How To Set Up A Fishing Pole

New to fishing and ready to learn how to set up your new fishing pole to catch some bass? Well you're in the right place. In this guide we'll walk you through the steps for setting up a fishing pole for bass fishing. By the end you'll be ready to rig up a worm and make your first cast!

As a beginner, it is a good idea to start with the basics. There are tons of different rods and reels on the market but a spinning rod and reel combo is a good fishing pole for someone new to fishing altogether. However, if you're determined to, or you've already purchased a baitcaster because that's what you see all the pro's use, all is not lost. Baitcasters simply have more moving parts and take a bit more practice to master, but they open up a lot of fun ways to catch more bass!

Regardless of the fishing pole combo you're starting out with, the process for setting them up is mostly the same, just make sure you matched the type of rod and reel properly. A baitcaster matches with a casting rod, and a spinning reel matches with a spinning rod.

Identifying The Parts Of A Fishing Pole

Before we move forward with actually setting up your first rod and reel, it will help to learn a bit about the different parts of a fishing pole.

The Reel

A fishing reel is the part of a fishing pole that is used to store fishing line. It is attached to the fishing rod and used to cast the line out into the water and retrieve your lure and fish.

There are many types of fishing reels available on the market today, but for bass fishermen the most common are the spinning reels and baitcasting reels. While they each function mechanically differently, they possess many of the same components that work together to cast and retrieve a lure.

Spool - A cylindrical device used to store the fishing line.

Handle - The part that, when turned by hand, rotates the internal gearing causing the fishing line to be retrieved.

Bail or Button - A sort of clutch that prevents the fishing line from leaving the spool. On spinning reels, the bail (the c-shaped piece of metal on top) also helps keep the line in place to prevent tangling.

Drag - When rotated, the drag tensioner increases or decreases the amount of force necessary to pull the line off the spool while the internal clutch is engaged. Some drag systems create a clicking sound when turned. On a spinning reel, the drag tensioner is the dial located on top of the reel, while on a baitcaster the drag tensioner is the star-shaped component on the side of the reel next to the handle.

Reel Seat - The real seat is the plate that protrudes from the backside of the reel and attaches to the reel mount area of a fishing rod.

The Rod

Fishing rods are typically made from graphite, fiberglass, or composite materials (a mix of fiberglass and graphite), and are designed to be lightweight and durable. There are thousands of different rods on the market today featuring different levels of sensitivity, rod action, power, and intended lure weights.

Rod Line Guides - Rod guides are the small metal rings attached down the length of the rod starting near the reel and ending at the tip that help guide the fishing line while casting and retrieving. Baitcaster reels require a casting rod that features similarly sized line guides located on the top side of the rod, and spinning rods feature a large guide near the reel, and become incrementally smaller as they move to the tip of the rod. Spinning rod guides are attached on the underside of a fishing pole.

Reel Mount - The reel seat mount is the recessed area of a fishing rod that a fishing reel attaches to. It typically features a locking nut that pushes up or down on the reel seat to lock the reel into place.

Assembling the Rod & Reel

Now that we know how to identify the different parts of a rod and reel, it's time to assemble them together in preparation of making your first cast. Many fishing poles targeted at beginners are sold as a rod and reel combination already spooled with fishing line, but if yours didn't you'll need to do it yourself, or ask your local fishing gear and tackle shop to do it for you.

Preparing The Rod

Many fishing rods come in 2 or more pieces. If your rod comes in multiple parts you will have to connect them together. These typically just push together, though some rods may screw together instead. Simply align the guides and push, or screw, the rod pieces together being careful to check that your rod guides are inline with each other. Be careful not to push too hard when assembling your rod. The rod pieces can get stuck together, and it can be difficult to pull apart without damaging the rod's blank. Usually a little twist can help unstick a two-piece rod. I have personally damaged a couple rods as a beginner trying to get them apart.

Mount The Reel On The Fishing Pole

Rod and reel manufacturers make attaching a reel to a rod incredibly simple. Fishing rods feature a reel mount that includes a locking nut that applies clamping pressure onto the reel seat plate, securing it in place. Simply insert the reel seat plate into the mounting area of your fishing rod, and turn the locking nut. Make sure there is adequate pressure, but do not overtighten the nut as they are often plastic components and can crack or break if overtightened.

Spooling Your Reel With Fishing Line

If you purchased a fishing rod and reel combo, it may have come pre-spooled with fishing line. However, if your fishing pole didn't come pre-spooled, you'll have to purchase the fishing line separately.

Now that your rod and reel are assembled, it's time to spool fishing line onto your reel. The process is essentially the same for both a baitcaster and a spinning reel.

  1. Start by feeding the fishing line from the tip of the rod down through each eye (the rod's line guides) into the reel's spool.
    1. For baitcaster reels, the line should go through the line guide on the level wind (the small eyelet on the top of the baitcaster that moves back and forth).
    2. For spinning reels, the line should go through the line roller first (the bearing on the bail arm).
    3. Next, attach the fishing line to the spool either by using a piece of tape, or tying a simple knot. An arbor knot is a common fishing knot for attaching fishing line to a spool, but you can use whatever knot you know so long as the knot isn't bulky. A bulky knot will make your line spool unevenly. Some anglers will use both a knot and a piece of tape to prevent the line from slipping.
    4. If you're using straight braid, it is recommended to use a piece of tape to prevent the line from slipping on the spool.
    5. While you can use straight braid and a piece of tape, most anglers will recommend you apply backing. Backing pretty much guarantees you don't have trouble with your braid slipping when you hook into a fish.
    6. Once the line is secured to the spool, it's time to spool the fishing line onto your reel. Align your spool so that the fishing line comes off the packaged spool and goes back onto your reel's spool in the same direction it came off to prevent twisting.
    7. Grab the fishing line with one hand up near the first rod eye up from your reel. Make sure you're not holding the line off to the side, then apply light pressure to the line as you begin turning the reel's handle to feed the line onto your spool.
    8. If you grab the line too close on a baitcaster, or hold the line off to the side, it can cause your line to spool unevenly and cause issues while casting.
    9. Also make sure not to apply too much pressure with your fingers. Excessive resistance can result in the level wind guide on a baitcaster not moving, again causing the line to spool unevenly. If your drag is engaging while reeling, tighten it down, and loosen up your grip.
    10. Continue winding the reel handle until your spool is about nearly full. It's generally recommended to leave about an 1/8th of an inch of space between the spooled line and the edge of the spool's lip. Too much line can also cause problems while casting.
    11. Once your spool is filled to the proper point, you can cut the line between the spool of the fishing line and the end of your rod tip. And that's it, your fishing pole is now ready to tie on a hook and bait and make your first cast.

What fishing line should you use?

For beginners, monofilament fishing line is often recommended because it is the cheapest option and sufficient for many fishing applications, but that doesn't mean you can't start with one of the other common types of fishing line:

  • Monofilament - Monofilament is a buoyant fishing line made from a single fiber of plastic material. It is usually the cheapest option, and therefore recommended for beginner anglers. Mono fishing line has a lot of stretch compared to the other fishing lines and is often used with topwater lures due to its buoyancy.
  • Braid - Braided line is woven from multiple synthetic fibers to create a thin and durable fishing line. Braided fishing line is supple and doesn't retain memory, making it great for casting long distances.
  • Fluorocarbon - Fluorocarbon fishing line is made from fluoropolymer PVDF to create a refractive and durable fishing line. Fluoro's light refraction makes it difficult for fish to see your line in the water which makes a great option to prevent spooking fish. It is a denser material and therefore not nearly as buoyant as monofilament or braid. Fluoro is often valued for its abrasion resistance.
  • Copolymer - Copolymer is a newer type of fishing line made of multiple nylon lines combined. It has less stretch than mono and is even more abrasion resistant than fluorocarbon. It is often close in price to monofilament fishing line.

Next Steps

Now that you have your fishing pole properly set up and ready to go, it's time to attach a hook or lure and get out there and fish!

As you gain experience fishing different baits and lures with your current rod and reel setup, it's likely you'll run into situations where it isn't always the right tool for the job. At this point you'll need to check out some different rods and reels to find the right fishing pole for your desired application. This is why you often see many bass anglers carrying multiple fishing poles. But that's one of my favorite things about bass fishing: I love experimenting with all the different baits & lures other fishermen are using to catch bass. You never know when you'll find your new favorite rod and reel, lure, or bait to fish with!