You want to become an angler, but where do you begin? Below you’ll find information on all the basic fishing gear you’ll need to get started.

The Fishing Outfit

Fishing outfit is just another word for fishing gear. If there’s one basic rule to buying fishing gear, it’s that you need to match the size and strength of your equipment to the size and strength of the fish you intend to catch.

If you’re not sure what equipment you need, talk to someone with fishing experience, or drop in at a tackle shop and tell the staff you’re looking to get started.

The basic fishing outfit includes four things:

  • A Rod
  • A Reel
  • Fishing line
  • Lure or bait

Sounds like a lot of gear, but you don’t actually have to spend a ton of money to get started.

Choosing a Reel

Spincasting, spinning, baitcasting, fly-fishing, downrigging and trolling — there are numerous styles of fishing, each requiring its own specific kind of equipment.

Since the two most popular and easiest to learn methods of fishing are spincasting and spinning, we recommend you start out with a spincasting or spinning reel.

Benefits of Spincasting Reels Benefits of Spinning Reels
Work well for fish up to 10 lb. Highly versatile and durable
Inexpensive and easy to learn Allow accurate, long casts
Good for preventing tangles Most popular reel type in Canada

Choosing a Fishing Rod

Things to Consider
Rod length A rule of thumb is that your rod should be approximately six inches longer than your height.
Rod action The action of a rod refers to its flexibility. For beginners, a medium-action rod is recommended.
Line guides Look for a rod with at least 5-7 line guides. Ceramic line guides are preferable to stainless steel, as stainless steel guides can develop unwanted grooves.
Handle This is a matter of preference, although many people prefer cork handles to rubber because cork tends to be more durable.

You can get a decent quality spincast rod and reel for as little as $50. A decent quality spinning outfit will cost you around $60-$70.

Choosing Fishing Line

Once you’ve finally got a fish on the hook, the last thing you want is for the line to break. To prevent this from happening, match the strength of your fishing line to the size of fish you’re going to catch.

Fishing line strength is measured in what’s called “pounds test,” which is the breaking point of line when weight is added. For example, a 10 lb. test line will break when 10 lb. of direct pressure are applied to it.

The following chart outlines the appropriate line strength for some of Alberta’s most popular game fish. Your local tackle retailer should be able to offer you further advice if required.

Species Line Strength
Rainbow Trout 6-10 lb. test
Brook Trout 2-6 lb. test
Lake Trout 6-10 lb. test
Walleye 6-8 lb. test

Additional tips:

  • Use heavier lines if you are fishing in heavy weeds, among rocks, logs or stumps.
  • Use lighter line if you are fishing in very clear waters, as it is harder for fish to see.

Learn more about the different types of fish you can catch in Alberta:


Choosing Lures

A lure is a tool for attracting fish and tricking them into doing something not very smart (from their perspective): biting onto your hook. There are three categories of lure, each defined according to the depth at which it is meant to be fished.

Three Categories of Lure
Surface Lures: Intended to be fished on, or near, the surface of the water.
Shallow-water Lures: Intended to be fished no more than 5-6 feet below the surface.
Deep-water Lures: Intended to sink deep and work best at or near bottom.

To start, try buying a selection of 2-3 of each of these kinds of lure. Then buy more once you’ve got some experience with what works.

Odds and Ends

Besides your rod, reel, line and bait, there are a few other things you should always have handy when fishing:

  • Needle-nose pliers for removing hooks
  • Nail clippers for cutting line
  • A sharp filet knife for cleaning fish
  • Sunscreen and insect repellent

The Bait Debate: What You Should Know

Fish tend to swallow baited hooks deeper than unbaited ones. The deeper a hook is swallowed, the more likely it is to cause a fish to die. While many areas have restrictions disallowing the use of bait, anglers are encouraged to voluntarily use unbaited lures. That way we can support healthy fish populations and enjoy fishing for many years to come.

Information on bait restrictions is available in the Alberta Guide to Sportfishing Regulations:

The content of this webpage was adapted from Catch Fishing! Your Basic “How To” Guide to Fishing in Canada (4th ed., 2008) by Rick Armsbury, published by the Canadian National Sportfishing Foundation. This publication includes a wealth of fishing information and is available for download:

Updated: Nov 27, 2014