Inshore Fishing Tackle

Getting Started


Chuck Simpson

Recently, Tom Keels and myself were discussing the tackle needed to begin fishing for the inshore species of the Northern Gulf of Mexico, and came to the conclusion that a person definitely did not have to own a boatload of tackle (like I am guilty of carrying at times) to get started. As a matter of fact two rod and reel combinations could cover it all. Tom and I are by no means experts, but do fish inshore on a regular basis, and enjoy a bit of success. In talking to each other, on and off the water, we realized we are approached with the same question over and over. What do I need to buy for a rod and reel to get started fishing on the flats? Well, this can be an easy question to answer, but at the same time a tricky question to answer.

First, let me start by saying everything I will suggest works for me. This is knowledge gained through personal experience. Some of the suggestions were achieved through collaboration with Tom Keels. I always like to bounce my thoughts off someone else to keep me in line. In know way would I want anyone reading this to be under the impression that we know it all .We are still learning.

I will cover the two basic components need to begin fishing for inshore species in the Big Bend Area, a rod and reel. I will discuss the components in order of importance. First I will begin with the lighter set up, then move on to the heavier set up. With these two combinations of rod and reels, I believe you will be prepared to give yourself, with a little practice, a chance at landing anything that swims the inshore waters of our coast.

I will start with the selection of a reel for the lighter set up. This will be the reel you use for Spotted Sea Trout, Redfish, Flounder, Pompano, Spanish Mackerel, and other species which are a smaller size. You should look for a reel that is constructed of components which will take the abuse saltwater is famous for. Stainless steel, anodized aluminum, titanium, and graphite all stand up well in a saltwater environment when properly maintained. The number of ball bearings in the reel should be from three to six, and manufactured from stainless steel (as a general rule, the greater the number of ball bearings the smoother the reel will operate). A desirable gear ratio would range from5.01 to 6.2:1. These numbers represent the number of line wraps per one full revolution of the handle (i.e. how fast the reel is).


Let’s take a look at the line spool. My personal preference is a line spool which is elongated instead of short and fat. They cast farther with lighter baits. The drag is also of utmost importance, the smoother and stronger the better. Last, but not least, the reel you want will handle from 6 to 12 lb. monofilament test line, with a capacity of 140 yds. to 250 yds., depending on the size of line you spool it with.

Next, you will want to purchase a rod for the reel you have decided upon. Since we are not fishing with heavy tackle, you will not need a big heavy rod. The rod I suggest would be a one piece, 6 1/2’ to 7’ long, in a medium light or medium action, rated for 6 to 12 lb. monofilament test line, and capable of casting a lure that is 1/8 oz. through 5/8 oz. The rod will be constructed of graphite, or a graphite fiberglass combination, with the reel seat and eyes on the rod manufactured by Fuji, if possible. The material for the handle is left up to personal preference, though I feel cork is the best choice.

Now, I have covered the lighter set up needed to fish our inshore waters, we will move on to the heavier set up. This will be the set up you use for inshore Cobia, Tarpon, large Redfish, Tripletail, and Shark, etc.( the bruisers that swim our inshore waters). Once again we will start with the reel. The heavier reel will basically be the same as the lighter reel: materials, construction, gear ratios, bearings, etc.; However, now you will be looking for a reel that will handle heavier line, thus being stronger. You should look for a reel that will hold 150 to 350 yds. of 12 to 20 lb. monofilament test line. A good benchmark is a reel that will hold 250 yds. of 15 lb. monofilament test line. If selecting a level wind reel, an outbait clicker is a preferable option for the reel you choose. With a little practice, this should give you the capacity to handle any fish you will encounter in our inshore waters.

The materials used to construct the rod will be the same as those used for the lighter rod, but you will be looking for a heavier rod. The rod you should look for will be one piece, 7 to 7 1/2’ long, medium to medium heavy action, rated for 12 to 20 lb. Monofilament test line, and capable for casting a lure 1/2 to 1 1/2 ozs. This rod will allow you to cast a heavier lure or bait, a greater distance with accuracy, and give you the muscle to leverage the larger fish you will encounter.

You don’t have to spend an arm and leg when purchasing a rod and reel, but you do get what you pay for. Shimano, Daiwa, Penn, Ahab(by FinNor), Abu Garcia, and a handful of other tackle companies manufacture rods and reels which meet the basic criteria I have mentioned. Generally, a reel of this nature will start at a price range of about $80 U.S., and a rod will start somewhere around $50 U.S. The ultimate deciding factor in your purchase will be up to you, your personal preference, your itch, and your wallet.


The purpose of this article was intended to be a basic overview that would give someone who wants to get started fishing inshore, enough information to begin researching the equipment they will want to purchase to meet their needs and objectives, while avoiding senseless purchases. I hope I have helped.