Fishing Rigs & Lures for a Quick Trip
Your recipe to a fun day on the dock: live bait, a hook, split shot sinker, and a bobber. This combination is the go to for beginner fishing tackle. Live bait is recommended for quantity of fish and diversity in fish species while on a quick lake fishing trip. I am going to walk through most common live bait rig combinations in Freshwater to get you landing a bunch of Panfish. Some species are better off with lures & soft plastics, so I offer a few recommendations on popular classics. However, if you’re going out for the first time or looking to have some fun with the kids, I want you to focus on nailing simple live bait setups.
Live Worm and Bobber Rig
The hook and bobber rig is the classic beginner fishing tackle rig. It’s the easiest set up and start catching fish. This combination is perfect for lake fishing off the dock or on the shore. A simple cut of worm, or even some corn will do the trick. Here’s how it’s rigged:
1/4 Piece of Worm + #4 Baitholder Hook + 3/0 Removable Split Shot Sinker + 1″ Clip-On Bobber. All this can be found in our basic fishing kit, except the bait!
Thread your line through the hook and tie a clinch knot, clipping the excess line near the eye of the hook. Pinch on a removable split shot sinker about 1 ft. up from your hook. Clip on the bobber 2-3 ft. above the sinker. Setting the depth greater than 4 ft. will make casting a challenge. Bait your hook with a pinch of nightcrawler down to a 1/4 length of it’s body. Cut a 1/2 length for smaller Trout worms. Corn kernels, hotdog slivers, or balled up bread can be used as a less productive alternatives. Note, the #6 baitholder is the most common hook for Panfish, but this smaller size leads to swallowed hooks and difficult removals. Stick with a #4 for now, it’s easier to manage and Panfish are rarely that picky. Get all the hooks, sinkers and bobbers discussed in our Basic Fishing Kit.
Improved Clinch Knot
Fishing with Live Minnows and Leeches
Minnows and leeches are great for a variety of techniques & tactics but these may be too advanced at your stage. Stick with worms and the classic bobber set-up if you’re after a large quantity of Panfish with the potential to catch a Bass. You can apply a Leech onto the same snap bobber rig if you want to filter through some of the smaller Panfish, but most minnows are typically too large for average Panfish. Common Minnows range 2-5″, smaller Flatheads are 2-3″ and larger Golden Shiners are 3-5″. Smaller Leeches and small Flathead minnows are good options to target larger Panfish like Perch and Crappie. For more information on live bait check out our post on Live Bait Fishing.
Note on Shore Depth
To target larger fish on shore, you need to be more versatile with your depth and cover a lot of water. This is a challenge with beginner fishing tackle. The Clip Bobber restricts you to 3-4 ft. depths. If you are focused on targeting larger fish with minnows and leeches, your best option is a Slip Bobber Rig.
Use a Slip Bobber Rig for Versatility
The Slip Bobber Rig is popular for Walleye Fishing, and is the most versatile option for fishing with minnows and leeches. This is an intermediate rig, so land a few Panfish on the Clip Bobber + Worm combination before advancing. A Slip Float Rig is made up of a slip tie, bead, slip float, split shot sinker, and a live bait hook. I prefer to use a Red Octopus hook for Minnows and Leeches. Your line runs through your slip float until it is stopped by the slip tie. The slip tie is set at whatever depth you are targeting, holding your float in place on the line for the fish to take the bait down.
Classic Slip Bobber and Slip Bobber Rig
To set up the rig, first thread your line through the slip tie and secure it tightly. Then thread the bead, preventing the slip tie from chafing against your slip float. Thread your slip float, tie your hook, and pinch a split shot sinker onto your line 1 ft. above the hook. The split shot sinker weighs your line to keep the float upright. It also keeps lively bait centered for an easier meal. Clip the ends of your slip tie about 1/4″ from the knot. Here’s a great video on how to Rig a Slip Bobber by Knetters Practical Outdoors.
How to Use a Slip Bobber
Drop your rig in the water and push your slip tie up your line until the float lays flat on the water. Reel in some line and push your slip tie down until your bobber stands upright. You want your bait 1 ft. off the bottom, so once the bobber is upright, push your slip tie down another foot. Cast out and cover as much water as you can, letting the wind or waves drift your Slip Bobber Rig.
The farther you cast the deeper you are likely to be. Do your best to account for this by pushing your tie up, setting the tie to an estimated depth. Setting depths while lake fishing is relative to your location and casting distance.
Classic Fishing Lures for Every Tackle Box
Here are my top 4 classic lure recommendations for a beginner fishing tackle box. Get in the groove by landing a nice pile of fish with live bait on your first trip. When your ready to graduate to larger species like Bass, Trout and Pike these lures have stood the test of time. The following lures have produced fish for generations and are at the heart of many tackle boxes.
Casting Spoon, Curl Tail Grub, Texas Rig Bass Worm, In-line Spinners from our Freshwater Fishing Kit
Casting Spoon for Pike
A 5/8 Oz. casting spoon in red and white is a classic staple in throughout upper US and Canada. Best paired with a 10-30 pound 12″ wire leader to survive the toothy snap of a Pike’s jaw. Spoons are a bit of a catch all so don’t be surprised if you slam a Largemouth or even get a Musky follow up. Simply cast this spoon out and steadily retrieve through the water column. Pike are going to slam this so get ready for a big thump on your line.
Plastic Worm Texas Rig for Bass
A good way to get started with Bass worms is on a Texas Rig. Thread a 1/4 Oz. Worm Weight then tie on a 3/0 EWG Worm Hook. We recommend using a 5″ Wacky Worm to get started. Rig it weedless like in the image. Roll it over Cover like boulders or logs and bounce it along the bottom on your retrieves.
Grub & Jig for Panfish
The curl tail grub is the most versatile lure of all time. Thread a white 2″ grub onto a 1/16 Oz. jig head and your game for Crappies, Perch, and Large Bluegills. Use a 3″ grub on a 1/8 Oz. to coax Bass, Walleye and Trout. Cast it out and jig off of the bottom, or let the curly tail swim on a steady retrieve. If you have a weedy area, these work great under a Slip Bobber Rig set right above the vegetation.
In-line Spinners for Trout
Tie on a 1/8 Oz. In-line spinner (#1 or #2 Blade) like an Aglia or a Vibrax. Use silver blades for clear water, gold blade for stained water. Toss the spinner out and let it fall near bottom. Start a steady retrieve back so you cover the whole water column. The right speed will send the blade spinning to mimic a baitfish. This vibration sparks the interest on the Trout’s lateral lines and offers flash to call in roaming fish.
Quick Fishing Trips are a Great Start
These are the beginner fishing tackle essentials, a handful of tried and true methods for lake fishing at thousands of cabins. The focus of this article is to deliver the bare bones of fishing and to get you out on the water this weekend. As you progress, the challenges grow as large as your trophies. Becoming a master angler requires experience in advanced strategies and techniques. These strategies deliver above average fishing trips through practice and personal development. That journey is beyond rewarding and you should be excited. So go and get started a bucket full of Panfish and some smiling kids.