Fishing on the Cheap

By Ted Takasaki and Scott Richardson
Ted Takasaki with a beautiful sunfish caught on a 1/16-ounce Lindy Fuzz-E-Grub, an all-time great panfish jig that will catch fish for you from shore or in a boat. Follow Ted’s ideas and you’ll find great fishing fun even when money is tight.

Even if the economic downturn has its fangs into you, there is still a lot of fishing fun that can be fit into your budget. If money is tight, consider it a chance to return to the basics that drew you to fishing in the first place. At its core, fishing is one of the most inexpensive ways to have a great time with your friends and family.

One of the strongest assets of angling is that it’s accessible. Never mind the high cost of gasoline or the increasing price of a motel room. Everyone has a pond, reservoir, lake or river close to home that holds good numbers and sizes of fish. Conservation agencies publish fishing booklets every year that give a list of the state-managed waters and what species swim in them. A check on the Internet will give you more leads. Modify your tactics to catch whatever fish are most numerous and offer the most opportunities for that location and time of year.

You really don’t need to spend a fortune on the biggest boat on the market. Check out the more inexpensive models. A Lund Wilderness Series or Jon Boat with a small 9.9 hp Mercury Pro Kicker is an extremely affordable option. Just be careful to pick out a body of water that can be safely navigated with a smaller boat. Find out where the ramps are, and trailer the boat from one ramp to the next, and the next, to move to new areas, rather than making long runs that eat up time and gasoline and could put you in harm’s way if the weather turns sour. Good spots near the ramps are often overlooked by anglers in a hurry to get somewhere else.

Here’s a novel idea. Don’t use a boat at all. Shore anglers are very successful no matter what time of year. Get a hydrographic map of the location and seek out the spots where you can target the structures within casting distance of land. Many parks have built-in fishing platforms and have sunk cover, such as Christmas trees or fish cribs, to attract fish within range.

Rocky bridge rip rap often holds fish. In spring and fall, feeder rivers and creeks at reservoirs and lakes are the places to be. Look for hiking trails running along the streams and rivers that will lead you upstream to walleyes, white bass, and/or panfish that head upstream to spawn or to chase baitfish, like shad, which are drawn to warm water.

Hot-water discharges at power plants are killer places to fish from shore, too. Heading farther from home? Take a buddy or two to share expenses. Uncle Billy and Cousin Bobby can all of a sudden be the best of friends.

For ice fishing, that same map you bought for $10 can lead you to the structures that reach to the deepest parts of the lake or reservoir. The ones with the steepest drop-offs are usually best for predators like walleyes. Check maps of rivers looking for the bends and holes of backwaters that hold fish.

Large investments aren’t needed to target hard water. The biggest price tag on something you absolutely must have is a hand auger available for $50 or so. Don’t get one with more than a 6-inch blade. You’ll be wasting energy cutting big holes you don’t need.

Buy a medium action rod or two and use spring bobbers to detect light bites. Buy springs or snatch them from disposable cigarette lighters. You can also invest in small Thill bobbers and bobber stops. Regardless, you haven’t spent $100 yet. A handful of jigs and a spoon or two and you’re set to go after you spend a couple of dollars on wax worms or minnows. A 5-gallon bucket holds everything from gear to your catch and gives you a place to sit.

A sonar unit and an underwater camera are nice, but you can get by with the topo map and a depth-finder sinker that clips to your hook.

Open water gear can be inexpensive, too. Rod and reel combinations that work well can be purchased for $30 to $50. Taking kids with you? Don’t waste money on Snoopy rigs. Get them decent gear to start with so they don’t get frustrated by the problems cheap stuff can cause.

Slip bobbering is a great tactic for most species. Merely adjust the size of the hook and the size of the float to match your bait and the size of fish you’re after. Cast to the inside edge of weed lines or check the park maps to see where the hidden cover is located. Set the bait to float just over it.

Get the kids involved before you head out by spending a fun night wetting the garden or the yard with a hose and then take the flashlight out to dig up some juicy – and free – nightcrawlers.

If you buy minnows, let the kids play with them. Put one of the first legal panfish you catch in the bucket and let them check on it. Take time to explore the shore for things of interest, like insects.

The next time you go fishing you’ve got everything you need but the bait. The more you use the gear, the cheaper it becomes on a trip-by-trip basis.

Fishing on the cheap can lead to time with friends and family that are priceless. Cash in on the fun.

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