Fishing Expert Gives Tips for Beginners

The summertime is one of the most popular seasons to enjoy casting your line into a river and reeling in a big one. But if you don't know much about fishing, you're missing out. Michael Freeman, owner of Michael T's bait shop on Jefferson Avenue in Detroit, has been in the fishing business for 23 years. Here, Freeman shares a few tips that will help you get started and are sure to reel beginners into the art of fishing.

Pond Fishing and River Fishing

One of the first steps to fishing is figuring out where you want to fish. When pond fishing, use a bobber to keep your bait afloat. When river fishing, use a sinker to weigh the bait down. If you use a bobber in a river, the strong current will push your bait back to the bank. In the case of bobbers, size matters.

"The smaller the bobber and the thinner the bobber, the longer the fish hold onto the bait. These big bobbers are a lot of resistance and the fish don't hold on," says Freeman.

Tight line fishing

The tight line fishing technique is when you drop your line into the water. The line is straight down and the rod isn't moving. The line is so tight that you can easily notice when a fish takes the bait because the rod will start bending.

"To tell the truth. I don't call it fishing. I call it sitting and waiting around. Waiting on a fish to just happen by and see your bait," says Freeman. "Fishing requires movement. Fish are predators. They chase their food. But some people don't want to put in the work. They want to sit down and just have a good time."


Casting and Retrieving

Casting and retrieving is the technique where you cast your line into the water and reel it in. This technique gets your line further into the water.

"You can catch more by casting and retrieving. The purpose of casting and retrieving is to cover more territory. Fish lay in ambush so they are stationary. They aren't moving around as people think," says Freeman. "The more territory you cover the more fish you pass. You can catch more fish that way."


There's a variety of live bait a fisherman (or woman) can use, from worms to little fish. Freeman says the type of fish you're after will determine whether you use leeches, crayfish, minnows, nightcrawlers or worms.

  • White Bass: A white bass doesn't care anything for a worm, a leech or a crayfish. They want the minnows. They follow minnows upstream so that will be your best bet for a white bass.
  • Smallmouth Bass: Your best bet for catching them is usually a crayfish or a leech. They will eat a minnow, but the crayfish is their favorite food.
  • Walleye: That's the cream of the crop, says Freeman. He's very elusive. When a fisherman gets himself a walleye, now they have bragging rights. They are very subtle biting fish, and a lot of times they are there and you don't know it. They can be caught with night crawlers, leeches and nice size minnows. They love smelts, too.
  • Northern Pikes and Muskie: They'll eat pretty much any fish that you have on your hook.
  • Flathead Catfish: Your best chance of catching a catfish are crayfish, a nightcrawler or shrimp.
  • Minnows and Smelts: You don't use bait for Minnows and Smelts. You use an umbrella net to catch them. After you got the fish close you just dip them out the water.

Artificial Bait

"The benefit of using artificial bait is you can save yourself a lot of money by not having to buy live bait. It requires a lot of work casting and retrieving," says Freeman.

Freeman prefers live bait over, because he says you can catch more fish that way.

Boat vs. Land

"It's best to fish on a boat naturally because you can get right over the fish. You just drop straight down," says Freeman. "You don't have to cast when you are on a boat. You just drift right over them and drop the line straight down."

Rods and Reels

According to Freeman, it's best to have multiple rods and reels, but he recommends a bigger one for people just starting out. Freeman uses a smaller rod and reel because it's more challenging.

"The larger rods are basically for security. If the big fish bite it, it ensures you are going to get it. It has a heavier line on it. It improves your chance of getting it. That's the reason people around here use the big stuff, to cut down the time and try to horse him in," says Freeman. "With the smaller one, chances are you can get him but it might take you an hour or an hour and a half. By that time you're tired."

Freeman also says that knowing the type of fish you're after will help determine the rod and reels you should use.

"I have one rod for bluegills and crappies. I use something light and long. You need something long where you can stand back from the water and extend it over the water because if they see you they'll flee," says Freeman.

For Walleye fishing, Freeman suggests a shorter, stiff rod.


  • Fishing can be a harmless, fun sport but it can also be dangerous. Freeman says being aware of your surroundings, equipment and children is key.
  • Break Your Equipment Down: Take your hooks off and put them away to avoid getting hooked. This could lead to a hospital trip where doctors would have to cut the hook out.
  • Don't Get Too Close To The River: You need to be far enough where you can't trip and fall in.
  • Keep Children Away From The Water: Make sure you keep the kids away. Freeman recommends ponds for kids – still water – especially if you have a lot of children because you can barely keep your eyes on one.
  • Watch Your Hooks: Be cautious when casting and retrieving. You don't want to hook anyone when casting.

General Tips

  • Know What Size Hook You Need: Everybody believes the bigger the hook, the bigger the fish, but that's not the case. The fish will bite a bigger hook but that doesn't necessarily mean you are going to catch a large fish. Now you're limiting what you can catch because smaller fish can't bite the bigger hook. So, Freeman says the largest hook he uses is a size 4.
  • Do Your Research: Know what you're fishing for, what your fish like, along with the habitat and terrain they like – and where to cast. Fish are always in closer than people think because their food is at the bank.
  • Be Patient & Cover All Territories: Let your line drift to cover more territory. With drifting you just reel it in slowly. If it manages to get all the way around, Freeman says he just reels it in close to the bank. "You'll be after Rock Bass at that point. You're basically trying to find your fish," he says.
  • Know the Best Times to Catch Your Fish: If you're fishing for catfish, Freeman suggests fishing in the early morning or at night. Fish when the sun is shining for a Smallmouth bass. And, for a Walleye, he suggests fishing in the early morning or at night.
  • Set Your Drag Properly: The drag is what you use to fight your fish with. It keeps you from breaking your line, your rod and maybe your reel. When the line is too tight, a fish can snap it. When the drag is set, the fish can pull the line, and that's what you want. It'll help you catch the fish.
  • Use a Drop Net: Do this after you got a nice size fish close to the bank, rather than trying to lift it up and break your line – thus losing the fish. That's the purpose of the net, which you use especially for the Walleye.
  • Protect Your Equipment: How? Simply break it down, so you don't damage your rod.

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