to talk about and really it is that easy. Were it gets complicated is when you buy more than you need or buy that lure that costs as much as a gas fill up for your SUV and yes there are lures that cost more than that.
Now for the budget minded fisherman or lady out there here is my 4 step process to start out with. This is a starting point and you can add or subtract if your style of fishing is different. In fishing you have people who are generalist and specialist. Generalist is the person that is pretty good at all types of fishing and enjoys all types. Specialist is the one that is usually species specific and they don’t vary from that. Either of these can cost as much or as little as you want to spend on it. Fishing is a release for some people, a therapy for others, a sport of competition, and a time for bringing families together. Let’s start out with the steps:
1st Off don’t buy a cheap rod/reel just because it’s cheap. You really need depending on how and what you fish for a couple of good quality combo’s. A spinning rod/reel and a bait casting rod/reel these are for different lures and fishing techniques. You can’t toss a big spinner bait for bass on a little spinning rod set up for trout and you cannot toss a 1/16 oz rooster tail on a bait caster with 20 lb line, these are the wrong tools for the job. Imagine if you will, you go to get your car worked on and all the mechanic had for tools was a hammer, crescent wrench, and a ½” wrench. Not all your car fixes can be accomplished with those tools. Fishing isn’t as complicated as special tools for working on your car, but it isn’t a one size fits all rod/reel for all either. On the budget spending side you can get a good spinning combo for $80-$100 and a bait casting combo for $125-$175. You can get less expensive, but you need functional equipment if you are going to fish multiple times a year. Taking care of this equipment is just like a good maintained work area. I have always been told in my fishing from older guys that I look up to. Purchase what you can afford, not the cheapest and certainly not the most expensive, you have to eat and pay your bills you know!
2nd Good terminal tackle is a must in this game. Cheap swivels, hooks and line will break when you finally hook that big catfish, bass, or trout. If you fish to enjoy the time outdoors and just the nature then that is okay, but if you fish to eat them or like me in a tournament, that cost money. Really it cost no more to buy a bag of quality hooks, line, or other terminal tackle when they are on sale or if it falls into your budget. As opposed to buying the cheap stuff and it break or it gets tangled up on your rod and reel setup. A good assortment of hook sizes, sliding sinkers and various clamp on weights ranging from 1/8oz to 1oz. An assortment of swivels from barrel swivels for Carolina rigging to snap swivels and the all-important line. Line is your main connection besides the quality hook that helps you land that fish. You can get a big fish in on light line with quality equipment, but don’t go with the stuff that has been in the garage for the last 20 years. Size of line will depend on your intended fish species you are after. You don’t need 20lb test line for crappie and trout, but you better not go catfishing with 6 lb test either.
3rd Back to the car mechanic and his tools. Imagine if you will that your lures and terminal tackle are tools and you need a place to keep them for the next job (fishing day). I use the plastic see through boxes that I can write on and tell at a quick glance what is in the box by what I have written on it and what I can see through it. I can place a lot of boxes in my boat and have as the say a floating tackle store if needed. They work great for that and are not expensive if bought a few at a time. If you plan on taking them to the pond bank or toss in the back seat of the pickup truck they are well suited for that also. If you don’t have a lot of “tools” then a small tackle box that you can pick up at your local tackle store will be just fine.
4th Lastly (this a hard one for ME), a few good lures. These fish we are trying to catch live by instinct, not like we do, in a world of reason. They have a brain the size of a sweet pea at the biggest and only do a couple of things all year: eat and reproduce. What’s so hard about figuring that out? There are a lot of people out there that spend way more money than me trying to get that figured out. A few basic lures besides your terminal tackle and you are good to go to the river, lake, or your favorite pond. Earlier I said functional equipment, well the same reasoning applies here. A few good lures will get the job done better than lures everywhere. Also you will have fish on the table or swimming in your live well for the big tournament weigh in. Each lure category I will mention has many different sizes and styles that you can adjust to your own fishing conditions. Spinnerbaits, plastic worms, plastic creatures, crankbaits, top water, jigs, and spoons all should have a place in your tackle box. Weather you need to imitate a crawdad, worm, shad, bluegill, or whatever the fish are feeding on you have to be prepared. Seasons will dictate most of where and what you will be using. Buy a few lures in each category to get started and in colors that are natural for your fishing area. You can expand or tailor your tackle box to fit your fishing style as you learn more. Remember you’re on a budget and fishing is your release not you’re conviction.
These are just points of reference for you to start your fishing on a budget and you can adjust them for where and what you fish for. My tournament fishing my not be your idea of fun and relaxing, but we all have to find that area we like in life outside of work and other day to day happenings called life. I hope you enjoy these articles and I hope they bring a “Spark” to your day as you read them. Weather your young or old, the color of your skin don’t matter, it doesn’t matter if you’re a woman or a man fish don’t care. The size of your boat and truck doesn’t influence them in the least. Fish are a great equal in our daily struggles in life and many use fishing as a therapy to handle life. As always get out and enjoy our beautiful Ozarks waters. You can have fun, get some great pictures, and have a safe day all at the same time. As always, catch me on the water if you can, or on Facebook (Dewayne French Fishing), Twitter (@French_Fishin), Instagram (@french_fishin), and my YouTube channel & at Favorite Fishing’s channel, or on my website: www.frenchfishin.com.