Basic tackle will catch fish

A spinning reel is easy to use and suitable for most fishing in Arkansas.
(Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Bryan Hendricks)
A spinning reel is easy to use and suitable for most fishing in Arkansas. (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Bryan Hendricks)

High-technology has taken over the fishing industry, but you don't need high tech to catch fish.

If you want to enjoy a sport that's available to every Arkansan, you can catch plenty of fish and enjoy plenty of excitement using basic low-tech methods. Tournament anglers use the most advanced rods, reels, line, lures, hooks, and electronic graphs available. Even so, the average weight to win a tournament has not changed much since in the decades since tournaments went to a five-fish format.

Here's another thing. Anglers lose as many fish to break-offs as they ever did. You will want better gear as you advance in your fishing journey, but in the beginning, start simple.


To fish lures and bait, a spinning reel is the standard for freshwater and saltwater fishing. It is very forgiving to use and is immune to backlashing.

However, a spinning reel feeds line out perpendicular to the rod, creating a tendency to twist line. This eventually will cause your line to snarl and become unusable. To combat this eventuality, start a trip by feeding most of your line into the water behind a boat at very slow speed and drag it a short distance. The line will unfurl and return to its proper orientation. If you are fishing in a stream, you can accomplish this by feeding your line into the current and letting it untwist for a few minutes.

Spinning reels come in different sizes. Crappie fishermen and trout fishermen prefer small reels in the 1000 size. These reels have small spools, small gears and small drags. They are suitable for line between 2- and 6-pound test. You can move up the size scale to handle heavier line all the way to big saltwater reels in the 5000 class.

Braided line, which gives you high-test strength in a small-diameter thread, allows you to fight and land big fish with small reels. Big reels hold more line and have stronger drags, which allow you to fight big fish that run hard. Conceivably, a 1000 series reel with braided line and a large-diameter, high-test leader can handle a 30-pound striped bass, but that fish can also strip all of the line off a small reel.

Most spinning reels have drag knobs on the front of the spool. Practice working the drag. It will help you land fish.

Shimano and Lew's make smooth, high-quality reels. Most fishing guides prefer Shimano. Penn is the standard for "big game" reels.


A baitcasting or levelwind reel feeds line parallel to the rod. It doesn't twist line inherently, but lures that spin twist line. You can alleviate this by using a swivel. Again, you can untwist line by trailing it behind a boat or in current.

Baitcasting reels have two distinct advantages over spinning reels. They can hold much heavier line, and they are faster. Completing a cast with a spinning reel requires closing the bail to stop a lure's forward progress. It's a time-consuming two-step process. Stopping forward progress with a baitcaster requires merely moving the handle forward to lock the spool.

This matters when flipping jigs or worms into cover and for casting topwater lures. When you flip a lure into cover, a fish often bites it immediately. The split second it takes to close a spinning reel bail is enough time for a fish to dart into cover and break your line. A baitcaster eliminates the lag.

Strikes on topwater lures often occur immediately, as well. The lure should be moving at full speed the instant it hits the water, without going. It should not go underwater. Unless you are really fast, a topwater lure or a buzzbait cast on a spinning reel will sink before it begins moving. It will travel a long way, often out of the strike zone, before it surfaces. That gives a fish a long time to follow it and examine it before turning away.

With a baitcaster, the lure can move full speed the instant it gets wet. That provokes reaction strikes that you won't get with a delayed action.

This also occurs because baitcasting reels take up line faster than spinning reels, another reason why baitcasting reels are better than spinning for wrestling fish out of cover.


For most bass fishing, a 6-foot, 6-inch rod with medium power will suffice for most situations. It is strong enough to handle snook and redfish in the Gulf of Mexico, so it's more than adequate for largemouth bass, smallmouth bass and striped bass in Arkansas.

A rod's power describes a rod's lifting power, and it is closely related to line strength. The rod will be labeled light, medium-light, medium, medium-heavy and heavy.

A rod's action describes how much a rod bends when you put pressure on the tip. A slow action rod bends a lot. It's good for fighting big, strong fish. Most bass rods have fast actions because they are more sensitive, allowing for quicker hooksets.

With experience, you will learn more precisely the type of rod that suits you best.

Get a spinning rod for a spinning reel and a baitcasting rod for a baitcasting reel. A spinning reel has guides that reduce in diameter from reel to tip. The guides nearest the reel are very wide and elevate high off the rod.

Baitcasting rods have small-diameter guides that sit close to the rod.


To catch bass in Arkansas, you need only a few types of lures and tackle. A soft plastic worm is great for fishing on the bottom. The easiest and most effective way to rig a worm is Texas style. The hook point is buried in the body of the worm. A bullet style weight rides sits against the worm head. You can peg the weight to the line with the end of a toothpick to keep it stationary.

A Texas-rigged worm is snag resistant. Move it slowly in or around cover. Watermelon with red flake is a versatile color.

A crankbait is a wood or plastic lure shaped like a fish. A crankbait with a short, steep lip is designed to run 3-5 feet under the surface. A lure with a long lip at a gentle angle is made to dive deeper. In the spring, a crankbait with red, yellow and chartreuse can be very effective. Models painted to look like crawfish are good, too.

Cast it and reel it. A lot of strikes come when you bounce it off a rock or tree.

A stickbait is similar to a crankbait, except that it is long and slender. The most effective presentation is to make it dart and dive by jerking your rod downward in short, violent jabs. Stickbaits are also very effective when trolled behind a boat.

Topwater lures provoke strikes by making a commotion on the surface. They make noise while throwing water. It is a great way to cover a lot of water quickly. Topwater is also the most fun way to catch fish because the strikes are so violent and dramatic.

These lures reproduce rapidly. If you buy just one of each, it won't be long before you have a lot of each.

Upcoming Events