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03 Apr

Bass Fishing on a Budget: Cost-Conscious Angler’s Guide

Bass Fishing Tips , How To

In the modern age, fishing feels like an extremely expensive hobby. You need several high-end rod and reel combos, massive tackle boxes full of lures and fishing gear, a nice boat that costs as much as your car, and, of course, all the branded clothing from your favorite brands.

That modern trend can make fishing seem inaccessible to many, and that’s especially true since we’re all a bit strapped for cash right now.

Luckily, this is just a side-effect of modern fishing culture. Historically, fishing has been a cheap, even free, pastime. It can still be like that if you put down your fishing magazines and take some time to learn about the broader world of bass fishing.

Today, we’re going to help cut through that trend and help you get back to the roots of fishing with a comprehensive guide to bass fishing on a budget.

Let’s get started.

Identify Your Budget

Fishing can be accessible whether you have no money at all or you’re swimming in expendable income. We’re focusing on the lower range of that today with tips that can help you fish for free or up to a reasonable cost for a typical blue-collar worker, but you still need to identify where you fall into that spectrum.

The more you can set aside to put toward a basic setup, the more you’ll be able to take advantage of. So, keep that in mind.

Boat or No Boat? 

This is where most anglers blow the bulk of their budget, and there’s a common mindset in the bass fishing world that you need a big bass boat to catch the biggest fish. You don’t

That simply provides a more comfortable experience and a bit more flexibility, but you can get away with far cheaper options. You can also opt to simply fish from the banks and skip a boat altogether. That’s the best way to put your entire budget toward things that will hook bass.

Although, if you do want a boat, you might want to look at some of the more traditional options.

Little aluminum Jon boats can often be bought second-handed for a few hundred dollars. Most outdoorsman stores sell kayaks for bass fishing for anywhere from $500 to $2000, and you can even get a pedal boat.

The best part is that you can rig up all the technological goodies of a modern bass boat on those cheaper options. You just have to get creative

There are floating sonar units you can tie onto your boat, you can make a live well from an old cooler, install rod holders, and even set up a floating cooler system for your snacks and bait.

You don’t need the latest fancy bass boat to go fishing. You don’t even need a boat in general.

Focus on an All-Around Setup

This is a tip for beginners. If you’ve been fishing for a while, you probably already have multiple rod setups from when money was a little more expendable.

Don’t get a specialized rod for your first setup. It’s good to have heavy flipping rods with fast-action tips, and those tend to be popular with influencers right now, but a good old medium rod with a matching spinning reel will handle far more fishing strategies.

This is important at first because you get more bang for your buck, you can try more strategies without buying more rods, and most of the lures you buy are going to work just fine with it.

As time goes on, and you save a little money, you can invest in more specialized rods and reels.

Featured Resource: How to Choose the Best Rod for Bass Fishing

Take Advantage of the Off-Season

The lure market is essential for modern bass fishing, but unfortunately, it can also be a huge money pit. There are countless lures available, all of them promise to catch your next record-breaking bass, and naturally, anglers want them all.

You can offset that problem by taking advantage of the off-season.

Check out your local tackle shop, especially your big box store with a fishing section, during the fall and winter.

Smaller tackle shops don’t tend to make as much revenue when most anglers aren’t fishing, so they have sales regularly throughout the winter. Your local big box store is usually focused on getting rid of old inventory before they start piling up new stock when spring arrives.

You can find amazing deals on all kinds of lures doing this. Markdowns can be as high as 80% in many cases. It’s a fast way to fill up a tackle box with all kinds of new goodies and not break the bank.

Even if you’re an experienced fisherman with years of experience and collecting under your belt, this is the best time of year to add new lures to your collection.

Try Online Retailers

The days of having to find a nearby store selling fishing gear, and then having to accept whatever price the store slapped on that must-have piece of gear you need, are over.

The internet has opened up a whole new world for anglers, and you have more independently operated stores in the palm of your hand than any other angler in history.

As such, you can do a lot more window shopping to find a good price.

We recommend stopping by Tackle Warehouse first. They have a huge selection, great prices, and an amazing reputation.

Make the Most of Every Dollar Spent

Bass fishing on a budget doesn’t mean finding the cheapest items possible. It’s tempting, but you need to focus on the overall value you’re getting.

Right now, there are a couple of sites that offer ridiculously low prices on all sorts of things. That includes fishing gear. You’ll find all kinds of weird lures from halfway across the globe being sold for pennies, rods, and reels that cost 1/10th of what they cost in stores, etc. Well, even though they’re cheap, those items are garbage.

It’s best to focus on getting good, high-quality, items within your price range.

For example, suppose you only have $100 to buy your first setup. In that case, it’s a better idea to buy a basic UglyStik from your favorite retailer and then use the $30 to $40 you have left to stock up on worm hooks, bullet weights, line, and good old-fashioned soft plastics than it is to buy a bunch of cheap junk. 

While you’ll technically get fewer items, you’ll get a ton more value overall, and that $100 will give you years of high-quality fishing enjoyment. If you were to take the extremely cheap route and get a ton of things, we can almost guarantee you’d be repurchasing everything the following year.

Have this mindset every time you make a purchase.

Try a “Cane” Pole

Long ago, rods and reels weren’t even a thing. Instead, the most common method of pulling in fish was to use a “cane pole”.

Back then, these were literal shoots of cane cut by the waterside, and the line was tied to the end.

Now, there are modern versions of these poles that are synthetic, and they usually incorporate a telescoping feature.

This is the cheapest way to fish outside of tying some string to a stick. For less than $20, you can get a high-quality “cane” pole made of fiberglass that will practically never break. All you need to use it is some line, a hook, and something to go on that hook, and it all packs down a lot smaller than a normal modern setup.

You don’t cast or reel with this type of setup. Instead, you use the rod to swing the line out, and when you get a bite, you lift the rod straight up. The fish pendulum swings to you.

This has some drawbacks. For instance, you can’t get that lure out any further than the length of your rod. So, you’re stuck fishing at a short range. 

However, you also get a lot of benefits.

It gives you unmatched precision when presenting baits and lures, fighting a fish is a lot simpler, and since most of them have storage locations in the butt end, you can take your whole fishing kit in the pole itself.

Even if you’re not bass fishing on a budget, we recommend every angler try this at least once. It’s a new fishing experience, and it’s so cheap that you don’t have to worry about it being a waste if you don’t like it.

Go Cheap on Terminal Tackle

Terminal tackle includes things like lines, weights, hooks, and similar items. You need them to do anything, but they don’t catch fish on their own. They also tend to be the gear that wears out the fastest and gets lost.

Go cheap with your terminal gear at first.

Weights don’t impact your ability to set rigs very much as long as they’re the right shape and weight. Whether the weight came as part of a 100-piece kit for $5 or it cost $5 on its own, it’ll perform practically the same.

Line matters, but traditional mono is far cheaper than braided line and other varieties, and while it has drawbacks such as a high stretch level, it has served anglers well for many, many, years.

Hooks are important, and you don’t want to go too cheap with them. If you do, they’ll bend, snap, and generally cost you fish. However, you don’t need to buy the finest hooks and pay $20 for a 5 pack you’ll burn through. Get good, off-brand hooks that provide lots of value without costing you fish.

High-end varieties of these items are great to have, and you should save up to buy some later, but they’re not necessary just to experience fishing.

Prioritize Your Purchases

When anglers get the fishing bug, it’s common for them to just start buying everything that tickles their fancy as soon as it comes out. That's a horrible way to do it if you’re bass fishing on a budget.

Instead, you need to focus on the basics.

You need a rod and reel (or a cane pole if you choose to try that), line, weights, hooks, and only the lures that are staples of the sport.

We’ve talked about the other bits of gear, but we haven’t mentioned staple lures, yet.

These are your soft plastics, jigs, spinnerbaits, spoons, and crankbaits. The cheapest tend to be soft plastic lures such as trick worms and grubs, spoons, and spinnerbaits. 

You can spend just a couple of dollars and get a 10-pack of trick worms, spoons are often a dollar to $3 per spoon, and there are tons of generic spinner baits that will work perfectly well for a buck or two each.

If you focus on getting a few of each of those, and maybe a couple of jigs and crankbaits, you’ll have a well-rounded tackle box without wasting money on novel items.

Check the Flea Markets

This is not guaranteed, but you can often find vintage reels at flea markets for a few bucks each, and they’ll outperform most of the mid-range reels you can buy now.

From Daiwa Goldcast reels to spinners from the 80s, we’ve been able to find high-quality reels for as little as $5 each with all-metal gears, great performance, and that feeling of quality that you just don’t get from cheap reels anymore.

Considering good reels are more expensive than decent rods nowadays, this can be a good way to get a solid reel for almost free. Just remember to check it out before you buy it, and you might need some lube and TLC time to bring it up to par.

Use the BassForecast App to Make the Most of Each Trip

Once you get your gear for cheap, you need to have a good place to use it. For that, the BassForecast fishing app is your best friend. We have maps of all of North America’s waterways, a spot-on solunar, hazard information updated in real-time, and tons of tips and guides to help you make the most of every trip.