Fishing On a Budget Tips

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Where do I fish?

Fish Close to Home

Many anglers aren't content unless they're off to distant lakes for the dream vacation. The fishing may be good in those faraway places but you can probably find good fishing close to home, too.

Look for spots that are out-of-the-way and off the beaten path. You can sometimes find a honeyhole right around the corner where you never thought to look. Fishing close to home means having more opportunity to spend time on the water and having to spend far less on gas, food, lodging and out-of-state fishing licenses.

   
Where can I find lake contour maps?

Contour Maps for Free

Lake contour maps can help you find fish quickly. Underwater points, sunken islands, depth changes and old creek beds are all features that hold fish and which are prominently displayed on contour maps.

There are many good books containing contour maps but they sell for a hefty price. You can save money on maps by looking on the Internet for them instead. Start by searching your state or province's conservation site. Many natural resource departments now include these maps right on their web sites. If you can't find one there, do a search with the name of the lake. Tourism bureaus and local lodges, guides and other fishing-related sites also include maps.

   
Can I make my own lures?

Make Your Own Lures

By assembling your own spinnerbaits, in-line spinners and spoons, you can save a pile of money.

The savings will be substantial if you plan on making your own baits in bulk. Most lure component suppliers will only sell spoon blanks, in-line wires, split rings and other components in multiples of 10 or more. If you order even larger quantities you can offset shipping costs and fill your tacklebox inexpensively.

Making your own lures also gives you nearly unlimited freedom to experiment. Try different colored skirts on your spinnerbaits or as trailers behind spoons. Combine Colorado and Willow blades on a spinnerbait for an unusual combination of vibration and flash. Tailor your baits to your own taste and preferences.

It's wise to find a book or two on luremaking before you get started so that you're not reinvesting the wheel and to avoid common mistakes. Once you fish your own creations you may never go back to the mass-produced lures in the bait shop.

   
Where can I find cheap fishing equipment?

Shop Garage Sales for Big Savings

Shopping garage sales for decent fishing equipment can be a frustrating experience until you hit the one sale just right. You can save $10, $50 or even hundreds of dollars by buying lures, landing nets and rods and reels for just pennies on the dollar.

Many anglers accumulate a small fortune in fishing tackle during their lifetimes and then leave it to family members who don't fish. For the time and effort of walking up the driveway and through the garage door you can occasionally find equipment that is in excellent condition for a fraction of what you'd pay for it elsewhere.

I once bought an Abu Garcia rod and reel for $10. Other shoppers have done even better, taking home antique lures valued at perhaps hundreds of dollars.

   
What's an inexpensive way to visit great fishing areas?

Work Your Way In

For retired anglers, consider working at a lodge, campground or other business that hires seasonal employees in an area offering great fishing opportunities. You may be able to get room and board while enjoying great fishing on your off-duty hours.

The federal and state campgrounds offers employment or volunteer positions throughout the summer months. Private campgrounds do the same. Compensation varies from a paycheck to a free campsite. It's a great way to spend the summer.

   
Are there inexpensive muskie baits?

Save Money on Muskie Lures

Muskie lures generally run from $10 to $20, a price the budget-minded angler would like to avoid. There are alternatives.

Half-ounce jigs tipped with a large plastic shad body can be deadly on muskies. The cost can be less than a dollar. Large spoons can be bought for a couple of dollars and will take plenty of the big toothy predators. Live bait is cheaper yet. Hook a chub or sucker through the lips and then let it swim freely under a bobber.

Spoons are irresistable to most fish and fortunately come in a variety of sizes. Tiny spoons that can be tossed with ultra-light spinning gear are a great summer bait for trout and salmon. Crappies, big bluegills and other sunfish will fall for a tiny wobbling spoon as well. Bigger spoons are notorious bass and pike killers and can make for great mid-summer to late fall fishing.

Minnow baits like Rapalas, Thunder Sticks and Yozuris will also take a number of different fish. Any time during the open water season is stickbait time. A few lures in the tacklebox can handle most of the fish. Most of the multi-species baits aren't that expensive, either.

   
What baits are the cheapest?

Soft Plastics: the Universal Bait

There's not a fish swimming that won't eat a soft plastic worm or grub if it's presented at the right time and place and in the right size. From carp to northern pike, a snack meandering through the water just looks too good to pass up.

Tiny plastics for perch, walleyes, crappies and other panfish can be used with a small jig. Larger plastics up to 12 inches long will entice pike, muskies and giant bass.

Maybe the best part of loading up on soft plastics is the price. They're probably the cheapest baits you can find and for a few dollars, you can lose a lot them to snags without having to take out a loan to cover them.

   
Where can I get cheap bait?

Catch Your Own Bait

If you start going through the worms, crawdads and minnows pretty fast, the cost goes up quickly. The best way to save money on bait is to catch your own.

Worms can be caught on any rainy day and kept in a cool place. Crawdads are frisky and take a little more work, but a minnow net or quick hand can bring in a few from under the rocks in a stream. Minnows can be seined or caught in a commercial minnow trap and will last a couple of days if kept cool and well-aerated.

Catching your own bait only costs a little time.

   
How can I afford a fishing trip?

Plan Ahead

Long before your next fishing trip comes around, start planning your planning. Budget-conscious anglers can do a lot to lower their dollar outlay by looking forward to the trip and completing a few preparations.

The most costly part of any fishing trip is the lodging. Unless you're staying with a friend, accommodations can be expensive. Call the local Chamber of Commerce or Tourism Bureau to find a listing of motels, lodges and campgrounds, then start making some calls. Compare prices and amenities until you find the lodging that will meet your needs and be kind to your wallet.

Buy food that will keep when its on sale. Plan a simple menu that you can stick to and avoid the "I'm hungry and there's a McDonald's" trap. Other ways that planning ahead can save you money include looking for deals on the fishing equipment you'll be needing and hold off until the price is right. A little planning can easily save you hundreds of dollars.

   
Can I get an inexpensive boat?

Inflatable Boats are Easy on the Budget

Inflatable boats can put you on the water for only a couple of hundred dollars. Compared with the cost of a $20,000 bass boat, inflatable boats are one of the best deals going.

The more inexpensive inflatables won't compare with the maneuverability and speed of their hard-bottomed counterparts, but they can be stored in the trunk, put in away from a boat ramp and travel in very shallow water. For anglers just wanting to be above the water to enjoy an afternoon's fishing, inflatables are a money-saving answer.

More expensive inflatables can do just about anything a bass boat can do but the cost goes up. My inflatable kayak cost me just over a hundred dollars and was more than enough boat to handle a muskie.

   
How can I afford a fishing trip?

Go With a Group

Go with a group of friends on your next fishing trip and save a lot of money. Dividing up the cost of gas, food and lodging means traveling much cheaper on a per-person basis than what it would cost when you go alone.

The added expense of extra food and another bed in the room doesn't come close to adding up to the money you'll be saving. And the extra money you're saving can be used to buy something extra to make the trip special, such as hiring a guide. When four or five anglers split the price of a guide the cost-prohibitive service becomes a whole lot more reasonable.

The added benefit is that going with friends and family is much more fun than going alone. Why not opt for the fun and lower your costs at the same time?

   
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Jerry Mayo
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