I'll second www.talkbass.com
and their forums. I was a member there for a good 4 years or so until I quit playing bass last year due to my Carpal Tunnel. Also check out www.thedudepit.com
which is another great bass site and a lot of the TalkBass guys frequent there.
You can't go wrong with a Fender Jazz bass. The MIM (Made in Mexico) basses are quite good though you have some of them checked out to make sure that the frets are level and it is in good playing order. Some of the Mexico Fender's can be a bit spotty in the QC. I'd also suggest a Lakland Skyline Joe Osbourne, which is also a jazz bass. For amps, I had an Ampeg B100R which I think was a 150W amp for $500, which can be had used for $250-$350.
Some great sites I used to use for buying were www.buffalobrosguitars.com