Survival fishing is a strategy many preppers plan to implement after a SHTF situation and they need to supplement their food storage. If you are in this situation, it is truly about survival, when you will not be worrying about mercury in fish or other long-term health concerns. You’re concerned about the short-term, putting food in your stomach, regardless of what it is.
One of the cardinal rules for preppers is that they should always have more than one strategy of sourcing the necessary resources for survival. And while hunting large game and trapping can produce effective results and large payoffs, sometimes a simpler and less strenuous option is necessary. A quality fishing rod and reel can provide preppers with added calories and nutrients when other techniques aren’t producing.
Why Preppers Need a Fishing Rod and Reel
It can be an appetizing survival fantasy to think that you’d be harvesting a gargantuan elk, moose, or even mature deer every few months, or you’d always have a line of traps that would never sit empty. Yet these are merely fantasies, it’s vital that preppers have more than one way to source the required calories and nutrients. Fishing in general can be a very effective strategy, no matter how it’s done.
Compared to foraging, hunting, and even trapping, fishing doesn’t require nearly the same amount of effort to acquire food, which allows more energy for things like maintaining a shelter. Certain fish species have larger amounts of fat that aren’t found in lean animals like deer and elk, this fat is absolutely crucial to allow the body to function at full capacity, especially in the winter. While you could just try and set up a trotline or gill net, there are advantages to using a conventional rod and reel.
A pretty common notion is that when caught in a survival scenario, a prepper will open his emergency “Altoid fishing kit,” just tie a hook and bait or a lure to some line, and be able to source dinner for days on end. Another notion is that the same prepper will be able to spear/trap those same fish as they swim up and down the stream.
There is a reason that these techniques are reserved for survival scenarios and not part of what’s considered fishing practices, the amount of variables and challenges faced when trying to catch a fish without a rod and reel are enough to throw the most patient prepper into a dark and violent tantrum.
Casting and Line Alignment
The fishing rod assists the fishing line to be sent out in the intended direction as well as be evenly retrieved. Without the rings and alignment they provide, it’s quite difficult to point the line any particular direction.
One of the most important things when fishing is keeping enough pressure on the fish so that it can’t dislodge the hook from its lip. The length and flexibility of the fishing rod allow the fisherman to easily apply the proper amount of pressure no matter where the fish is traveling, as well as keeping the line out of their hands and prevent them from being cut and burned.
The fishing reel’s main job is to take yard after yard of fishing line and wrap it into a neat and compact package, this allows for easy and simple casting and retrieving, as long as the line remains clear of debris and tight on the way back to the reel.
Easy Fish Retrieval
Without a fishing reel you would have to either wrap the line around a piece of wood, your hands, or pull it in as fast as possible. With a reel the even and precise revolution of the spindle allow you to bring in the fish at an even pace that helps prevent fatigue and lost fish.
Selecting a Survival Rod and Reel
There are hundreds, if not thousands, of options of rods, reels, and even combos to select from nowadays. When selecting a survival rod and reel it can be overwhelming as you walk up and down the fishing aisle of any sporting goods store among the plethora of options. The following tips will allow you to cut through the confusion and make the best decision for your needs.
What to Look for in a Survival Rod
You don’t have to break the bank when selecting an effective fishing rod for survival, when all is said and done a simple cane pole can be just as effective as a graphite one depending on the situation. When selecting a rod, you should consider the length, action, and flexibility and how they will help your intended fish species.
The flexibility of a fishing rod allows you to keep the proper amount of pressure on the line to keep the hook in the fish’s mouth. The bend in the rod also acts as a sort of suspension that prevents the fish from breaking the line and getting away. More pliable rods allow you to literally feel when fish are tugging on the line, the flexibility also assists in casting out further and more effectively. If you intend on fishing for smaller fish such as bluegill or perch it can be in your best interest to invest in a very flexible rod to allow you to feel the most subtle bites. On the other hand, a stiffer rod will allow you to effectively pull in larger species, like running salmon or steelhead, without the fear of breaking your rod.
Put simply, the action of the rod is the point at which it bends. Slow action rods are rods that bend close to the handle, these are the best for smaller fish species, such as panfish, the extra flexibility helps prevent you from ripping the hook out of them as well as adding sensitivity to feel your way around bites. A fast action rod is a rod that bends closer to the tip, these are stiffer and stronger rods, they are ideal for fishing for larger and more powerful fish species like bass and salmon. The added strength prevents rod breakage but the bend in the front allows you to work the bait or lure where you need it most.
When considering the length of a fishing rod you should match it to the average length of casts you intend on throwing. Longer rods are better for making long casts, the added length allows you to manipulate a larger amount of line from the reel, yet the accuracy of your casts will suffer. While in a survival situation a longer rod may be too cumbersome to carry around, if you have access to a large lake or river it may be worth it to cache one near your regular fishing spot.
Short rods provide precise accuracy over shorter casts. While you can’t manipulate as much line across a shorter rod, the added accuracy can allow you to finesse your way around complicated covers and place a bait or lure exactly where you need it.
What to Look for in a Survival Reel
The fishing reel is a unique piece of modern equipment that allows you to eliminate a whole set of variables when pulling in a fish. With a simple twisting of the lever a series of gears winds the fishing line around the spindle in an even and neat pattern, preventing any tangles and allowing for a quick recasting of the line. There are several different types of reels, from those for fly fishing to baitcasting reels, yet for the purpose of this article I will only be discussing spinning reels because of their popularity and simplicity. Two factors to consider are the material of the reel and its size.
Most fishing reels are made of either aluminum, graphite, or a combination of the two. Aluminum reels tend to be much stronger than graphite ones, but they also tend to be heavier. When weight isn’t an issue or you are predominantly fishing in freshwater, aluminum is an ideal choice. Graphite reels are much lighter than their metal counterparts, but they also have a tendency to flex. While not as strong as aluminum, graphite reels can help keep your pack light and if you’re intending on fishing saltwater these won’t be as susceptible to corrosion.
The size of the reel that you decide to use is dependent on the size of the fishing line that you intend to use. If you intend on using a lighter line, a smaller reel will fit your needs perfectly, while a larger reel would be best used with a heavier line.
Consider a Combo
While you can agonize over choosing the perfect fishing rod, only to have to go through the same process over again when choosing the reel, many companies and sporting goods stores provide rod and reel combinations that come already put together. No matter what your budget is there is a combo that fits your capabilities, while the more expensive ones are of higher quality, you can have great success with the cheaper ones.
Rod and Reel Combo Recommendations
The following combo recommendations will help you either get a good idea of what you may like for your personal set up or if you don’t want to think too much, make the decision for you. Because these are cheaper options you may want to buy a spare reel, or invest in a more expensive model, as sometimes these cheaper ones can malfunction or break.
Recommendation for At-Home Fishing Gear
Ugly Stik GX2 Fishing Rod and Spinning Reel Combo
At just under 50 dollars, this is a great entry level rod and reel combo. The Ugly Stik models of rods have been extremely popular over the past few decades due to their strength and flexibility. This model can come in a variety of lengths, flexibilities, and actions to fit your needs. The reel’s spool is made of aluminum and can handle up to 110 yards of 8-pound line.
Recommendation for a Vehicle Kit
Daiwa Revros LT PMC Executive Pack – Spinning Rod/Reel Travel Combo
This travel kit is a great way to have a rod and reel combo that will easily fit in your car. The graphite rod itself breaks down into 5 pieces, not including the reel. The reel is for left or right retrieve. While with the right amount of patience and skill you can land almost any size of fish with any rod, you will have the best success targeting the smaller species of fish.
Recommendation for a Bug Out Bag
Rule the Wasteland Survival Fishing Kit
While it isn’t a rod and reel, this option is a great way to have either a backup to your primary rod and reels or as your standard survival fishing option. This is essentially a smaller version of an otherwise basic fishing kit.
It contains everything you could need to catch most types of fish in most areas of the nation. Utilize this product for the smaller species of fish, such as panfish or small trout, as you won’t have the same capabilities as you would have with a rod and reel, but you’ll be able to catch fish.
What I Use
I live in Western New York, perfectly sandwiched between Lake Erie and Lake Ontario and all of their tributaries. I have access to year-round fishing of a large variety of fish species, from northern pike to yearly runs of steelhead and smallmouth bass. In the spirit of being completely transparent, when I purchased my most recent rods and reels, my decision was based on what I thought were a good size and what color they were. Yet somehow, I have had great success with them and have grown fond of them.
My primary rod and reel is a 6 foot, medium action and somewhat flexible Shakespeare “Ugly Stik” with a Optix reel. I use this mainly for larger lures intended to catch larger fish, such as carp or largemouth bass.
My secondary rod and reel is a Matzuo combo, it is less than six feet, very flexible, and low action. I have still caught larger fish on this, but I primarily use this to catch fish like rock bass and large sunfish.
Both can be folded up into compact sizes and strapped to a pack with ease.
Survival Fishing Summary
Using the tips and recommendations provided in this article you should be able to go out and find the rod and reel that will best suit your needs both for your budget and local fish species. Especially in the cushy modern world we live in, fishing is more than a way to obtain food for the table, you can find a sense of fulfillment and relieve tensions from the modern-day ailments. Investing in as quality of a rod and reel as possible will allow you to effectively fish year after year and increase your chances of sourcing the unique nutrients that fish provide, which can be hard to find in a post-apocalyptic world.
Tell us about your survival fishing loadout in the comments below.
For my money, the old U.S. made Zebco spin cast reels like the 33, 202 and 404 are bulletproof designs that can take a lot of use without any problems. You can find them at garage sales and flea markets, though not as common as before.
I’m personally a big fan of ultra-light rods. I’ve heard people natter on about how fragile they are when the simple fact is that if you get a quality ultra-light it’s pretty durable. I’ve brought in 10lb bass with an ultra-light rod and 4lb test. Granted, it took a while, but the ultra-light rods have the unique capability of bending over just about in half. Bass Pro Shops has a great Shakespeare collapsible ultra-light rod that’s awesome for a BOB, and it’s very durable–I’ve tested it pretty extensively. The reel that comes with it is cheap, though, so I’d recommend getting a different reel. And I completely agree that nothing beats a spinning real for durability and simplicity.
A few years ago I saw a 9yr old little girl pull in a 9lb 10oz bass with a snoopy pole, ultra-light rigs that I have owned are at least 1.5x stronger than one of those!
The little orange and black pole in the pictures is an ice-fishing pole which works great for small bass and panfish, I also own a Shakespeare micro-light (my brother snagged it for a fishing trip right before I got a chance to take the pictures). The micro-light has been up against plenty of bass, and has even pulled in a few small pompano in Florida… If you have never caught a pompano, they are a member of the permit family (if I remember correctly) and are known for being one of the toughest, longest fighting fish you can find! Which speaks volumes to the durability/versatility of a quality ultra-light rig.
I haven’t had much luck in the past with the collapsible rods, maybe I am just to hard on them, but they tend to break within the first or second time using them. If you find a good collapsible rod and need a quality reel, I would recommend Okuma, the huge rod/reel in the pictures has an Okuma reel and it is easily the toughest and most user-friendly reel I have ever owned. They tend to be a bit more expensive than a Shakespeare or Mitchell, but it’s well worth the few extra bucks for the quality you get.
Chef, this was a great post – thank you. Also, j.r. is right, you can find some great deals at garage sales for fishing equipment.
Garage sales are a good way to find equipment, but it should be noted that unless you know what you are looking for you could be paying to inherit someones junk.
I would also say that the old Zebco’s are great for lighter fishing, like med/light freshwater (panfish, bass, smaller catfish), but if you are a beginner they can be a hell of challenge to repair/maintain. Therefore I would advise a beginner to start with a spinning reel, they are less prone to line-related failures and if they do have an issue, the problem is right there for you to see.
The topic is SURVIVAL fishing, right?
It’s a live or die situation. While there is some skill involved in fishing, I can’t, for the life of me figure out WHY I’d have a rod and reel and all the associated stuff that goes with it, when I can have this:
Sure, point out the they’re illegal – but so is killing a deer out of season, and if the topic is SURVIVAL then the choice is clear.
Another survival type said something like the following:
“If my life is in danger and my survival is on the line, I am going to slash, burn, dig, kill – whatever it is that will insure my survival – making shelters out of fallen branches for the sake of the “environment” when the nice green ones are so much better for shelter building, is INSANE.”
If a fish dies so that I might live, I don’t owe it an hour of my time in exchange.
I’m not a fishing kinda guy, sure I’ve done it, but I can think of a dozen productive ways I can spend my time when I’m in a survival situation, and NONE of them invovled standing in one place potentially for hours while my shelter can be improved, or wood can be collected. Gill nets are the ultimate survival tool.
OK, let’s say you’re a “fish whisperer” – you and your family are stuck somewhere in a survival situation. This means that while you are “whispering fish” with your dandy rod and reel, your wife and children are alone. Given that another person could fish, that still means that someone is alone and immobile. Gee, lets see, where do predators hang out…
Oh, how about two-legged jackals? They seek water too. I’m not going to be hanging out near a place that attracts people or predators just for a fish (or the potential of one). Let a gill net set in the water for 1/2 hour, come back and if you don’t find fish, then odds are there aren’t very many there – which tells you that the stream itself could be a waste of your time.
let’s not forget, “survival” wise – that MOST fish we catch in streams and most lakes are fish that are planted there. Heck, they even drop them into the lake by air in the more remote places. Within a year a LOT of fishing holes and mountain streams are going to be without fish. But that’s a survival scenario.
I guess I just wondered what place a rod and reel had in a survival situation. We set snares for rabbits and squirrels, we can even do it for larger game, why do people always think they need a rod/reed to fish?
Dunno, just bugged me to think that someone would think of rod/reel if their life was on the line.
Nothing personal, just sayin’!
No offense taken…
HOWEVER, I keep at least 1 rod in my JEEP at all times.
I have a rod lashed to my hunting pack (which would serve as a BOB/Survival bag if need be)
Plus I LOVE FISHING, so why not have gear that serves a purpose in everyday life that will serve to keep me fed when the time comes.
To each their own, but I will stick with my rods and reels!
The spincasting reel is also distinctive from other forms in that its design and geometry inherently lacks cranking power although this limitation is not serious for the typical light- to medium-duty applications for which this style of reel is intended. This is reflected in the fact that spincasting is widely used across North America and ranks first in total number of units sold annually Nevertheless it is the stepchild of fishing equipment. The fact that most spincasting reels come pre-spooled with eliminates the most basic rigging problem.
Louis, I replace the line whenever I buy a combo because the stuff they usually string them with is pretty worthless. If you buy a reel they typically don’t come pre-spooled. Also I have used spinning reels for catching big fish, the larger rod/reel combo in the pictures above is what I use for surf-fishing. I have pulled in a 90lb bonnet-head shark, several large (25-30 lb) drum, a few BIG skates (cow-nose rays), and a few catfish 40lbs+. It just depends on the reel you select, Shakespeare makes a line called “Spheros” that are really good for larger fish. Okuma (which is the reel I have on my surf-fishing rig) is also a good choice. I will admit that off-shore/deep-sea “bait casting” reels are a better selection for larger fish, depending of course on the targeted species and if you need to cast, as the larger ones tend to cast fairly poorly. They are however well suited to deep-dropping, trolling, and jigging. It’s also a matter of personal preference, I just happen to prefer a spinning reel for almost everything.
I have one of those telescopic rigs in my BOB , mainly cuz it takes up little space and it will work good enough for most things sept the real big fish . Have used it and its good for what it is . And considering the part of the country I live in , I most likely wont need anything better .
Okay please excuse my naiveness but I have a question and you all seem like you know what your doing. I am a 29question year old female and I love to fish I really don’t know what im doing and I went and bought a shakesphere lady stick with the push button release reel and It keeps getting tangled inside the cap I went and bought the open reel and I am very frustrated on trying to cast and am going back to the closed reel pole I started with but question is why does it keep getting tangeled inside and annoying I just want to relax and fish. Pros there oaverted pole that
Sorry computer acted up okay or is there a quick fix or another pole I should try that has a closed reel that’s what I
like to use there nice for me because I feel I am able to do it on my own thank you for any advice in advance I appreciate it. I asked the guy where I get bait and he just wants to take me fishing he don’t answer my question ever I like to spend fishing time alone its my own time. Thanks again
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I’m having a look forward to your subsequent publish, I will
try to get the hang of it!