Sometimes referred to as bobbers, a float holds your bait at a set depth below the surface. Finding the proper depth is generally a bit of trial and error until you learn fish patterns on a particular water. Bobbers also serve as an excellent indicator when a fish takes your bait, as they bounce and dive in a very visible fashion. I'm a fan of the old school two-tone style that are very easy to set and adjust. Red and white is traditional, but other colors are available; pick the color combination you can see best and run with it.
There is an array of weights or sinkers on the market. Each one does a particular task, and as you gain experience, you'll find yourself using a wider variety. The basic starting point for weight is the split-shot sinker. Made of lead or cast zinc, they are available in a range of weights to suit most situations. They simply crimp on your line at any point you desire, and can be combined to get whatever amount of weight gets the job done. The only particular feature to seek out are "ears" on the back of the weight, which allow it to be easily removed and re-used.
|Expanded view of split shot from Eagle Claw. Note the ears on top.|
Swivels and Snaps
The nature of moving through water gives fishing line a tendency to twist. Swivels allow your bait and hook to spin freely without knotting or binding your line, and snaps allow quick and easy changes to your rig. While they are available separately, my preference is for the combination model which simplifies your gear bag and covers almost all situations.
The selection of hooks is pretty much limitless. Sometimes your choices will be limited by rules on a particular water (some have regulations against treble hooks or barbed hooks, for example), but beyond that it becomes a matter of style and preference. For basic baits, I like a baitholder style in a size 6 or 8. This style has a couple small barbs on the back shank of the hook, which keeps your bait from slipping off.
If a hook says it is "snelled" it means that it has a short leader pre-tied from the factory, and is ready to clip directly to your snap.
The two other major hook types are jigs and treble hooks. A treble hook is three hooks sharing a single eye and shank. They're great for soft doughy baits. Again, a size 6 or 8 is the ideal size for most fish.
Jigs are hooks with weights built right on to the shank. They're usually paired with some kind of a plastic lure, and give a swimming action much like an injured baitfish. The weights range from 1/16 oz. up to 1/2 oz. or more, in a number of specialized shapes. The basic jig is a round head model weighing 1/8 or 1/4 ounce. Jigs have the benefit of cutting back on snags, because their shape keeps the point of the hook pointed up and away from the bottom. (Does this mean the jig is up? Sorry, I'll see myself out. -- Editor)
At this point, you're geared to add bait and catch fish. There are other bits that will make you more successful, but you've got everything we learned with as kids. As an aside, if you want a basic kit of terminal tackle to throw in a bag and go, this package covers the basics. It won't get you a lot of variety, and it's not fancy, but it's all of the basics for about $5.
As a matter of warning, fish hooks are very sharp, and for good reason. If you're not very careful, you will get hooked instead of the fish. This hurts. A lot. Erin found a very handy article about how to remove a fish hook. I recommend that you read it now, before you need it. When someone is stuck and hurting is not the time to try and learn a new skill.