How to pack for spring fishing

When the weekend nears, we can feel the anxiety build up. We want to be back on the water and we want to be there as soon as we can. When the alarm goes off Saturday morning, we are often out the door like a shot, heading toward our favorite body of water and another adventure in fishing. With this rush, however, often comes the habit of leaving some of our precious gear behind.

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How to pack for spring fishing

When the weekend nears, we can feel the anxiety build up. We want to be back on the water and we want to be there as soon as we can. When the alarm goes off Saturday morning, we are often out the door like a shot, heading toward our favorite body of water and another adventure in fishing. With this rush, however, often comes the habit of leaving some of our precious gear behind. 

Jackets, extra rods, spare spools of line and even our tackle box have all been left behind in a hurry. You can often get away with forgetting some gear during the summer months, but spring is different. Sporadic weather and picky fish can leave you cold, soaked and skunked in spring.

Below we go through an easy to follow packing list, going from clothing to gear, that works whether you are on the ocean, or on a small mountain creek. 


Spring weather can turn on a dime. I’ve experienced snow, rain and melting heat all in the same day. Long story short, spring weather is not to be trusted. Sun will turn to rain and, in some places, can turn to snow quickly. Non-cotton layers are a must as cotton retains moisture during bad weather, keeping you wet and cold.

  • Synthetic material short sleeved shirt

    • Perfect for warm weather days and wont stay soaked if you do get an errant rain storm.

  • Synthetic/wool/bamboo hooded long sleeve fishing shirt

    • Great materials to protect you from UV rays and incoming bad weather. Hoods are fantastic at protecting your neck from sunburn and your ears and head from getting cold when the wind picks up.

  • Windproof light jacket, or sweater

    • Always necessary to have on hand in case of inclement weather. Packable windbreakers can be stored in small areas, not taking up much space, but can be a lifesaver in a pinch.

  • Polarized sunglasses

    • Protect your eyes and spot fish better in the water. Every angler needs a nice pair of polarized glasses.UV rays will bounce off water causing undue stress on your eyes, plus the polarization allows you to see more clear through water, allowing for better sight casting. Glasses are also a great defense against an errants cast and a hook to the eye.

  • Hats

    • Keep the sun out of your eyes on another level with a good hat. Some of us aging anglers may also need to protect the top of our heads (thanks male pattern baldness). We aren’t even sure if it's possible to fish without a hat.

  • Face masks

    • Face masks, or neck gaiters, are great tools for keeping your face safe from UV rays that bounce off the water, wind burn, or mosquitos. They are light, easily packed and should not be forgotten. They even offer warmth when the spring winds can chill you to the bone.

  • Proper shoes

    • Whether you’re on a boat, wet wading, or walking along the bank, you'll need a pair of shoes that match. Shoes that don't leave streaks are perfect for boats as they won't streak the hull. Wading boots, with or without waders, are a great asset for wet wading as they provide high ankle support and a good traction sole for walking across wet and slippery rocks. Closed toed water shoes are another perfect option as they provide toe protection.

Fishing gear

Spring fishing is tricky because the weather can dictate the bite. It also offers some great opportunities like topwater bites, as well. The trick is to carry an arsenal of baits and lures and walk a fine line between changing them often and giving them enough time to work. Easier said than done, but you never know when you’re one changed bait away from matching the hatch.

  • Topwater baits

    • Spring can be a great time for poppers and other warm water topwater baits. Pike and bass can be very aggressive in the late spring, post spawn and this is a great time to entice them to a surface bite. Fly anglers will also begin seeing fly hatches this time of year and need to carry an assortment of mayflies and stoneflies this time of year.

  • Sub surface

    • Topwater bites are special and won't always be around. Most days the weather will still be cold, meaning the water is too. This makes fish sluggish and less aggressive in their bites. It's important to have a trove of sub surface baits you can use in a passive and slow manner. Bass anglers may want to reach for soft plastic worms, crawfish, or lizards and retrieve them excruciatingly slow. Jerkbaits are another option that can work well with a slow retrieve. Fly anglers will want to stick with prince nymphs, pheasant tails, or Pat’s rubber legs on a dead drift.

  • Hook/line size

    • Fish often feed on smaller organisms all winter long and they may not be out of that habit come spring. Make sure to bring different sized hooks, to properly match the size of feed different species are looking for. When in doubt, scale it down. Spring rain can often dirty up water. You may look to bring a stronger line to pull through weeds and lilies. Fish that are normally line shy may have a much harder time seeing your thicker gauge line when the water is off color.

  • Weight

    • During cold weather, the warmest water tends to be deep. This is where fish often hold up. When fishing on a cold spring day, fish may still be held up in deep pools and you will need to get your bait down to them. Spring rains and snow melt will also cause water levels to rise, meaning a fishing hole you were fishing last week could be much deeper this week. Weight can be your friend in this case, so don't leave it behind.

Tools and miscellaneous 

Spring is a unique time of year and can often catch us guard after a long winter. We often need some gear with us we haven’t thought about in months. There are also every day fishing tools we need but can become after thoughts after a long season of not having them in our pockets, or tackle boxes.

  • Knives/multi tools

    • Easy to forget, but of the utmost importance. Whether you’re cutting a tangled dock rope, smashing a hook barb, or just spreading peanut butter on a sandwich, your knife, or multi tool, needs to be with you at all times.

  • Bug spray

    • Standing water from melting snow, or spring rains, leads to one thing. Mosquitos. Don’t let the little buggers keep you from fishing. Apply some repellent and stay out longer than the angler who forgot it at home.

  • Sunscreen

    • You’ve probably been inside all winter, longing to see the sun. Don’t let the friendly sunshine fool you, however. By all means soak up as much sun as possible, but don’t let it fry you on your first day out. Get outside and fish, just don't come home a lobster.

  • A new license

    • Some states require you to buy a new license in the spring. Don’t forget to check when you need to renew your fishing license and all other required licenses and report cards. Most anglers are more than happy to buy their license, but sometimes arbitrary renewal dates can cause confusion.

  • Your Fishbrian App

    • It should be obvious by now, but we think your Fishbrain App should go fishing with you every day. Browse your map for new fishing spots, check for fishing regulations, study different types of baits and save your memories forever, with Fishbrain.

Don't let a forgotten, key, piece of gear either keep you off the water, or keep you from having a great day casting. Save and double check our quick list, or use it to make your own, and never forget something again. It’s a new fishing season, spring is here and we can already smell the weekend. Let’s make the most of it.

Now let’s go fishing. We’ll bring the checklist.

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