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Teaching the First-Time Angler

Editor's Note: Shaw Grigsby, a tournament bass fisherman from Gainesville, Florida, and a member of the Strike King Pro Staff, competes on many of the national bass-fishing circuits and hosts the television show "One More Cast." One of only four anglers to have won over $1 million in B.A.S.S. career earnings - ranking 4th on B.A.S.S. all time money list - Grigsby has had nine BASS Masters Classic appearances and eight wins. This week he shares a few of his most unusual bass-fishing tactics and answers some of the industry's most-asked questions.

Question: If you were going to teach a first-time fisherman how to fish, what equipment would you suggest that a beginner use?

Grigsby: If you're going to take somebody and teach them how to fish - first time out - I don't know if I'll buy the most-expensive equipment. If the beginner has an interest and a passion for fishing, then go ahead, and buy the best. If you know they're planning to fish for the rest of their lives, then definitely purchase good equipment. However, if this individual is just trying fishing out to see if they like it, then I'll pick up a Zebco 33, which is just a solid spincast with a great reel. Anybody can cast and catch a lot of fish with this rod and reel.

Whatever brand you choose, just get a decent graphite rod. They're very inexpensive nowadays. If you get a good graphite rod - about a 6-foot medium-action rod - it will allow the beginner to use a lot of different techniques and baits. You can even go up to 6 feet, 6 inches, if you plan to do a lot of worm fishing and pitching and stuff like that. So that's probably the equipment I'll get.

Get the rod filled with some good line, too. Probably the weakest link you have when fishing is your fishing line. Your rods are graphite, your hooks and reels are steel, and your baits are pretty strong. The weakest thing you have is that fishing line. So make sure you get a quality fishing line that will hold up in various fishing conditions. Bass like to hang around cover, which is going to braid your line. They like rocks, brush, junk and garbage so they can hide and blend into the environment because they ambush their predators. So make sure you have good fishing line.

Altogether, If I were helping a new angler learn to fish, I'd probably get a solid spin-cast rod and reel, put some good line on it and start off with a little Strike King crankbait. I recommend a Series 1 or a Series 3, depending on the time of year and the depth you want to fish. Just take the crankbait, and throw it out there. The bait is very simple to throw out and reel back in. You can also use the Diamond Shad. It's a great bait, especially for beginners. But I prefer to start new anglers with a Series 1, a Series 3 or even the Bitsy Pond minnow. Use something that you know the fish will hit - whether it's a bluegill, a crappie, a largemouth or a smallmouth. Once the new angler starts catching fish, he or she will have a great time and realize what a great sport fishing is.

Question: How can new anglers learn how to fish if they have no one around who can teach them?

Grigsby: That's a really tough situation, because having a partner is always the best way to learn how to fish. I remember when I was kid, one of my best buddies just loved fishing. We went fishing all the time. Anytime we planned our weekends, my parents or his parents would drop us off at a lake or a pond, and we'd fish all day until they came to pick us up. Nowadays you really can't do that with kids because there are too many criminals out there. But in those days it was nothing to be able to just go out and spend the entire day learning about fishing. However, if you don't have that kind of opportunity, you can find many informative books on fishing.

There's also the Bassmaster University, where you can take your child and yourself and learn about everything from tying knots to knowing how, when, where and what to do in various fishing situations. Another effective way to learn how to fish is through a bass club. Local bass clubs are wonderful sources for sharing information about bass fishing. Some of the clubs are very competitive, and they don't like to share a lot. These clubs are very, very good if you want to become a professional fisherman. But you can always check with the B.A.S.S. Federation or your local tackle store and ask them if they know of good clubs around your area. They usually can tell you because most parts of the country have more than one bass club. You can find a Christian club. If you don't want to fish on Sundays, Christian clubs will always have their tournaments on Saturdays. You can also find family clubs, his-and-her clubs and clubs that are very serious about their fishing.

Question: Once new anglers have gotten all the tactics down and want to purchase a boat, what should they buy?

Grigsby: I started out wade fishing, and then I fished out of an innertube (called fishing floats back then). Next I got a little johnboat, and then I bought a small bass boat. I've been through a lot of boats, and I guess the progression was based on where my interest level was and what I planned to do with my fishing. Many people have a lot of money and they run out and buy a brand new $30,000 Triton TR 21 with 225 Mercury on it. That's wonderful, and if that's where you want to be, you can do that. But honestly, if you love fishing, and you really enjoy getting out on a lake, I suggest something smaller. Get yourself a 16- or an 18-foot aluminum boat. This type of boat will get you acclimated to the water without hurting you.

New anglers need to realize that there's a learning curve with those big bass boats. When you first learn to drive a car, you don't go out and buy a Ferrari. You learn to drive first, get all the things down and then trade in the cheaper version for a nicer car. The same thing goes for bass boats. So, start off kind of small first, and get a good aluminum boat that you can hit into a dock and not worry about. Your first boat should be one that you can drive up on a rock and think, "Ooops. I messed-up, but I didn't do any damage to the aluminum." I just got a Triton 1650, which is 16-feet long, 50-inches wide and tougher than nails. It's a great little boat that my son will enjoy.