Freshwater or Saltwater Fishing? Do Both!

Why choose between Saltwater and Freshwater?

Over the years, freshwater anglers have asked me what kind of gear they need to get started in saltwater. My response is usually pretty simple: “You’ve probably already got 95 percent of what you need already in your garage.”

The big differences between freshwater and saltwater fishing are the species you’re targeting and that you’ll need to factor current and tidal flow into the equation. Beyond that, the differences are rather small.

If you have rods and reels for bass fishing, you’re pretty much ready to start fishing for speckled trout, slot redfish, flounder, pompano and dozens of other fun and tasty saltwater species. You can use many of the same lures and rigs you already have for bass. A big trout or redfish will absolutely attack a Zara Spook or Chug Bug on top, and reds, flounder and Spanish mackerel will slam a Johnson spoon or big blade spinnerbait. Project-X paddletails are a favorite with trout, reds and flounder, as well. Pompano love to eat short grubs on a ¼-ounce short-shank jig head. Those 8- to 12-pound-class outfits you use for bass are just right for inshore fishing.

If you have gear for big freshwater stripers, then you’ve got the majority of what you need to fish nearshore and offshore for king mackerel, cobia, snapper and grouper. You’ll need to beef-up your gear for big grouper, amberjack, billfish and sharks. Most bottom dwellers like snapper and grouper are caught using a Carolina rig. You just increase the weight of the sinker to keep your rig vertical in the current. Your 20- to 30-pound class gear will be just fine for most offshore species, just be sure you have reels with lots of line capacity and smooth drags.

Same Gear, Different Fish

The point is you don’t have to stock up on all-new saltwater gear, unless you want to.

Now, you will need to enhance your tackle bag a bit. Leaders are extremely important in saltwater, because there are a lot of things in the water that can wreak havoc on your line, including some of the fish. Fluorocarbon is good in most situations, but some toothy species require the use of wire. You’ll want to learn to twist wire and tie a loop knot. Instructions on these skills are available at

You’ll want to add a few popping corks, like the Thunder Chicken cork, for fishing the flats with live baits or jigs. The corks serve to keep your bait at a specific depth and add a lot of fish-calling noise.

For nearshore and offshore trolling, you’ll want a couple of big spoons like the Clark Spoon in a #3 or #4, and perhaps a couple deep diving plugs like the Mann’s Stretch 30.

Finally, it’s vital to gently wash gear with lots of freshwater at the end of every day on the salt. Let lures dry in the sun before putting them back in the tackle tray, and change fishing line often.

That’s about it, same gear, different fish, similar tactics, different location.

By Capt. Cefus McRae, Nuts & Bolts of Fishing Series

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