There are almost as many varieties of sinkers for fishing as there are hooks. Actually, there’s probably more varieties of sinkers. Each type has its specific reasons for its design, use, application. Most sinkers, except for very small ones, are usually made with lead. Care should be taken with handling them, especially children.
Sliding inline sinker
It normally has a hole in it that can move up and down the fishing line. They come in various shapes from conical to eggs to spheres. Frequently, these are used in trolling, but I use them when casting small lures that I want to get to deeper water.
Inline Stationary sinkers
They normally have an eye on each end so that the main line can be tied at one and a leader with a line of chosen length and a hook can be tied at the other. I don’t normally use these, because there is not as much versatility with them as with other types of sinkers.
These are normally hexagonal tear shaped sinkers with a cast eye at the top. They are predominately used in low current, low tidal fluctuation when you don’t want your bait to move. The biggest disadvantage I see with it is that with the cast eye it’s sometimes difficult to get a snap swivel through the eye.
They look like a tire with no hole in the middle. Are normally used in muddy bottoms and slow moving water.
These are shaped like a solid bell. Normally with a swivel molded into the top. Normally used when it is not an issue if the bait or rig move some in the water. Frequently, I will use this sinker because it will move on the bottom and shift with the tide.
As the name suggests, it’s shaped like a pyramid. IT has good holding power even in heavy current or tide. It will normally hold bottom so used when you are trying to cast in a specific location. Can be problematic when fishing in an area with a muddy bottom.
Looks like an elongated and slightly rounded pyramid. Frequently seen in surf fishing. Greatest advantage is that they hold like a pyramid sinker of larger weight, particularly in sand. The biggest disadvantage is that they hold in sand, meaning I have lost rigs because they have held too well. I frequently use them in the surf or when live-lining bait, particularly when using a fish finder rig.
All of these and many other varieties of sinkers can be found in partial ounce sizes (fraction of an ounce) all the way up to multiple pound cannon ball sinkers. Choose the one best suited to your situation. Hopefully, this article gave you a little direction in which one to choose.
Though rods and reels are not necessary for successful fishing, they make the likelihood of success much greater.
Fishing rods vary as much as anglers who use them, but can be broken into two basic groups: spinning rods and conventional rods. As the names imply, it corresponds to the type of reel used on the rod.
Spinning rods, or spinner rods, normally have fewer guides or eyes (the loops on the rod) which have larger diameter to the reel seat, descending in size as they progress towards the tip. Frequently, they also have longer handles below the rod seat.
Conventional (bait caster) rods generally have more eyes or guides that are roughly the same size for most of the length of the rod. Generally, they have shorter handles below the rod seat.
While you can get away with using a conventional reel on a spinning rod, you cannot get away with using a spinning reel on a conventional rod.
Characteristics of Rods
Rods are normally categorized by: weight of rod, length of rod, type of reel used on the rod, the action of the tip of the rod, materials used to make the rod and whether it is designed for fresh or salt water. (this is not as key with rods as it is with reels. )
Weight of rod: there are ultralight, light, medium, heavy, and offshore.
Length of the rod: can be anywhere from 3 ft to 18 ft.
Materials: bamboo, cane, fiberglass, graphite and some space age polymers. Graphite, fiberglass or a combination of the two are my preferred materials.
Action on the tip of the rod: ultra fast to slow, and every variant in between. Each manufacturer of rods seems to have a different system. The rod action refers to how much of the rod bends when force is applied to the tip. The slower the action the further the rod bends. The type of fishing, bait and/or rigs, and personal preference determine which action you should use. I personally lean towards medium to medium fast actions, except in surf fishing.
There are a multitude of companies that make fishing rods with a wide price range. Two brands of rods I use most are St. Croix and Tica. This does not mean these are the only two brands I own, as I own many brands.
If I could only have one rod, it would be an 8.5 ft conventional rod, medium weight with a medium fast tip. The reasons being it is long enough to cast respectable distance in the surf but short enough to still be used from a canoe.
You can find fishing rods from $20 to close to $1,000. It is in my opinion that you should buy the best you can afford; however, if you need to cut costs, I would save money and purchase a less expensive rod and invest that surplus into buying a higher quality reel. It is possible to purchase a good, solid rod that with care, will give you many years of service for under a hundred dollars. Generally, I look for rods at the $100 mark, unless it is a custom made rod.
The two most commonly used types of fishing reels are the spinner and the conventional (bait caster). Both have advantages and disadvantages. I use a combination of the two of them. The use of one over the other is more dependent on the species of fish I’m targeting than anything else.
Fresh or salt water
Both types of reels come in both salt water and fresh water versions, which is more critical when fishing salt or brackish, a salty water that is not as high in salinity as the ocean. My general rule of thumb is that if there are no lily pads or frogs, it’s brackish water, because neither can live in even slightly salty water. The biggest difference between salt and fresh water reels is the materials used to manufacture them. Salt water reels are made of corrosive resistant materials that will stand up to more abuse.
Spinning reels are deemed right handed or left handed depending on what hand you hold the rod with. Right handed means you hold with the right hand and crank with the left. Left handed is the opposite.
Conventional reels are right or left handed based on the hand you’re reeling in with. When using a conventional, I favor left handed so that my hand actions are the same with both reels.
Advantages: easy to learn, most people can cast accurately, birds’ nests (tangled line) are almost unheard of unless using braided line, a faster retrieve is possible, certain fishing techniques can only be done with spinning reels
Disadvantages: more moving parts, more likely to break, doesn’t hold as much line as a comparable size conventional, faster retrieve means cannot apply as much force, so it’s harder to overpower the fish. When casting, heavy weight with a lengthy rod, like in surf fishing, you can’t load the rod to get the distance you need out of the cast.
Variations in spinning reels
Some reels have them and some don’t. They enable you to turn the reel backwards to let line out. On reels that don’t have this lever, normally you can’t take the anti-reverse off. I personally don’t own any reels without anti-reverse levers.
. Drag is how much force has to be applied to the line to pull line off the reel. On a top drag- the drag controls are on top of the reel, while on a bottom drag, it’s on the bottom. A third option is a double drag system normally referred to as a bait-runner, where you have a “fighting drag” and a “bait running drag.” Generally, the fighting drag is on the top and the bait running is on the bottom, controlled by a lever. The bait running drag is a lighter drag so that a fish can take hold of the bait and not feel resistance or only minimal resistance, commonly used with live lining bait which uses whole live bait. This is done because frequently fish will grab prey and move with the prey in its mouth. While they are swimming, they were proceed to swallow the entire bait, making a hook-up more likely. If a fish feels resistance when it grabs a whole bait, it will let go.
Which end up?
Spinning reels are versatile, in that you can change the location of the handle, switching it from a right handed to a left handed reel. If you are holding a spinning rod in your normal fishing stance and the rod is not between you and the reel, you are holding the rod wrong. All reels on the retrieve turn counter-clockwise. If you are not turning the reel clockwise, you are holding the rod incorrectly.
Advantages: carry more line that a spinning reel of comparable size, less moving parts, the cranking power transfer is greater, fully load a rod when casting a heavy weight to get distance required for long distance casting, certain techniques can only be done with conventional reels.
Disadvantages: takes longer to learn how to use them effectively, hard to learn how to cast accurately with them, birds’ nests are common while you’re learning how to use them
Lever drags are almost always on very large, off shore conventional reels, where you press a lever forward to increase your drag. I only own one conventional with a lever drag, and I use it exclusively for shark fishing, a Penn Squaw l 60LDLH. The lever drag is also the free spool lever. The way the lever drag works is that you press the lever forward to increase drag on the reel. The big drawback with this system is that every time you cast or drop overboard, you have to reset your drag
Star drag is normally a wheel that looks like a star behind the crank handle that is turned to adjust the drag.
I prefer reels whose drag systems make a significant amount of noise. This can make a world of difference when a fish strikes and you are not looking at the rod.
Spool Engagement Systems
Button systems require, obviously, pressing a button to shift the reel into free spool, meaning the spool spins freely. With most button systems, you crank the handle to take the reel out of free spool.
Lever systems have a lever that you move to engage the free spool. For the majority of lever systems, you have to put the lever back to the original position to take it out of free spool. There are some reels that cranking the handle will take the reel out of free spool. I prefer that system over the others.
Spool Tension controls
Single side spool tension is normally a knob on the opposite side of the reel that is adjusted to determine the rate at which the spool spins in free spool.
Dual side spool tension is a knob on each side of the wheel to adjust the tension. This system requires more fine tuning, because it must be balanced to keep the spool centered in the reel. Because of this fine tuning, you can greatly reduce your likelihood of bird’s nests while casting.
A level wind is a device that rides on a worm screw, some conventional rods have them and some don’t. As you retrieve, the level wind distributes the line evenly on the spool. Without the level line, you have to do this manually or birds’ nests are guaranteed. The disadvantage to level lines is some reels the level line slows the rate at which the line can leave the spool in a cast, limiting the casting distance. This is why I favor Abu Garcias in the surf, any time I’m going to be casting for distance.
A clicker is a button on a conventional rod which makes noise when the spool moves. Normally, this is used when night fishing and live lining bait, so that you can hear when a fish picks up the bait. Frequently, while night fishing with conventional reels, I will put the clicker on and put the reel in free spool and let the rod sit in a rod holder until I hear a fish hit. The clicker also behaves much like a bait running drag on a nonadjustable spinning reel.
If I have to choose between putting money into a rod and into a reel, I’m going to choose the reel, because while neither is necessary, a quality reel on a mediocre rod is far more effective than a mediocre reel on an excellent rod. If quality reels are bought and taken care of, they can last longer than your lifetime.
For example, one of my Abu Garcia 10,000 reels I inherited from my grandfather and he used it extensively in surf fishing, making it well over thirty years old. I have a GreenE 70 that was made in the early 70s. Not to say that none have needed repairs, but all work done has been far less expensive than buying a new reel. Many of my Penn 209, both left and right handed version, my father and I both used when I was a child and I got them when my father moved away from that type of fishing. Some of those he had from before I was born in 1977.
Preferred manufacturers for conventional reels:
Penn– Some models I use are the Penn 209LH (left handed)and Penn No. 9LH.
Abu Garcia- Some models I use are the Abus Garcia’s 10,000 Ambassador, Abu Garcia 7,001i, and the Abu Garcia 6600
Preferred manufacturers for spinning reels:
Shimano-Bait Runner reels
Penn-spinning reels of various sizes.
I am in the process of testing two Okuma bait runner reels.( I’ll let you know how they work out.)
Find a reel and rod you are comfortable with. While we have included links to Amazon, of which we are affliliates, you will do yourself a great service by finding a local bait and tackle shop. IF they sell basketballs and baseballs, that’s not a bait and tackle shop. If they have more than three departments, it’s not a bait and tackle shop. Purchase the best you can afford, and you’ll end up with a piece of equipment that can be handed down for generations of anglers to come.
As the above equation demonstrates, there are many factors that influence your success in fishing. Some of the factors are ecological, astrological, some are meteorological, physiological, and this list could go on ad infinitum.
Time of Day
I’ve been asked many times as to when you should fish. My answer is always yes. Meaning that it is far more important to take advantage of an opportunity to fish than to worry about what time of day it is when you’re fishing. That being said, I prefer fishing at night for a myriad of reasons. There are far less people out. The biggest fish I’ve ever caught was at night. My highest numbers were caught at night. Being out at night is far less taxing on the body than being in the sun.
Short Term Weather- My experience is when low pressure moves through, the fishing is better. Yes, this means fishing in the rain, but don’t go fishing in thunderstorms.
Long Term Weather- If there’s a drought, that affects the salinity in the bays and tidal rivers which means certain species of fish can end up where they normally aren’t. The reverse of this is true for really wet seasons.
Force of wind effects the ability to fish both by the roughness of water, the ability to cast and moving schools/shoals of bait fish. Heavy winds can be both beneficial and detrimental, so can sustained winds from a particular direction. The key here is learning how to exploit what is at hand. There are also certain species of fish that seem to not feed as much when the wind is coming from a specific direction.
Current effects where fish will be, where food sources will be, types of fish present, types of food present, and approaches that need to be taken to catch fish.
Tide cycle is roughly twelve hours, so generally there are two high tides and two low tides each day. How quickly the tide shifts, meaning how quickly it takes to reach high or low tide, is dependent on your distance from the Equator and the North Pole. This is also influenced by how far away from the ocean you are when fishing.
In my area, the tidal switch normally takes four and a half to five hours, with roughly an hour slack water, when it is high tide or low tide. There is no tidal influence on the water during this time. This does not mean there will not be current or wind movement of the water. Certain species feed heavier while the tidal shift is happening and don’t feed as heavily during slack water. As far as which is better, outgoing or incoming tide, depends on location.
Lunar cycle is 28 days. Yes, the tide is directly tied into the moon, but it also effects fishing, particularly night fishing. In my experience, I’ve caught very little on the new moon. The closer it gets to the full moon, the better the fishing usually is, that being said I normally don’t fish out going tides during the full moon. The tides both low and high are more severe during the full moon, so there tends to be more detritus in the water during the outgoing tide of a full moon. The influence of the moon affects fishing both day and night. The phase of the moon which is best for fishing depends on which species is being targeted.
These factors include when food sources hatch, when food sources spawn, and when they shed or molt. The spawning time of the species of fish being targeted also influence fishing. Most species of fish population density gets greater during the spawn, so they are easier to catch. Understanding the life cycle of animals the fish is preying on will help to know when to use lures that imitate that prey or bait that is that prey. For example, blue crabs population’s biggest molts usually happens around the full moon. During the full moon, there are more soft crabs (crabs that have molted but their shells have not hardened yet) and peeler crabs (crabs that are about to molt) for the fish to target.
Understanding how a fish is built and therefore feeds greatly enables you how to present your bait in the most effective way. For example, a white perch has a mouth that is on the front of his head near the bottom but still in front. Meaning he usually attacks prey straight on or from underneath. So you are more likely to catch a perch using bait that is suspended in the water column than resting on the bottom.
Black drum’s mouth is on the underside of their head they feed with their mouths on the bottom and their tail up. In shallow water, some species of fish like the black drum, you can actually see their tails out of the water.
Frequently fish with their mouths on the bottom are what is called scent predators as opposed to sight predators. Scent predators track their prey by scent, and these species typically have barbels that assist with the location of prey.
Some species of sight predator fish, like fluke, flounder and catfish, are ambush hunters, meaning they wait for something to swim by and then they attack. Typically, they lay on the bottom around structures on the bottom. Others, like blue fish and mackerel, swim continuously looking for prey.
My real point behind all this is that there are many things that need to be considered to be effective at fishing. You can’t just drop a hook with bait on a line and expect to catch fish. One of the things I have learned from a lifetime of fishing is that the only absolutes are those regulations placed on us by law. There is no box to think outside of.
All this being said, my point is that there are many things that influence your success at fishing. Though sometimes, even under the most ideal conditions fishing is not favorable and sometimes under the worst conditions, fishing is favorable.
Do yourself a favor and go fishing and if you can, take a kid with you.
It has been argued by some that fishing is detrimental to the environment and fishermen have no interest in conserving natural resources. This view is uninformed, as the majority of the anglers I know are conservation minded if for no other reason than the licensing fees and regulatory expenses go to conservation efforts. I’ve been fishing for my entire life and through that time have developed views and ideas about what anglers need to do in order to maintain fishing as a sustainable, renewable meat and recreation source.
The two biggest events that contributed to my views on fishing were the moratorium on rockfish (striped bass) when I was a youth and the disappearance of the weakfish (yellow fin trout). Another contributing factor was the implementation of the slot limit on red drum. During the moratorium, which means it was illegal to keep any of them, rockfish were rare, the only specimens caught tiny little “pebbles” as we jokingly refer to them. The weakfish have yet to make a return to our waters. The first place to start with conservation is to know your fishing regulations.
The first responsibility we have as anglers is to know the local laws and regulation on fishing and to adhere to them. Each state has rules particular to that state. And those rules may even vary within the state from tidal to non-tidal waters. For example, Maryland has a maximum number of rods you are permitted to use in non-tidal waters but no limit on the number of rods used in tidal water. Two of the most common regulations on fish are size limit (length of fish) and creel limit.
Size limit is the measure of the length of the fish. Be sure to know which system of measurement your state uses. Whether it be total length, fork tail length or pinched tail length. Different states use different measuring systems and some states even use different systems depending on the species of fish. In addition there are also federal regulations on certain species of fish like sharks.
Creel limit is the number of a species of fish you may keep for a day. Some states do have a total creel limit of the number of fish you can keep of all species combined. Secondly, understanding that any fish species in an exhaustible resource. We as fisherman can and have destroyed fish species. I will not get into the argument of recreational vs. commercial fishing. We are all responsible.
My Personal Code on Fishing
In addition to the legal regulations, I have thought long and hard about my own effects on fish species. I have developed my own code by which I fish, stricter than the actual regulations in order to help contribute to the sustainability of fishing.
Self-Imposed Size Limits- For, species that have a minimum size limit, I normally impose on myself a larger minimum size limit. In addition, I also normally impose a maximum size limit, as in the largest that I’ll keep. For example, in my home state, there is an 8 inch minimum size limit on perch. I won’t keep perch shorter than ten inches. The largest white perch I ever caught was 16 inches. I won’t keep anything over 14 inches.
Self-imposed creel limits. If a fish has no creel limit where I’m fishing, I normally impose one. This number highly depends on the species, time of year, and location of fishing. In addition, if I’m fishing rigs that have the potential of catching more than one fish at a time, when more than one fish is caught, I only keep the smaller one if within the size limit I’ve set. If two different species are caught, I’ll keep the more common of the two, if of legal size limit.
Sex descriminiation-Another thing I do is if the sexes of any species is distinguishable from each other, as in sharks and rays, I will only keep the males of the species. The females are better left to lay eggs for the perpetuation of the species.
Self-Imposed Moratorium- . If a species has a daily creel limit of two or less, I also will not keep any. It is a clear sign that a species is headed into trouble, and I do not need to contribute to its demise. There are other more plentiful fish to fill the cooler.
Varying location– I also try to fish different locations and different bodies of water for non-migratory species such as catfish and white perch. I don’t want to have too much of an impact on any one particular area.
Spawning Season Moratorium- I try not to target species of fish during its spawning season, when they are laying eggs. Even though some of the best fishing for some species is during their spawning season, If I’m going to fish for a species during spawning, it’s strictly catch and release.
Identifying issues- If I can’t identify a species I have caught, I release it.
A Note About Bycatch and Trash Fish
Some less scrupulous fishermen are not careful about their handling of bycatch and “trashfish.” Bycatch is anything that is living and caught that is not the targeted species. This can include other species of fish, the various varieties of crustaceans, seagulls, muskrats, Eastern hellbenders (if you don’t know what one is, do yourself a favor and look it up.) Trash fish are normally the species of fish that are not targeted by anglers, considered to be unfit for consumption , hence the name “trash fish.” All of these creatures should be released with as little damage to them as possible. Even though some of these species might not be very appealing to look at, they all have a role to play in the ecosystem.
Invasive species are species that have been introduced to an area and are usually detrimental to local species. Some examples in my area are the northern snakehead and flathead catfish. Frequently, states require the killing of these invasive species when caught. There are legal ramifications for releasing invasive species. Be aware of what, if any, invasive species are in your area and be able to identify them. It seems that most of the invasive species are confined to the realms of fresh water.
See something, say something
I don’t necessarily mean it in a Big Brother kind of way. However, it is up to us as anglers to say something when we see something that isn’t right. We have to police ourselves, if we want there to be fish for future generations.
Know your regulations, taking the time to identify species correctly, and figure out a personal fishing code for yourself. Fishing can be sustainable source of recreation and food if we all do our part.
When they go fishing, it is not really fish they are after. It is a philosophic meditation.
-E.T. Brown, from Not Without Prejudice: Essays on Assorted Subjects.
While I agree with this quote to an extent, I don’t believe it’s entirely true. Fishing is an affordable and effective way of gathering food. It’s also sustainable if done correctly. Fishing is truly just a form of hunting, just with specialized equipment.
Having fished all my life, there are certain tricks, techniques and approaches I have learned to become a more successful fisherman. That being said, the most important thing I’ve learned fishing is that there are no absolutes. However, over the course of this blog, I will share with you what I know. Take what you can use and keep experimenting for yourself.
My fishing falls into two types: trophy and freezer fishing. Though these two styles vary in their approach, they are not exclusive to each other. I frequently do both on the same fishing trip.
For me, being on the salt water, this means targeting larger and higher on the food chain species such as black drum, rock fish, big catfish, toothed sharks and larger bluefish.
Though all of these species can be kept and consumed when guidelines are followed, the frequency at which they are caught would not fill a freezer very quickly.
Because it’s fun and challenging, it’s a big payoff when you do catch something. There’s something exciting to about watching the line diminish and hearing the reel scream.
For freezer fishing, I target smaller and lower on the food chain fish. For our area, this means white perch, Atlantic croaker (“hard head”), smaller catfish, king fish and spot. These types of fish mostly travel in schools. Once located, they are easier to catch than the solitary predator fish. They frequently have less regulations on size and the number of fish allowed to be kept, called a kreel limit. For instance, the size limit on perch and Atlantic croaker is 8” with no kreel limit while black drum is limited to larger than 18” and a kreel limit of 3.
On a decent day of fishing, 60-80 fish is not out of the realm of possibility by any means. I have brought home upwards of 100 on especially productive days. Our family eats four fish per meal when we have baked fish, less if we’re using the meat in another dish. That means one day’s fishing can offer 15 to 20 meals for our family.
If you want to start providing more of your family’s meat, fishing is a great way to start. It requires less training and equipment than hunting does. Additionally, you can include the entire family, so it provides family entertainment as well. The whole family can participate in gathering fresh fish, making it a worthy pursuit.