Fishing is that rare pursuit just about everyone can do, and, if done properly, will provide a lifetime of enjoyment. Learning the basics is simple, but becoming a proficient angler requires education and experience. One way to get the essential knowledge is by reading fishing books.
The 6 best fishing books for beginners are:
- The Total Fishing Manual
- Basic Fishing: A Beginner’s Guide
- Freshwater Fishing Tips & Techniques
- High Percentage Fishing
- The AMS Weather Book
- The Pocket First-Aid Field Guide
The best way to master fishing is a mixture of learning and experience. Books can play a role in that if the lessons in a book are easily absorbed and easily put to practical use. Every book on this list in some way furthers that goal and is recommended for any fisher’s library.
Things To Consider When Choosing Fishing Books
Fishing Is Comprehensive
To become effective at it, fishing involves a lot more than just “throwing in a line and waiting.” In fact, some of what it takes does not involve fishing at all. Because of that, a “best of” list will necessarily delve into topics not directly involved with fishing. For example, understanding the weather is an invaluable tool for fishing.
5 Ways A Fisher Can Benefit From Reading The Weather
- Determining when fish will be most likely to feed and strike a bait
- Choosing what lures and color of lures to use based on sunlight, cloud cover, etc.
- Indicating when fish will not feed or have to be coaxed into striking a bait
- Predict weather fronts and storms
- Staying safe in the face of bad weather
Weather is just one example of a “non-fishing” topic that every angler should know well, if, for no other reason, than to avoid dangerous weather itself. Other non-fishing related topics or topics that are indirectly related to fishing include, but are not limited to:
- Water navigation rules
- Boat maintenance
- Safety on the water
- First aid
- Tidal charts
Trust But Verify
Don’t take a single book’s advice as a hard and fast rule. What works for the authors may not work for you. What the “experts” mock might actually be the right formula for fishing success for specific circumstances.
For instance, most fishers will raise a skeptic eye to using baits such as soap, coconut chunks or chewing gum. Yet, each of these have anglers that swear by them and are extremely successful using them to catch the fish they are after.
Given that, test everything. Research multiple sources on any tips or guidelines. For guidebooks, adjust any advice to match the right area of the country in which you are fishing.
Many fishing books are geographically focused, which can lead to confusion and even poor results when you put their advice into practice. In New England, for instance, bodies of water tend to be very clear, which requires a different approach to what works in the south, where bodies of water tend to be very opaque because of silt and algae.
Additionally, schedules vary from region to region. Bass tend to spawn 4 to 6 weeks later in the North versus in the Deep South. The water is also much colder for longer in the north, so behaviors of certain fish are different than where it is warmer. Both require adapting general fishing advice to fit local environmental circumstances.
Do Not Ignore Learning Sources
For quick answers, don’t forget the internet is a great source of information, particularly sites that use videos to show how something is done. While books are great, sometimes a quick answer is what is needed, and a visual answer will work better. Use the internet to prove the advice, techniques and product recommendations included in these books.
Other great sources of information are other fishers. Don’t expect anyone to reveal their fishing hotspot, but asking for advice on what bait to use or when to go fishing will likely yield as much information as is in any book and it will be locally oriented.
Go With What Works
Remember that fishing strategy or tactics are subjective. What works for one fisher might make no sense for another. Go with what works even if it contradicts what a certain book claims.
Test And Experiment
Remember that for fishing strategies or tactics recommended in a book or books, it’s critical to experiment after you read them. Test a lure as is recommended and then try other techniques to find the one that fits the immediate need. Test strategies for using bait or various equipment recommendations.
Use recommendations as a starting point. Then, figure out what works best for the environment, season, fish and water at hand.
Advice Is Subjective
Always keep in mind that whether the topic is “the best books on fishing” or “what lures to use,” fishing advice and opinions are subjective. With few exceptions, advice is driven by personal experience.
That means it is prone to error or hard to adapt easily to new environments. It also means that personal preferences can flavor how a strategy, tactic, lure or piece of equipment is presented.
The Importance Of Maintaining A Fishing Log
By far, though, the best way to learn how to fish is to experience fishing and learn from that experience. That includes successes and failures. For many fishers, though, memory alone is not enough, and that’s where a fishing log comes in.
In many ways, a fishing log is the most important book a fisher possesses. It allows them to document all that is noteworthy about a given fishing experience. This includes what lures worked, the weather conditions, types of fish caught, interesting geographical features of a body of water, etc. The entries in a log can serve as both documentation of a trip and a briefing for the next trip.
However, aside from a fishing log, what other fishing books should you have in your library?
6 Best Fishing Books For Beginners
1. The Total Fishing Manual
Virtually no one can approach the fishing knowledge that the staff at Field and Stream have accumulated. The advice presented in the magazine is a step-by-step guide on how to catch fish.
With that in mind, Field and Stream editor and author Joe Cermele coordinated with the editorial staff to put together a comprehensive guide to fishing that every fisher, new and experienced, skilled and unskilled, should have in their library.
The manual covers just about everything related to fishing. Want advice on what lures to pick for a certain type of water? How about where to fish during spring spawn? What equipment is worth an investment and what should be left alone?
All of that and much more is answered in the pages of The Total Fishing Manual: 317 Essential Fishing Skills.
- Easy to read
- Easy to understand
- Extremely detailed
- The amount of information can be overwhelming
- The information can be too detailed at times
- You have to have a love for fishing to get into it
2. Basic Fishing: A Beginner’s Guide
Wade Bourne’s ability to tell a story was legendary. Not as well known, but equally amazing, was his ability to explain complex concepts in a way anyone could understand. Basic Fishing: A Beginner’s Guide is vivid proof of that.
Throwing a line into a body of water is not complicated, but learning how to be a successful fisher, outdoor enthusiast and conservationist is. In Basic Fishing: A Beginner’s Guide, Bourne explains fishing equipment, bait, boats, casting, lures, fishing locales and how to fish them, cleaning and cooking fish and even fishing strategies.
Perhaps most important, Bourne explains clearly how to handle fish, which ensures they will survive a catch and release. Throughout the guide, he put an emphasis on learning how to fish, enjoying your time fishing and sustainable fishing practices.
- Generally considered the best “how-to” for beginner fishers
- Extensive and detailed diagrams
- Great for those picking up fishing after an extended period of time not fishing
- Focuses on fishing basics, but all the strategies apply to the North, South and Midwest
- Some editing issues throughout the book
- Really is geared for beginners and those restarting their fishing experience
3. Freshwater Fishing Tips & Techniques
This is another book that focuses on helping anglers of all levels of skill and experience. Gene Kugach is an expert fisherman with decades of experience. That is put to good use as he explains how to use and care for equipment, coax a hesitant fish to take the bait and what to do if the lures you are fishing are not getting any response.
While similar in focus to “how-to” fishing books, Kugach’s advice takes basic advice, in many cases, and puts his own spin on it. This makes his book both informative and entertaining.
- Extremely detailed
Easy to read
- Very clear instructions
- The amount of information can be overwhelming
- The information can be too detailed
- You have to love fishing to get into it
4. High Percentage Fishing
If you follow professional sports at all, you undoubtedly are aware of the ongoing battle between using statistics and using your gut. High Percentage Fishing brings statistical analysis to bass fishing. The goal is simply to learn strategies and tactics that catch more bass.
The book borrows from world-renowned fishermen freely and backs up or refutes many of their assertions via statistical analysis. Called the “Moneyball” guide to fishing, High Percentage Fishingchallenges accepted concepts and strategies for bass fishing and applies statistics to them to either support or refute those concepts or strategies.
- Proves accepted fishing lore is either true or false
- Is perfect for the statistically oriented
- Applying the concepts can yield results
- It is really math-oriented – if you hate math, you will likely not appreciate the book
- As with other sports, statistics sometimes do not tell the entire story
- Can be too detailed, even for stats-oriented anglers
5. The AMS Weather Book
There are three constants in fishing: Fish, water and weather. All else is negotiable and even those three can be finicky. Understanding the weather and how it affects bodies of water and fish can help the fisher land more fish as well as stay safe.
The AMS Weather Book covers routine weather, which is interesting in itself, and weather that can greatly affect the outcome of a fishing trip. It also will teach the reader how to forecast the weather and that alone can spell the difference between a successful fishing trip and a bust.
- The information is very clear
- Covers virtually all types of weather
- Presents the information from a practical standpoint
- It develops too many backstories
- It is for those just learning about weather
- Explanations can be complicated
6. The Pocket First-Aid Field Guide
A first aid book may not seem like an obvious fit for a list of books beginner fishers should read. When one considers all the possible scenarios where it might be needed while fishing, however, why it is a must read is obvious.
Chances are good every angler will have to know how to extract a fishhook from an arm, hand, leg, etc. Other potential fishing health emergencies include:
- Responding to boat collisions
- Addressing individuals with cuts, sprains or stings
- Treating cuts including, in some cases, cuts from fish
- Administering CPR
It is important to remember that sharp objects, exposure to the elements, water, boats and fish create an environment where a person can get seriously injured or need emergency medical treatment very quickly. Plus, understanding how to respond to medical emergencies is an indispensable skill whether fishing or not.
The Pocket First-Aid Field Guide: Treatment And Prevention Of Outdoor Emergencies does not go into great depth for serious injuries. It does, however, cover common issues like treating mosquito or fly bites, poison ivy, minor abrasions, etc.
- The book is a pocket guide that can be quickly referenced
- Instructions are very easy to follow
- Focuses mainly on basic wounds (bug bites, bee stings, minor cuts, etc.)
- Does not provide “field guide” instructions for more serious wounds/illnesses
- Has gaps, such as where/how one would sanitize water to treat a wound in the field
No list of books can replace actually going out and fishing, but this list can help an aspiring angler get started. If time is an issue, the three best books to read for beginner fishers are The Total Fishing Manual: 317 Essential Fishing Skills, Basic Fishing: A Beginner’s Guide and The AMS Weather Book: The Ultimate Guide to America’s Weather Illustrated Edition.
Focusing on those three at a minimum will give the beginner the skills needed to succeed, while learning the art of fishing, versus just throwing a line out and hoping a fish takes the bait. Hopefully, this guide can help new anglers get started.