Fairfax County, Virginia


Dan Grulke,
FCPA Fishing Coordinator

How to Shop for Fishing Tackle (Part 1)

By Dan Grulke

How do I know what type of fishing equipment to purchase? Do I need an expensive fishing rod? What is the best fishing reel to get? The purpose of this article will be to answer some of these questions to simplify things for your fishing needs.

The proper fishing equipment is mostly based on the types of waters and fish you will be trying to catch. A previous article, “Preparing for Fishing Season 2021,” talks about research. The first step is to identify what species of fish you want to catch. Once this is determined, a person can then select the rod, reel, line and proper lures to use.

Smaller species of fish generally feed on smaller food items. Therefore, rods that are more flexible and capable of casting smaller lures are more productive. In addition, smaller diameter line casts lighter weight and smaller lures more efficiently. So a smaller-sized reel is best.

Large species of fish generally eat bigger food items, so you would need a stiffer fishing rod to cast heavier lures, and a larger reel to hold larger diameter line that is stronger for catching bigger fish.

For most cases, an expensive fishing rod is not needed for most fishing situations. The two areas where I would suggest investing in expensive fishing gear is for competitive anglers (tournaments), fishing guides or people fishing several times a week.

For the purpose of this article, we will be focusing on the beginning or moderate interest angler.

For the beginning angler, I suggest using less expensive equipment until you have learned how to properly care and use your fishing equipment and until you have decided if this is a long-term hobby or a passing phase.

This helps ease the pain when you break a rod (until you learn what not to do and how to handle fishing rods) and if you decide you don’t like fishing and your interests are elsewhere. There is not a lot of money tied up in your fishing gear.

If your desire for fishing increases, or you decide that this is a long-term hobby, then I suggest buying the best equipment you can afford. It has been my experience that research, proper fishing techniques, proper lure selection, and fishing line are far more important for catching fish than a $30 fishing rod vs. a $100 fishing rod. However make no mistake, there is a huge difference in the performance of a $30-$40 fishing rod compared to the fishing rods costing upward of $150.

When I first started fishing, I always spent more on my fishing rods than on my reels. Forty years later, I am still spending more money on my fishing rods than on my reels. I still purchase the highest reels I can afford but when on a fixed budget, I tend to spend more on the fishing rod and spend less on the reel.

Like all fishing equipment (and most material items), the more a reel costs generally, the more efficient and effective it is. High-priced reels are less likely to break, generally have better “drag” systems (used when fighting large fish), and in the case of baitcasting reels, are able to cast the lightest lures and the heaviest lures (more flexible). For me the rod, line and lure are the key aspects of catching a fish. In this line of thought, I spend less on the reel knowing I will have to replace it every two years.

The key points in this article are to spend what you are comfortable with, research your target fish to select your equipment, and that higher-priced gear does have a significant advantage less expensive gear.

Dan Grulke is the Fishing Coordinator for the Fairfax County Park Authority. He has lived in Northern Virginia for all but five years of his life. He has been fishing locally, in other states and in other countries for 40 years. He has previously been a freshwater fishing guide on the Susquehanna River and Upper Potomac River for eight years. Although he currently is not a guide, he enjoys introducing others to the sport of fishing. You can contact Dan at


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