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
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
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
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.