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A Fishing Question

By Bob Jensen - November 5, 2021
For this angler, unless an unexpected fishing opportunity presents itself, the open water season for 2021 is over. From personal experiences and conversations with other anglers, it was another very good fishing season. Fishing in many places continues to improve, for several reasons.

Due to aggressive fisheries management, in many bodies of water there are more fish and bigger fish.

Access to fishing information, both where to go and how to catch'em once you get there, is more abundant. And although some of the information out there isn't real accurate or even honest, much of it is very helpful.

Lastly, the equipment that we have access to is outstanding and getting better. Sonar equipment has become so effective at revealing fish. Boats have become more like living rooms, and motors are quieter, more reliable, and more fuel efficient.

These are all good things. However, I've been getting a question more often than in the past regarding the equipment that is available to anglers. The question is often worded differently, but the gist is the same: "Do I really need all that expensive stuff to catch some fish?" My responses are also usually worded differently, but again, the gist is the same: "Absolutely not!" You don't need all that expensive stuff to catch fish and have a good time. Here's what I mean.

Fishing guide Joe Honer caught this walleye from a small boat on a small lake on a windy day in northeast South Dakota. We caught lots of walleyes and had a very good time.
Let's start with sonar. Today's sonar units are so sensitive that they'll display individual fish, and some anglers believe they can identify the species of fish that they're seeing on the sonar, and I believe that they can. Those anglers, mostly tournament anglers, will spend a significant amount of time trying to catch that single fish. I recently saw a photo of a tournament angler's boat that had four big screen sonar units on the bow and three on the console. That's extreme, and for most of use not necessary or practical. Most anglers who fish from a boat have a depth-finder on the bow and another on the console. That set-up will do the job very well for most of us. Even for guys who make their living fishing.

How about boats? Today's boats enable us to go to off-shore locations on windy days that we couldn't have gone to a few years ago. But if you've got a smaller boat and you don't feel comfortable going out too far on a windy day, find an area out of the wind and go after a different species that might be in the calmer area. Or go to a smaller lake. Or put the waders or old tennis shoes on and fish along a river bank. Most anglers have very fond memories of fishing along a river bank. I know I do. Just don't not go fishing because your boat isn't big enough.

Last thing. Equipment. Rods and reels and lures and such are so much better today than they were when I first started fishing. With the increase in quality and inflation comes an increase in price. An angler can easily assemble a rod/reel combo that costs five hundred dollars. Or more. That angler will have an outstanding set-up. But it's certainly not necessary to spend that much and still have a very, very serviceable rod and reel to fish with. While fishing with a friend who has all the best stuff, he let me use his five hundred dollar rod and reel. It was very nice. It was lightweight, super-sensitive, and strong: A very nice rod and reel. But even though I have access to that sort of set-up, I'm going to get a less expensive combo and use the money saved to buy some lures or bait or gas for the next fishing trip. Or I might waste the saved money and apply it to the mortgage on the house.

As anglers, we're very fortunate to have all the options on equipment that we have. We can have really, really nice stuff, or we can have really nice stuff. I hope that I explained effectively to my friend's questions about "needing all that expensive equipment to go fishing." Put as simply as I can: You don't.

Author Bob Jensen
Bob Jensen
Bob Jensen is the host of the Fishing the Midwest television series, a series of television fishing shows that highlight fishing locations and techniques throughout the Midwest. He also writes a syndicated fishing column and does fishing seminars throughout the Midwest. He is a former fishing guide and tournament angler. Visit Bob's web site at
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