Budget Bass Fishing Brings Big-time Rewards


There’s a buzz phrase making its way through the angling fraternity: “Whoever dies with the most stuff wins.”

I do not.

It wouldn’t be difficult to wrap up a great deal of money in fishing tackle under the false assumption of “needing all of this,” but often, you don’t. This doesn’t mean that an angler should not have all of the necessary fishing tackle and extras he or she wants. But there are ways of accumulating an amount of equipment without having to mortgage the old hacienda.

One way to do this is what I like to call becoming “bargain conscious.” Just as there are certain seasons of the year when bass are easier to catch, there are times of the year when expensive tackle is bargain priced. And now is one of those times. Many stores are clearing the shelves of last year’s inventory and still have a large inventory of long rods ready to go on sale at sharply reduced prices. Years ago I found a very good 6 1/2-foot spinning rod/reel combo with an original $49.95 price tag marked down to $9.95 for the whole outfit. I immediately bought it and it has become my favorite stream smallmouth outfit. If there had been more of these items in the store I’d have bought at least one more.

Since I no longer competitively fish bass tournaments, I probably could do at least 50 percent of my bass fishing with a Zebco 33 Reel. They’re still inexpensive and are easy to use. When matched with good 8- or 10-pound-test line they can adequately handle the bulk of an angler’s fishing chores. Plus, for a kid’s first reel, they are hard to beat.

Conventional wisdom holds that you get what you pay for. And since a fisherman’s line is the most vital link between him and his quarry, it then behooves him to choose good line. For everyday pond angling I choose good, but inexpensive monofilament line. All brands I’ve bought have performed well and I cannot recall losing a fish due to line failure. For more serious angling up in the Canadian Northwoods or intense river smallmouth fishing, I’ll usually stick with Berkley FireLine, which is a tough line with zero stretch. I purchase this line in bulk spools to cut down on costs. Once again, now is when many retailers will have spring sales.

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Some of the most dramatic cost increases in the past several years have been with fishing lures with prices running anywhere from $4 or $5 up to $30. I’m more hesitant now to use my best lures for fear of losing them. This is not a good situation, and several years ago I found at least a partial solution—I’d make some of them myself.

Years ago, I went into the old Netcraft store in Maumee and purchased a wire-bending device for making inline spinners. I’m not a mechanically inclined person. So, believe me when I tell you that operating this little device is quite simple. Also, by purchasing brass lure bodies in bulk and then painting them in my garage, purchasing clevises and swivels by the bagful and scrounging glass beads from any old jewelry or broken kids’ toys, I now have enough components to make many years worth of lures.

Actually, this is a pretty good project for any DIY fisherman or for a father-son/daughter team who wants to have some fun together. Personally, I derive a great deal of satisfaction from catching many species on my homemade lures.

Perhaps one of the most overlooked methods of saving money is by gathering your own bait. Big, juicy nightcrawlers exist almost anywhere there is green grass. Just put on some boots and take a flashlight and an old coffee can in the backyard on a warm spring night after a gentle rain and pick up dozens of worms. Just be sure to put them in bedding where they’ll be able to live longer and be kept cool. I store mine in an old refrigerator in my basement, and when properly handled, they remain alive for many months. If you have any doubts about the best way to handle them check with a live-bait dealer or go online.

By being observant and choosing wisely, an angler should be able to save enough cash to put some more gas in the truck and drive to that special spot a little farther away where the big ones are waiting.