Let’s face it, part of being a great fisherman is having the best gear. I have written many articles telling you that you can catch fish with nothing but a fishing rod from Wal-Mart. But I also can acknowledge a $2,000 fish finder like this one will make it a whole lot easier.
For professional fishermen, having every advantage to catching fish can mean the difference between winning tournaments or going home to get a real job. So since they are always testing out the latest and greatest in fishing gear, it’s a good idea to pay attention to what everyone in the pros is using. Because if they all use it, it means it’s the best.
Let’s look into each type of fishing gear and what the pros use. And maybe you’ll find something that pros use that you’ve never heard of which explains why they just catch so many fish and making fishing look easy!
But if you don’t want to read the whole article, here is a quick curated selection of gear that a lot of pro fisherman put their names behind that are sure to help you catch fish –
Abu Garcia Revo Rocket Baitcast Reel used by Fletcher Shyrock, Bobby Lane, Mike Iaconelli, Justin Lucas, Jordan Lee, and others
Daiwa Tatula Elite used by Jared Lintner, Seth Feider, Ish Monroe, Brett Hite, and others
St. Crois Legend Elite Casting rods used by James Niggemeyer, Stephen Browning, Jesse Wiggins, and others
Daiwa Steez Casting rods used by Brett Hite, Brent Ehler, Takahrio Omori, among others
Lowrance HDS 16 – more pros use Lowrance HDS than all other fish finders combined!
Sponsorship is King
First I want to make the disclaimer that there is no single piece of gear that almost all professional fisherman use. This is because the majority of earnings pros make is from sponsorships, or companies paying fisherman to use and sell their products.
This is what makes it difficult to get through the marketing of pro fishing to find what is actually just the best gear that will make the biggest difference on the water. So throughout this article, I will try to refrain from specific brands that professionals use as they vary based on who gave them a sponsorship deal that year.
Instead I will be looking into the factors behind the label – what features or specifications all pros are gravitating towards that you need to have. Because chances are there is no one specific product that is just better than the rest. Manufacturers all copy each other’s best work. So this will not be a brand specific approach – but a feature specific one.
Fishing Rods the Pros use
Any fishing novice might think that there can’t be that big of a difference between a professional fishing rod and what you buy at any old tackle store. But this couldn’t be farther from the truth!
Professional fishermen are constantly testing new, improved rod constructions from different materials. Getting that little bit of extra distance, increased sensitivity, or more strength can be the difference between catching those few extra fish that win or lose a tournament. So pros are always trying new gear and picking the absolute best ones.
Let’s get into the 3 features that all professional fishing rod arsenals have.
Have a variety in your arsenal
One thing that pro fishermen have that sets them apart is a wide variety of rods to choose from. And I don’t even just mean different brands – I mean the exact same brand or style of rod. Just in different actions, powers, and lengths.
If you want to know more about action, power, and length in a fishing rod and what they do take a look at this article which goes more in depth on the topic. In short, action refers to where a pole bends. Power refers to how much resistance is needed to make it bend. And length refers to how long a pole is.
All of these are important depending on the type of fishing you’re doing. A crankbait needs a pole that bends easily for better casting, where as a jig needs no bend so you can set a hook easily. If you’re making precise casts or underhanding, you need a short rod. A long rod is necessary for long casts.
Because you might face all of these different situations on the water – you need a lot of rods that can handle many different situations. If you look at a pros boat, they might have 20 to 30 rods out at any given time. That way they are ready for any given situation. And if you look at their storage, you’ll find most pros have 100s.
As an amateur, you probably can’t afford to have hundreds of rods. But try and have a lot of different types of rods so you can have the perfect one for any condition. And don’t buy two rods with the same specifications.
Construction materials matter
Another thing you’ll find with every rod that a professional uses is that they never go for the “base” model in any rod lineup. They almost always opt for the top of the line version.
Jesse Wiggins is currently fishing in the Bassmaster Elite Series and uses St. Croix rods. If you’ve read my articles before, you know I love the St. Croix Bass X series of rods. For the price to performance, they are one of the best rods you can buy. And you’ll catch a ton of fish on them and have fun doing it.
But Jesse doesn’t use Bass X. He goes straight to the top of the line for the St. Croix Legend Elite series. While they might be a good bit more expensive – the extra performance he gets from them are worth it. Legend Elite rods use Integrated Poly Curve tooling and Advanced Reinforcing Technology to create extremely durable and strong rods. They also are built with Taper Enhancement Technology which improves action and sensitivity. Guides are also aftermarket, increasing line life and sensitivity.
For the average fisherman, these things are more bells and whistles. But if you’re serious about fishing they can be that little bit of extra difference that equals more bass in the boat and a tournament win under your belt. So upgrading to the top of the line in whatever brand of rod you choose can make a real impact.
Most pros don't use custom rods
Finally, I have seen several posts that professionals use custom-made rods that are made with superior materials compared to what you can buy in stores. Frankly, this is false.
The majority of professional fisherman really are using the same fishing rods you can buy at your local Bass Pro Shop or other tackle outfitter. They may be using the more expensive models, but they don’t use specialty rods made specifically for them in most cases.
This is for a few reasons. One being that a professional needs to sell the rods his sponsor provides – which means he must actually use the ones that people can buy. But also, pros break poles quite frequently. If they were mid-tournament and broke a custom-made rod they would have no way to replace it. By using widely available rods, they always have a replacement ready.
So if you think the reason you don’t cast as accurately or as far as a pro is just because they have some super fancy rod you can’t access – think again. You can get the same rods that most professionals are using off the shelf.
Fishing reels the pros use
The fishing reels that pros use are similar to rods with a few additional points worth mentioning. Just know that the same applies here that pros are not using your base, $100 reels in most cases. They are opting for premium construction, $400 plus reels on all of their rods. And they have every gear ratio possible for all the different situations they may need.
But here are some additional info on what the pros use for fishing reels.
Supertuning or upgraded materials
Fishing reels are unique in that there are many aftermarket options in the form of handles, ball bearings, and other parts that can be added to a reel straight from the packaging. These are meant to provide better grip, more fluid casting and reeling, and increase lifespan. You can also pay professionals to “supertune” a reel to get the absolute maximum efficiency from them.
Surprisingly most pros don’t do any of this. They use the reel straight from the package with minimal tuning to their own preferences.
Again, this is likely due to the need to be able to sell the product they are using. And frankly, it’s not necessary when you’re already buying a premium product from the manufacturer. Chances are instead of eeking out some little bit of performance, you’re just going to get in the way of the manufacturer’s standards which are already designed to be ideal after many rounds of testing.
So don’t waste money on aftermarket reel accessories unless you just really want something to look cool. Chances are you’d be better off just buying a more expensive reel to begin with and let the manufacturer do the work in getting optimal performance.
Take baitcasters of spinning reels
For fishing reels, you’ll also find that professional fishermen almost always use a baitcaster over a spinning reel. Unless a pro is using super lightweight lures, a baitcaster is almost always the preferred option.
This is for one simple reason – you can cast a baitcaster more efficiently than a spinning reel. A spinning reel requires the manual click of the bailiff before casting which takes a second or two. Which for the normal fisherman is no big deal, but for a pro this could mean hundreds of casts over a tournament day. And those casts could all be more fish.
Baitcasters are also generally more accurate than spinning reels, which is another requirement of the pro who wants to get in every nook and cranny of a lake where bass may be hiding.
So if you haven’t already, learn how to use a baitcaster. I have a great article here that can help you get started. There is a reason pros use baitcasters 90% of the time – they are the best available option in fishing reels and you should learn how to use one to become a better fisherman.
Finally – you’ll find that with fishing reels brands actually can matter more than most other types of fishing gear. Rods have plenty of manufacturers that make great quality gear. In lures there are hundreds. But in fishing reels, there really are only a few that you’ll find the majority of professionals using.
Among these there are really 5 that stand out above the rest. Abu Garcia, Shimano, Lews, Quantum, and Daiwa. You can find other brands that make great reels, but these 4 are tried and true standards that the majority of professional bass fishermen are using. So if you want to just get a trusted quality that you know pros use – opt for one of the better models of these four companies and you won’t go wrong.
Fishing Lures the Pros use
Fishing rods and reels are great, but the lure is actually what the fish sees. So this must be where the pros secrets really come to life. Right?
Yes and no. There are definitely some tips and tricks to take away from looking at what the pros use for fishing tackle but it can quickly get clouded in brand sponsorships. When you hear what a pro used when winning a tournament, try to focus less on the specific brand of lure they used. Focus instead on color, type, and size. These are the things that really matter.
But here are a few more tips for what fishing lures pros use and what you can gain from them.
Modifcations are encouraged
When it comes to fishing lures, one of the main things to know is that professionals don’t just all of them right out of the package. Unlike fishing reels, many pros put their own twist on lures to give them extra action, scent, or something different when it gets into the water.
This makes sense too. Bass have probably seen every version of a lure if it’s lived for awhile in a high-pressured lake. So adding in that little extra something can make that bass want to bite. So experimenting to find something just a little bit different can save a bad day of fishing.
One way to do this with almost any lure you pull out is to add scent. Many dips or sticks are sold which can add garlic or other fish attracting scents to your lures. Often times, this is less about enticing a fish as it is hiding any plastic or human scents that may turn a fish away. It’s another small modification you can make to any lure that will add more bites.
Other things you can change are colors, such as using dyes on soft plastic lures. Or you can take your favorite crankbait and add outlines in sharpie if you want to provide more contrast or different coloration. These things might not make a huge difference, but can differentiate yourself from every other lure a fish has seen before. Pros will also use dyes and coloration changes to make their lures resemble baitfish as close as possible – a great tip to keep in mind.
Pros also like to do things like bite off the end of worms to make them smaller. They use pliers to bend spinnerbait blades to make them shimmer differently or provide more vibration. Every lure can have small modifications to just make it a little bit different.
Have multiple color, size, and action variations
Similar to pros using multiple different rods, you’ll find that pros have every color combination available on the water for any type of lure they may want to use. Even small variations can make a big difference.
Bass, or really any fish species, are often honed in on specific baits during certain times of the year. This can be as specific as a certain variation in color, or a certain size, a certain movement, etc. So the best way to make sure you have the ability to “match the hatch” is to make sure you have every color or size variation of your favorite lures available.
If you watch a professional fisherman when they’ve targeted an area, you’ll see that they throw lure after lure into the exact same spot. And often times these aren’t completely different lures, they may be the exact same one with just a slight color variation. They know there are bass there, they just need the exact right bait in front of them to get them to bite.
Or sometimes it may be a spinnerbait with a different blade combination. A crankbait with a little wider wobble. A soft plastic that has more or less movement. So don’t just keep one of everything, have multiple! All brands and types of lures will act differently and all can catch fish in certain scenarios.
Go big or go home
Have you ever seen a professional fisherman win a tournament on a ned rig or a rooster tail? No. But you do see them win it with big swimbaits or 1 ounce jigs. That’s because big baits catch big fish.
Now can you catch a great bass on a small lure? Yes. But usually there is a connection between the size of lure and the size of fish you catch. Pros don’t waste their time on little lures because they aren’t looking for little fish. They want the ones that can win tournaments.
So if you’re looking to fish like a pro, don’t be afraid to upsize your lure selection. Bass can eat very big meals when they’re hungry enough. Things like 12 inch worms, big 6 or 8 inch swimbaits, and big bulky jigs or spinnerbaits all can catch even medium sized bass. Fishing like a pro means tying these big lures on and casting a lot. You won’t catch as many, but the ones you do catch will be worth it.
Fish Finders the Pros use
If there is one piece of equipment that you should upgrade to “professional” level to catch more fish, it’s your fish finder. Better lures, poles, or even boats will be nice. But the biggest impact you can make on your fishing skill is to get a fancy new fish finder. And then hit the water a lot to learn exactly how to use it.
This is another one of those things where pros get sponsored by specific manufacturers like Raymarine, Garmin, or Lowrance. Generally, Lowrance is regarded as the best in the business when it comes to fish finders. And I prefer them because they are so popular, you can find lots of great information on how to use them.
But ultimately the brand matters less than getting a nice big screen you can see easily, and making sure you have the latest technology packed in. This used to be side imaging where you could see detailed views of either side of your boat. But currently this is some version of ActiveTarget Sonar – where you can quite literally see your lures in the water and how the fish react to them.
If you don’t believe me, take a look at the video below. Technology has become so great you can quite literally see what is under the water now – making fishing much easier for pros and amateurs alike.
Getting the gear that the pros use is difficult. Because you probably aren’t sponsored, you won’t be able to get 50 rods reels and a slew of tackle for free. Not to mention a $5,000 fish finder. But if you follow the tips above you can save a bit of money but still follow how pros get their gear to get the most out of fishing.
Most importantly, remember to visit Bass Pro Shops for all your fishing needs. They more than any other retailer will keep the best fishing gear in stock that the pros actually use. If you go to Walmart or even Dicks Sporting Goods or Gander Mountain, the majority of gear is going to be subpar from what pros use. So go to Bass Pro Shops and get the good stuff.