Besides a fishing rod and reel, a well-filled tackle box or bag is the angler's most important tool. Most boxes contain one or more trays for organizing your tools. Make sure it also has a secure latch, so you don't end up dropping it and all your tools on the ground or in the water, and is water resistant, with drainage holes in the bottom. Online retailers like Orvis and Sierra Trading Post carry a huge stock of tackle box and fishing gear options. Some basic items to put in your tackle box include:

1. Flies, Lures and Bait

Quality flies and lures imitate the movement and appearance of common prey, including insects and nymphs, minnows and spiders or water skimmers. Some fish, like bass and trout, are attracted to flies that resemble mice, frogs, crawfish and forage fish on which they prey. Avoid cheaper, less-effective options made of hard plastic or molded rubber. Instead, look for natural materials, like feathers, hair or fur or choose a buoyant synthetic made from nylon, lightweight plastic, latex or polypropylene.

In the end, live bait is probably the best choice. It can include food, like kernels of corn and hotdog pieces and smaller creatures, like worms, minnows, crawfish and shrimp. Tackle stores sell live bait, but you also can dig up your own worms or catch small creatures in a local pond or stream. Just remember to use bait that is the right size for your hook, so the fish doesn't get away.

2. Several Hooks

Hooks come in a variety of sizes, ranging from smaller than one-eighth of an inch to three inches or more for catching big, saltwater fish. In general, the larger the hook size, the smaller the fly you'll need. If you're just starting out, keep size 6 or 8 hooks in your box, along with a hook sharpener.

3. Weights and Bobbers

Split shot weights are the most common type used to keep the bait in the water. Attach them to the line about a foot or so from the hook. Another good weight is a metal sinker that attaches to the end of your line. Stick with non-toxic metals, such as steel and tin, to avoid poisoning the fish. Bobbers come in a wide variety, as well, from the traditional red and white ball to corks and balsa wood. In addition to keeping the bait at a certain depth, bobbers bounce in the water to alert the angler to nibbling fish.

4. Important Extras

Pliers and fingernail clippers are good for removing hooks and cutting excess fishing line. Other good tools are headlamps, extra reels and fishing line. Also pack in a small first aid kit, sunscreen, insect repellent, hand sanitizer, a camera for photographing your catch and a map of the fishing area or a portable GPS unit. A ruler or something with which to measure your fish is also a good idea, as are outdoor guides to state fishing regulations and a fishing license.