A Beginner’s Guide to Inshore Fishing

Inshore fishing is incredibly fun, and going on a charter is a sure way to learn the basics. Although if you want to start inshore fishing on your own, what do you need to bring with you? On a charter, you can just show up and most of everything else is taken care of. Although while you are out on your own, you need all the gear and need to know how to use it. In this article, we are going to walk you through everything you need to know about inshore fishing as a beginner.

What Is Inshore Fishing

If you go around asking anglers their definition of inshore fishing, you may get a few different answers. As a general rule of thumb, saltwater inshore fishing is defined as fishing in water that is less than 30 meters or roughly 100 feet deep. Most of your inshore fishing will take place in shallow water, and close to the shore. Although we need this distinction because, at different depths, you will catch different types of fish.

Some anglers will attempt to define inshore fishing by the distance from the shoreline, this makes sense at first, but it can be misleading. On my last fishing charter, we went 40 miles off the shore, but the water was only 106 feet deep at the max. In other areas, it can get twice that deep just a few miles offshore, so the distance from the shoreline metric does not take into account the variability of the sea floor’s geography.

Know that you know exactly what inshore fishing is, let’s take a look at how you should get started.

Keep It Legal

The first step to any kind of fishing is to get a license. It is sort of a joke that when you see the department of natural resources(DNR), you throw your rod in the water… There is no need for all that. All you need to do is pick up a fishing license at a local store, or buy one online.


You may need an in-state, or out-of-state license depending on your situation, but it will cost you between 15 and 50 dollars for an annual license. Or you can buy a lifetime license for a few hundred dollars and never have to worry about it again.

Inshore Fishing Rods

Of course, if you want to go fishing, you are going to need a rod. There are plenty of inshore fishing rods on the market and many of them can cost you hundreds of dollars, but a basic rod will do the trick just fine. 


I recommend spending around 100 to 150 dollars on a medium to light rod that is around 7 feet long. This is going to be the most versatile rod that you can have as a beginner. A light rod would work great if you plan to stay close to shore and catch smaller fish, but as you get farther out and start catching fish over 10 lbs, you will appreciate a medium-light rod.


At most I would go for a medium power rod while just starting out. This is going to let you throw heavier rigs and pull in bigger fish. Although if you are sticking closer to shore, the medium-light rod will allow you to feel those small nibbles and pecks a little bit better.

Inshore Fishing Reels

The next most important part is going to be your reel. As for the type of reel, I suggest a spinning reel. Just like the rods, there are about a thousand to choose from and they can get super expensive. Again, as a beginner, I do not think you need to break the bank on a reel. Yes, the expensive ones are nice, but you can find a reel that will do the trick for 30 to 50 dollars.


For inshore fishing, a 4000 size reel will be the most versatile. It is small enough to allow you to catch smaller fish like trout or redfish, without being overpowering. It also has enough drag and line capacity to handle some bigger redfish and snook.

The Right Line & Leader

As for the line, you want to have something that is going to stay sturdy while pulling in big fish but is not too big for the little guys. 20 lbs test braid fits this bill perfectly. Now your reel will tell you what the manufacturer recommends as far as the test goes, but I would definitely go with a braid over monofilament. 


As for your leader, you are going to want something like a 25 lbs test fluorocarbon leader. This leader will work well for most applications as a beginner. When you are attaching your leader, I recommend you make it about as long as your wingspan. It will shorten over the trip, but if it gets shorter than an arms-length it is time to change it out.


The Fishing Basics

Rods and reels are important, but you do not want to forget the other basic gear you are going to need for fishing. There are not a ton of things you need to bring but a few things that I would make sure I had are pliers, cutters or a knife, bobbers if your rig requires it, and weights, especially split shots. Split shot weights are used in all sorts of rigs, so it is a good idea to have a pack handy. Other than that, I would make sure I had some water and lunch if I plan on staying out for a while.

Best Lures for Inshore Fishing

Now that you have a rod and reel, and the fishing basics, what lures should you use to catch some fish? Well, there are a ton of lures to choose from out there, but there are also some basic reliable ones that work well for beginners.


  • Topwater spook – this is a classic lure that has caught thousands of fish. All you need to do is throw it out, it will float on top of the water, and then you will twitch it back to you. That causes it to move erratically and attract a lot of attention. Fish go crazy for the spook.
  • Mirrolure Mirrodine – this is an ultra-popular mid-water twitch bait. When you throw it out, let it sink a few inches to a foot down, and then work it just like the spook. When you twitch it towards you it is going to jerk around and look like a little injured fish that is easy to eat.
  • DOA CAL on a 1/8 oz jig head – this is an awesome lure that is easy to use. All it is is a soft plastic shad on a jig head. You can also work it in a couple of different ways. You can cast it out and let it sink to the bottom and twitch it like the previous two, or you can do a steady reel. If the fish are really fired up, you can throw it out and reel it in quickly which will make it skim on the surface. It is a great all-around lure. These lures are soft though and will break on you, so I recommend buying a bulk bag of 50 or so. 
  • DOA Shrimp – last but not least is the DOA shrimp. Shrimp is an awesome natural bait, and it works really well in plastic. I like to throw these guys out and let them sink, and then jig it off the bottom. This makes the shrimp jerk around down there and it looks like it is trying to run away from a predator, which happens to attract more predators. This lure is also super easy to work, and it catches all sorts of fish.

Best Live Bait

When it comes to live bait, live shrimp are king. They work super well and you can catch just about anything on them. What I like to do is use 2/0 or 3/0 circle hooks, this is the perfect size to not weigh your shrimp down too much so he can still move around, and these hooks are still big enough to catch bigger fish.


Plus you can find live shrimp in just about any bait shop. I recommend getting about two dozen of these guys for a trip. You want to make sure that your bait bucket either has small holes in it and you hang it in the water, or your bucket has an aerator. This way your shrimp will not die, and you will catch more fish.

Know Where to Go

The last thing to sort out is knowing where to go fishing. If you are brand new to the sport, that can be the most intimidating part. You can go into your local bait shops and talk to the guys in there, but they are not going to give you their best spots. They may help guide you in the right direction or give you an area to try. Just let them know that you are new and are trying to find a place to start fishing and want to know what their suggestion is.


You can also take to the internet to find a good place to fish. Facebook groups could be one place to look. Again, people are probably not going to tell you exactly where they fish, but you may get a good idea of where to go. Google also has fishing reports for nearly every area. They are hit and miss, but if the report says that a lot of people are catching fish in a certain area then it may be worth a try.


Lastly, you can wing it. This is my approach most of the time just because I think it is the most fun. If you do manage to get an area from someone else to hunt, you pretty much have to wing it anyway when you get there, because they often give you rather large areas. All and all, just keep talking to people and trying different areas. You will eventually find a few good spots to reliably catch your favorite kind of fish.

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