How to Set up a Fishing Rod for Lake Fishing

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There is some great fishing to be done on the inland waterways that cover our world. Lakes are diverse habitats that are home to a variety of fish species from the tiny minnow to the callosal catfish. If lakes were sports fields, they would accommodate every sport from soccer, to baseball, all the way to football and this is because they are so diverse.

The avid bait fisherman that likes to set up and wait for a specimen for weeks on end can enjoy what a lake has to offer. The fly fisherman that loves to hunt for trout with the age-old sport of fly fishing can reap the fruits of a lake. The predator angler that loves to chase large toothy hunters using lures and jigs can catch their personal bests from lake waters. Even the float fisherman that loves to compete in the sport of match fishing can enjoy what lakes have to offer by filling bags with pounds of silver fish.

The Humble lake supports a world of sport for all types of angler. Many people across the world enjoy the rewards that lake fishing brings. It doesn’t matter whether you are the traditional fly fisherman or the modern carp angler, lake fishing offers fantastic opportunities for everyone.

In this article, we will be going over how to set up a rod for lake fishing. Whatever type of fishing you like to practice and enjoy, this read will show you exactly how to set up your rod to go and start targeting fish on your local lake today. Enjoy!

What is Lake Fishing?

Lake fishing as a definition is sampling the act of fishing on an inland body of still water – a lake. Due to the diversity that lakes bring, lake fishing gets filtered down into a range of different fishing types. As I mentioned earlier, the humble lake can be enjoyed by anglers of all types and it can also be enjoyed by anglers of all skill levels and ages. In this section, we will be going over some of the main types of fishing that can be done on lakes and what exactly each fishing style entails.

There is plenty of sport to be done on the lake with a whole food chain of species to target, but how you target each of these fish species differs. You wouldn’t target a muskie or pike with carp gear just as you wouldn’t target a carp with muskie or pike gear. The species you want to target will alter your fishing style, the equipment you use, and ultimately, how you set up your fishing rod for lake fishing.

Bait Fishing

Bait fishing on lakes comes in many different forms. There are a range of different species that will take a bait on a lake and how you target one can be different from how you target another. Most of us as beginner anglers start with the humble float setup for catching small species on the lake and then start progressing to other forms of bait fishing.

It is common to fish for carp, catfish, and lake sturgeon from the shore using “sit and wait” tactics. This form of bait fishing involves setting up with a rig and lead that sits on the bottom, while the rods are left on bite alarms that register when a fish has taken the bait. This form of fishing can also be done using a predator rig with a live or dead bait.

Ledgering with a super-sensitive rod is another way some anglers bait fish on lakes. This form of fishing involves a lightweight lead or feeder setup and the sensitive tip of the rod is watched for significant movement. When the tip wraps around, you strike at the bite.

Lure Fishing

Lure fishing is an extremely popular form of fishing that can be used to target a range of lake-living species from bass to muskie. Fishing with lures is a great way to cover vast amounts of water on a lake and it can be done from the shore or a boat. Plugs, jellies, jigs, and spinners can be clipped to a leader to target different levels in the water to attract different fish species.

Lure fishing is a fairly simple but highly effective form of fishing that produces great results in lakes where there are predatory species present.

Fly Fishing

Fly fishing is a traditional way to target lake species that bite mostly natural food sources in the water. The typical fly setup mimics larvae and insect life that lives in and on top of the water. You can target lakes by using flies, nymphs, and larvae that are naturally present in the body of water. Fly fishing is commonly practiced on lakes where trout and other salmonid fish are present but although less common, you can catch other species by fly fishing.

Larger “flies” can mimic small fish and amphibians that roam the waters of the lakes. These types of flies can be used as a natural presentation to entice predatory species such as pike, muskie, and bass. However, it is more common for the fly angler to target large lake trout instead, as they provide great sport and good eating.

How You Set Up Your Rod for Lake Fishing:

In this section, we will provide you with the information you need to set up your rod for lake fishing. We have 3 basic setups that are extremely effective for use on lakes that are also easy for the beginner to understand and start with. We will be looking at a basic float setup, a bottom bait setup, and a lure setup. These 3 setups will be enough to get started on lakes with your chosen fishing style but stay up to date for more handy setup guides as you progress.

The Basic Float Setup

The basic float fishing setup uses a straight (or waggler) float. Some come loaded with weight at the base of the float and some come unloaded. The only difference in set up between the two is the uses of lead shot line weights or rubber float stops. When you are setting up a loaded float you will use rubber float stops to hold the float in place and when you are setting up an unloaded float you will use lead shot to add weight and “cock” the float properly.

Setting up a float for lake fishing is easier than you might think, and it is made to be quickly adjustable so you can fish different depths simply.

Step 1:

You should start by sliding the float onto the line and securing it 18 – 25-inches up the line using lead shot for a standard straight float or rubber float stops for loaded floats.

Step 2:

Next, you need to tie on your hook. A small hook of size 16 to size 8 will suffice, depending on the size of the species you expect to catch with your float. Tie your hook on using a simple Palomar knot or a half-blood knot. Here is a handy tutorial for the Palomar knot and here is a handy tutorial for the basic half-blood knot.

Step 3:

If you are planning on fishing the bottom, you will need to “plum” the depth of the water you are fishing. To do this, you will need to load up your hook with weight using a plummet weight. Attach your weight to your hook and cast to the area you are fishing. Then, systematically move your float up or down the line until it is sitting with the orange tip ½ – 1-inch out of the water.

If the float is laying flat on the water, you will need to move your float toward the hook and if it is sitting under the surface, you will need to move your float away from the hook.

Step 4:

Once you have found your depth with the plummet, you can add staggered lead shot down the length of line between your hook and float, this will help keep your line straight underneath the float. Make sure you don’t do over the float’s weight limit (usually stamped on the side of the float).

Step 5:

Hook up your chosen bait and start fishing! Every time you change locations where the depth of water changes, repeat steps 3 to 5 to reset your float to the correct depth.

The Basic Bottom Bait Setup

Setting up your rod for fishing a lake with bait doesn’t have to be difficult. There are plenty of different ways you can set up your rod for this, but in this article, we will be guiding you on the simplest setup.

Step 1:

First, you will need to make a rig. My preferred choice of rig is the hair rig and its variants. This rig allows you to attach a bait below the hook, so it doesn’t mask the hook point. It is relatively easy to make, check out this handy instructional infographic for a step by step guide. If you would rather hook bait straight on the hook, you can trim the “hair” off and use the rig for worms, bread, or meat.

Step 2:

Next, you will need to slide a weight system up the line. I like to use lead clips with a silicone sleeve for this. They allow you to quickly clip different wights of lead on the line without re-tying your line every time. They also release your lead if a fish gets snagged up, this feature has saved me from losing a fish many times. First, slide the silicone sleeve up the line, then the lead clip.

Step 3:

Now you can attach the swivel end of your hair rig on to the end of your line using the half-blood knot. You can now slide your lead clip down the line so the swivel on your rig slips inside it securely.

Step 4:

Clip in your weight to the lead clip and slide the silicone sleeve over it. Wet the lead clip first so the silicone sleeve is lubricated before sliding over. This will help the lead clip release the weight if your fish gets snagged on an underwater feature by the lead.

Step 5:

Attach a bait of your choosing and get out fishing! Cast your line out and tighten up the slack so the line is settled on the lakebed. You can then place your rod on a rest with the clutch set loose and wait for a bite.

The Lure Setup

Setting up your rod to fish with a lure has to be the easiest way to start fishing on a lake. This is a short and sweet one, but read carefully…

Step 1:

You will need a leader for your lure setup. If you are targeting water with muskie, pike, and walleye then you will need a tough wire leader to prevent these toothy predators from biting through your line. If you are beginning, your best bet is to source some pre-tied leaders online or from your local tackle shop. If you fancy tying your own leaders, check out our handy how-to!

Step 2:

Once you have your leader sourced, tie the swivel end onto the end of your mainline using a blood knot.

Step 3:

On the other end of your leader is a quick-release clip. This clip is used to clip on your lures, so get a lure of your choosing, clip it up, and start fishing! You can change your lures quickly depending on the part of the lake you are fishing, its depth, and the species you are targeting. Enjoy!


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