Start Handline Fishing in 3 Simple Steps!

Source: Alex E. Proimos on Flickr.

The Advantages of Handline Fishing

Handline fishing is a primitive form of fishing that’s been enjoyed by ancient Egyptian anglers and modern fishermen alike. Today, handline fishing is practiced by many people in the Philippines, Singapore, Trinidad, Costa Rica, and many other places all over the world. 

Although many fishermen practice handline fishing because it’s inexpensive and efficient, a lot of anglers are taking up this style because it’s just as enjoyable as normal fishing or more so depending on your preference.

In light of my minimalist goals, I created a list of the most minimalist hobbies I could find. Within the fishing category, handline fishing is the reigning champ, hands down.

Here’s the advantages of handline fishing:

1. Less gear to worry about: Owning less has many advantages that apply in this situation as well. It’s nice to be able to carry all of your gear in one hand, and there’s less broken gear, malfunctions, and expensive damages to worry about. All you have is a line and your hook. If your line breaks, oh well. Tie a new hook on.

2. It’s a unique experience: I’ve written about how doing things differently can open up new channels of enjoyment; you see things from a different angle and experience life in a new light. Handline fishing is like that – a new approach on a sport you love. When you handline fish, there’s nothing between you and the fish except the line in your hand. That means you feel every hit, strike, mouth, or inhale immediately – before the rod tips or the bobber disappears. This heightens your ability to catch the more wary fish (who are often the bigger fish with more experience).

3. It’s extremely inexpensive: You need a fishing line and bait. Oh and a bottle or stick to wrap the line around. If you already fish you have all of those things, so it’s free. Otherwise it will cost $2-$3 for 20 lb test line and $4 for a sinker and hook kit. That’s a one time cost of $6 or $7 that should last for years.

There are a number of methods and a wide variety of equipment that can be used to hand line fish, but for the sake of simplicity (since that is one of my top goals), I want to focus on the most inexpensive and simple method of them all.

The Simple Handline Rig

1. Reel and Line: Find a piece of wood you like, or if that’s hard to find, a 20 oz bottle (plastic or glass) will do. The test of the line you use can vary with the species you’re fishing for, but remember that the only thing between you and the fish is the line, so heavier pound test may be necessary. Hence, it always pays in the long run to know the ins and outs of spincast reels. Drill a hole in your reel for the line, lace the line through and tie securely. Wrap at least 20 yards of line around your reel. 

2. Attach your lure or bait: If you’re fishing with a lure, simply attach the lure and you’re ready to go. If you want to set up a bottom rig or slip bobber rig, those work very well with this set up as well. Just rig it like you would normally and you’re good to go. It’s really that simple.

3. Start Handline Fishing! Cast by simply swinging the bait in a circle over your head or to your side to build momentum, then letting it fly. For additional distance, use a steel leader, split shot sinkers, or heavier sinkers. Most handline fishermen use heavy line so they don’t have to worry about losing the fish, but some like to go light for an additional challenge. If you’re fishing for big catfish or saltwater fishing for shark, believe me, you’ll have enough of a challenge with heavy line – those fish are STRONG. And if you’re big game fishing, you might want to use gloves.

When you feel the fish take the bait, set the hook by yanking the line, and pull the fish in, wrapping your line as you go. Depending on the type of fish you’re going for, you may want to let it run with it first (especially trout and catfish), but I’m sure you know that.

This is minimalist fishing at its best. Good luck fishing!



  1. Matt L. May 15, 2013 at 7:32 pm #

    Fishing is one of my favorite hobbies! What do you usually fish for?


    • Josh May 15, 2013 at 7:48 pm #

      Hey Matt! Bass right now, but I love catfishing, and carp as strange as that may seem here in America – what about you?


  2. Marian Jones September 30, 2016 at 8:57 pm #

    Hi Josh – I’m trying to get together some things for a Christmas Child Box to be sent somewhere around the world to a poor child. I’ve been trying to think of how to fix up a fishing kit and your words of wisdom have really answered a lot of my questions. Thanks very much, Marian in Atlanta



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