Every year, I take parents and their children fishing, and for a number of them, it’s their first time.
I’m not sure who has more fun or enjoyment on these trips, the parents and me or the kids, but there are two things I want to discuss with parents: children’s equipment.
Most of the time, the equipment, especially the rods they bring along, are just too limp. Those $9.99 push-button combo rods don’t have enough backbone. They’re OK for panfish, but even those can be lost due to the rod’s inability to set the hook, maneuver and control the fish properly.
There’s nothing wrong with a button-reel combo. In fact, it’s probably the easiest to use, but get them a rod with medium action. And don’t forget the tackle box. You have one, and so should they.
I remember part of the fun of fishing for me and my kids was our first trip to the sporting goods store to pick out their equipment. After getting the right rods and reels, we also got them small tackle boxes and picked out a few needed items like bobbers, hooks, sinkers and casting plugs.
The same day we bought the equipment, we were in the backyard practicing with the casting plugs. Once they were able to cast, I put out a bucket, first at short ranges and then began moving it out. By the time we went on our first fishing trip, both of them were ready. You’ll be surprised how they’ll head for the back yard themselves to practice.
First time fishing
If you don’t have a boat, there are plenty of places to shore fish, but I recommend finding a fishing guide to take them out in a boat.
As to what you should fish for their first time, I run into a lot of disagreement. I like to break them in fishing for bigger fish, specifically bass. Most parents, when they bring their kids fishing with me, want to use real worms on bobbers for panfish.
I understand that they want them to catch fish, there’s nothing wrong with that, but I have the confidence and know I can get a young angler hooked up with a bass. When a tail-walking smallie is on the end of a little guy’S or gal’s rod, they’ll have a smile from ear to ear so mom or dad better have that camera ready. The lure that makes this happen is “the wacky worm.”
I downsize the lure to a three- or 41⁄4-inch Stik-O and use a 2/0 circle hook. Most children when they get a bite have a tendency to reel rather than set the hook, and their reeling will imbed the hook. I know adults who should be using these hooks.
One last trick when letting a young angler fish with a wacky worm, use a bobber. I’ve found using a one-inch bobber attached two feet above the wacky worm and just letting it float around, the fish will find it. I use this bobber method myself while I’m having lunch on the boat. I have a photo album of kids to whom I’ve introduced to the wacky worm, some of which are with a four-, five- and one almost six-pound bass.
If you have youngsters at home who haven’t fished, ask them tonight at dinner if they would like to “go fishing.” I think you’re going to get a very loud “Yes.” And when they hook up with that first fish, be sure to email me the story for Fish Tales.