There are many people out there who want to learn to fish, and many who have been fishing for years, who have questions about the right tackle. One of the most-asked questions is…What should I get to fish with?

Every guide knows that the success of a fisherman who hires him depends to a great extent on whether or not he can use what he has properly. I can take you fishing, but you have to make the lure land where it should, and do what it should in the water.

We’ll take it on a species by species bass. If you want to catch bass, you need to learn to use an open faced casting reel, and it needs to hold relatively heavy line. I use some of those casting reels for bigger bass on reservoirs, and fish with plastic baits. For those I use heavier line and stronger rods.

When you are fishing in lakes for larger bass, one perhaps eight or10 pounds, you need 14 pound line, minimum. Heavier line stretches less, so it is easier to set a large hook in the bony jaw of a big bass or walleye or catfish with the heavier line.

If I want to fish a stream for big smallmouth, I might want to go with a more limber rod, a little shorter because of the restrictions of overhanging limbs when I am casting, and lighter line, perhaps eight or ten pound test. And some smallmouth fishermen would argue that they prefer spinning gear with line only six pounds. I use that, too, of course, when I’m fishing smaller lures. You can’t effectively fish large crankbaits, large spinner baits, buzz baits and big topwater lures with a light spinning reel.

Heavy spinning reels can be used for heavy fish, of course, with stronger line and stiffer rods. Up north they go for trout and walleye of considerable size with heavy spinning gear and 10 to 12-pound line. But here in the Ozarks, my spinning reels are used for lighter fish, smaller lures with lighter line. Casting reels should be used with lures and weights of 3/8 ounce or larger. Light spinning reels should be used with lures smaller than 1/4 ounce.

No, you can’t effectively cast a little quarter ounce jig with an open faced casting reel and 12 or 14-pound line. Fishermen learn with experience that a jig falls in the water in direct proportion to the diameter of the line. With four-pound line, a small jig drops much faster than it will with eight-pound line That’s why crappie fishermen like the spinning reels with light line For crappie, use a light, limber little rod which helps you feel a slight tap, and gives you a fight out of a fish that doesn’t resist all that hard, and doesn’t take a strong hook-set.

I use medium spinning gear and six-pound line for white bass when they are hefty, the three- or four-pound specimens not found often. Most of the time, when I am fishing a spring spawning run for whites that only average a pound, I want four-pound line on a light spinning rod. If I am going to fish for hybrids or stripers, I want to use heavy casting gear, and if the stripers are big enough, strong rods and 14- or 20-pound line. Same thing for big catfish when using live bait.

When I go to Canada to fish for smallmouth, muskies, largemouth or northerns, I use casting gear and strong line 10 to 14 pounds. Sometimes, just for kicks I fish for smallmouth in Canada lakes with light action spinning tackle and six-pound line. For walleyes that are usually less than four pounds, I use that same gear, but heavier spinning gear for lakes which have six- or eight-pound walleye. The thing about walleyes is, they usually are found in unobstructed waters up there, and they aren’t going to run away from you. They usually stay deep and under you. Big bass don’t do that, they find something to get around, and you have to horse them a little.

But though I often fish with the heavy casting gear and catch bigger fish with it, I just love to fish with an ultralight spinning outfit, and four-pound line for smaller fish; trout, white bass and crappie, even goggle-eye and bluegill. Sometimes in the summer, I like to find a cool shoal on an Ozark river late in the afternoon and cast a small floating minnow-type lure for smallmouth from 10- to 15-inches long. What fun that is on the light tackle. Of course, sometimes an 18- or 20-inch bruiser takes your lure and leaves you wishing you had a heavier outfit.

It is wise to stay away from push-button spin-casting reels if you want to become a serious fisherman. I guess they are o.k. for kids, or inexperienced fishermen who won’t go very often, and with a really small youngster that’s only five or six years old that’s what you begin them on. But start a youngster that is 10 or 12 years old learning to cast the better tackle, and you’ll be glad you did.

Well, I am taking a variety of tackle up to Canada this spring to spend some time out on a peaceful little lake where there will be no motors to be heard, and no other fishermen to be seen. I don’t know if I will catch anything impressive, but I know I’m going to eat fish ‘til I am sick of it. And there, where you can see the northern lights and hear wolves howling and loons wailing, I intend to listen to the voice of the Creator, who is so hard to hear over the T.V. sets and the politicians, the roar of traffic and the din of civilization.

I do not intend to sound sacrilegious, but on occasion, there in Canada’s wilderness, I have heard Him whisper…”Throw a topwater lure in along that weed-bed, there’s a big northern there!” There are other things I hear of course, but that’s between the two of us. You will find that if you get off away from all of man’s mess,  into the woodlands or along an isolated stream, God has things to say to you as well. But do not listen with your ears, you must listen with your heart and soul.

Write to me at Box 22, Bolivar, mo. 65613 or email The website is larrydablemontoutdoors.