If you’ve never been before, there’s no shame in getting advice from a veteran, be that friends with whom you’ll be fishing or the grizzled expert at your local Cabela’s.
Don’t waste money on the shiniest thing you can find. Take some time to learn about the gear you’re going to buy, and make sure that you’re taking any salesman’s advice with a grain of salt.
Rod and Reel: The rod probably isn’t going to last forever, but you should buy a quality reel that will. What type of fishing will you be doing? Freshwater? Deep sea fishing? Saltwater coast fishing? Different fish and different conditions will put different demands on your gear. There are two things you want to look for in a rod: weight and bend. The weight of a rod affects how easy it is to cast, and a more flexible rod makes it easier to detect bites. You’ll also want to make sure that your rod and line can handle the weight of the fish you’re likely to be reeling in. Check the weight limits on both.
Tackle: Tackle includes all the little gear that you use when fishing (weights, hooks, lures, etc). If fishing becomes a lifelong hobby for you, you’ll likely amass a collection of lures, floats, bite-indicators and other little tools that can help you along. But for your first excursion, you’ll want a few floats, at least two different sets of hooks, some weights (to prevent drift in moving water) and maybe a few lures, specific to the type of fish you want to catch. Don’t be afraid to ask an expert at your sporting goods store for advice on tackle for the type of fish you’re going after and the conditions where you’ll be fishing.
Bait: Different fish are attracted to different bait, and some bait prep can get complicated, especially if you’re saltwater fishing with crab or float mackerel, for instance. Again, here is a good place to get some advice from an experienced angler.
Small cooler: Fish that have sat in the sun for hours are no good, and unless you’re a catch-and-release fisherman, you’ll need a place to store them. For small fish, a small to mid-sized cooler should be enough to keep them fresh until you get home. Larger catch might require you to clean them on the boat and pack them in ice on a bigger cooler. Knife: Nobody should head outdoors without a good, sharp knife. Make it sharp, make sure the grip is secure (even when it’s wet), and maybe make sure you can open it one-handed.
Hat and Sunscreen:The sun is going to take its toll on you, and if it’s cold, you’ll be glad for the warmth. You can get sun-burnt no matter what time of year it is. Save your skin and put on some sunscreen.
First aid kit: This is another must-have for camping and fishing. Make sure your first-aid kit has sterile dressings and gauze for big cuts, disinfectant, waterproof bandages for small scrapes and some medical tape. Most important for a fisherman: a sturdy pair of wire-cutters and pliers. They need to be sterile, and used just for removing hooks from thumbs and fingers. Do yourself a favor and learn how to remove a hook before you’re in that situation.