Whether you’re heading out on a lake for a spot of kayak fishing or plan on trekking up a small stream to fish its many pools and riffles, one thing is certain: you need the right equipment if you want to catch a fish. After all, the last thing you want is to find that perfect spot only to realise you don’t have the right gear with you.
The best way to avoid this is to have a dedicated tackle box or bag fully set up and ready to go with everything you need. This will ensure that you’ll never be caught unprepared.
Because many freshwater fisheries have numerous species worth targeting, it’s good to have a few options up your sleeve so if, for example, you had planned to target trout but when you get to the lake you hear that the redfin are biting, you can change it up without a hassle.
Here's a quick rundown of what you'll need:
The first thing you need to consider is the vessel itself: do you want a traditional tackle box, a tackle bag or, if you plan on covering long distances on foot, maybe your best bet is a backpack.
A traditional, moulded plastic tackle box has inbuilt shelves that fold out when the box is opened, allowing you to easily see and access everything in the box. However, because of their rigid design, they can be awkward to carry if you plan on trekking up mountain streams and the like.
Tackle bags get around this problem (to a point) by housing several smaller boxes inside a bag, however you do have to pull out each box to get at your gear.
Another option is to just buy a few smaller tackle boxes yourself and put them in a bag of your choosing. They probably won’t fit as neatly as they would in a purpose-made tackle bag but you can choose the kind of bag you want and you might save yourself a few dollars too.
Multi-tools come in incredibly handy when you're out on the water
Multi-tools are invaluable to the freshwater angler. With long-nose pliers, scissors and a knife all in one tidy package, a good multi-tool is indispensable on any fishing trip.
Long nose pliers are great for getting a good grip on the hook when you’re trying to remove it from a fish’s mouth. If the hook is lodged in there well, it’s going to be a battle to remove it with your fingers alone.
You’ll need scissors to trim off the end of your line each time you change up your lure or replace a hook. This will ensure you don’t have untidy ends sticking out of your knots and getting in the way.
If you’re unsure of how to tie the knots you need for fishing, check out our video on five basic fishing knots.
If you’re not ready to shell out for a new multi-tool, a pair of long-nose pliers and nail clippers will also get the job done most of the time.
Hardbody lures are made to mimic the small fish your quarry preys on
Hardbody lures look just like the small fish many predatory fish species prey on. Most have a small plastic ‘bib’ on the nose. When drawn through the water, the bib pulls the lure under making it ‘swim’. The size of the bib (along with the rate of retrieval) will determine the depth the hardbody swims at – the bigger the bib the deeper the lure will go.
Spinners have a metal blade that spins as the lure is pulled through the water. This creates flashes and vibrations that mimic a small fish. Spinners are great for many fish species including trout, bass and redfin.
Vibe lures are great for fishing in deep water close to structure
Vibe lures can be fished in several different ways but are particularly great for targeting fish such as bass in deep water close to structure. They have heavy bodies that vibrate when pulled through the water (hence the name). If fishing from a kayak, these can be dropped down close to submerged trees (or jetty pylons if fishing land-based) and then slowly drawn up through the water, parallel to the structure, by jerking the rod and taking up the slack with the reel.
Soft plastics can be used just about anywhere. This is largely due to the huge range of shapes and sizes they are available in. Soft plastic lures attach to a jig head (essentially a weighted hook) and mimic the fluid motions of a small fish, worm or larvae as it moves through the water. For a detailed guide, check out Five reasons to try fishing with soft plastics.
Tazzie devils are a go-to for many anglers
Tazzie devils are a go-to lure for many lake anglers. They feature a simple design – basically a slightly bent plastic tube with ‘wings’ on each side. These usually come with a piece of wire that is threaded through the body with a treble hook on the end.
These can be trolled behind a boat or kayak and are also great for casting deep into the lake when fishing land-based. When casting and retrieving, give the rod a sharp jerk and then take up the slack with the reel. Alternating the direction of your jerks will mimic the erratic movements of a struggling fish which is irresistible to many predatory species such as trout or redfin.
Poppers are heaps of fun in summer
Poppers are heaps of fun to fish, especially when targeting aggressive species like bass. Best used in high summer when fish are more likely to be feeding on insects and the like on the surface of the water. Poppers 'pop' along the water's surface, so when the fish strikes it often leaps right out of the water, making for some exciting fishing.
Leaders, hooks and sinkers
Don't leave your leaders, hooks and sinkers at home!
Of course, you’re not going to catch much without a leader, hook and sinker.
It’s always a good idea to have a spool or two of leader in your tackle box. And if you’re using braid for your mainline, it’s absolutely essential (most braid is highly visible in the water).
Also make sure you keep a variety of hooks and sinkers in your tackle box so you can change things up when you need to. For freshwater fishing it’s often good to go light, so make sure you have some smaller hooks and a pack of split shot sinkers in a range of sizes.
For a detailed guide on hooks, sinkers and leaders, check out our Fishing Gear for Beginners blog.
Even if you have a good multi-tool, it’s worth getting a dedicated fishing knife if you intend on taking your quarry home with you. The knives on most multi-tools (while handy for a heap of other tasks) are usually not long enough, or the right shape to easily gut and clean a fish. They also have lots of crevices where things can fester.
Fishing knives make cleaning and filleting your quarry easy and are inexpensive to buy.
Bobber floats add a visual element to fishing
Floats are great for adding a visual element to your fishing. They also keep your bait suspended in the water and off the bottom, thereby helping you avoid snags. What’s more, sitting on the bank watching your float bob along the water is an extremely relaxing pastime which becomes equally exciting when a fish strikes and you see the float go under.
The most common type of float is a bobber. This is a plastic ball that attaches to the line with two small, spring-loaded hooks. You can attach the bobber 20-80cm above your hook, depending on how deep you’d like your bait to sit in the water.
Obviously, you’re not going to be doing yourself any favours by keeping a box of earthworms or crickets stored in your tackle box. There are however, artificial baits such as Berkley Powerbait dough that will store well in your tackle box.
These baits are great for trout and come in a range of colours and fishy flavours. To fish with Powerbait, simply put a small ball of dough on your hook and a small split-shot sinker about 50cm up the line.
The dough floats, so will sit suspended in the water with the sinker anchoring it to the bottom. Use the smallest sinker possible: you need enough weight to hold the bait down and ensure it doesn’t get taken by the current but you also want it to feel as natural as possible when the fish takes a nibble – too much weight can spook the fish.
A pair of polarised sunglasses are a must-have if you’re heading out for a day of freshwater fishing. Not only can you do your eyes some serious damage by staring at the glare of the water all day, polarised sunnies also make the fish a whole lot easier to spot.
For freshwater, brown or copper coloured lenses increase contrast but cut out harmful UV rays. These lenses allow you to see into the water much more readily as they block out the reflections on the and glare water but don’t darken your overall field of vision as much as grey lenses.
Licensing requirements in Australia vary from state to state. But even in states and territories that don’t require you to hold a license, bag limits and size restrictions still apply to many species. So before you head out, make sure you are aware of the regulations that apply to your area.