I’ll never forget the first time I went fishing. I was probably 4 or 5-years-old. My dad had this cozy spot set up around Dale Hollow Lake in south-central Kentucky, just perfect for catching Largemouth Bass at just about any time of day. We propped our lawn chairs and a cooler filled with grape soda on the bank and walked out to the edge of the water. I watched him rig the hook and bait the line, then he showed me how to cast…I couldn’t believe how far he could make that line fly! We caught five Bass that day (and countless Bluegill), and even though not I didn’t catch a single one of those five, it still felt like the greatest day of my life.

For many people, just like it is for me, our earliest memories of fishing are some of the happiest of our lives. The quality time we spend bonding with our friends and family while we wait for a tug on the line provides some of the most fun and relaxing moments you can have.

If you want to start fishing for yourself, first let me say that’s wonderful! You’ll soon be knee deep in one of the greatest pastimes on Earth, and I have no doubt that it will be every bit as fulfilling for you as it was for me. I was lucky enough to have a father who taught me how to fish, showed me his best spots, and gave me some tips and tricks to try when I just couldn’t get a bite. You may not have the same resources I did, so to help get you started, these are my top three tips for beginners as they prepare to go out and land their very first catch!

Start by Researching the Locations You’ll be Fishing In

The body of water you’ll be fishing at will be the most important aspect you’ll want to understand first. Not only do you need to understand what kinds of fish inhabit the waters, but you’ll also need to know what depths the lake, pond, or river reaches down to. You’ll also need to ensure that the fishing spot you plan on using allows fishing, and if you’ll need a special permit to fish there.

The location will also be important because it will determine if you’ll need any special equipment in order to reach the fish you want most. While most lakes and ponds have a pier or dock that you can fish from, and may even allow fishing from the bank, others will not. In places like these, you may need a boat of some sort to reach the areas where the fish are plentiful. That opens up a whole new can of worms (no pun intended) that you’ll have to deal with, so make sure the locations available to you let you fish the way you want.

Understand What Works for Different Species

Contrary to what many new fishermen think, not all fish are the same. You can’t just slap a worm on a hook like they did in the old Looney Toons cartoons and expect to catch something big. There are hundreds of different species of fish, and while there are some techniques that will work for any breed, most require very specific types of bait, and specific techniques, in order to catch them.

To illustrate, let’s compare two different breeds of fish. Flathead Catfish like to reside in medium-depth waters among reeds and underwater plants. Once they’re fully grown, they feed exclusively on other species of fish. The best baits to use include live minnows and other baits that you can use to imitate the look and movement of other fish.

By contrast, Largemouth Bass like to hang out closer to the water’s surface and use features like grass and reeds to conceal their presence as they wait to ambush their prey. They feed on a much wider diet than Flathead Catfish and will eat anything from bugs to small ducks, depending on the season. To catch them, you have to figure out what they’re currently eating, and match your bait to their diet.

Not only the type of bait that you use but the equipment as well will play a huge role also. While you can easily set a worm on a hook and use a bobber for bass, you’ll never catch a Catfish that way; you’d need to use an angler or more of a flyfishing technique.

Bottom line – understand the fish you’re after, what depth they stay at, and what they eat, and then choose the right gear to give yourself a better chance at landing a great catch.

Study the Seasons

Not only do you need to dress appropriately when you fish to stay comfortable, but the seasons can have a huge impact on how fish behave throughout the year.

Fish are coldblooded, meaning that they will stay at the temperature they’re surrounded by. When it’s hot, most tend to sink to greater depths to avoid the sun’s rays. When it’s cold, most will come closer to the surface where temperatures are warmer.

Some fish also migrate either closer to or away from larger bodies of water as the seasons change, particularly those that reside predominantly in streams and rivers. The main reason for this is because the other animals and plants they feed on will migrate or die as the temperatures changes. Fish will follow their food source or adapt their diet to what’s in season.