Teaching Kids To Fish
By Bob Hood
Things were a lot simpler when I grew up and I think that's good. In fact, I think taking a simple approach to teaching a youngster how to fish is a lot better than going about it the way many of today's adults do.
While it is true that young people are much more educated about many things than many older adults were when they were their age, that doesn't mean that using methods to teach a young person how to fish should begin with teaching them how to cast a baitcasting reel, the difference between a spinnerbait and a crankbait, or how to run a trolling motor. Sure, there are lots of boys and girls age 10 to 15 who can handle those tasks fairly well and learn quickly. But if young people aren't taught the basics of fishing they soon will lose interest and find something else to do with their time.
A good example of that was a conversation I had with a neighbor's 15-year-old son recently. The boy saw me getting my tackle ready on my front porch for another trip and wandered over to see if I could help him with a baitcasting reel he was having trouble with. After disassembling the real and studying the gears, spool shaft and star drag, I determined that the star drag was the problem. The boy got the reel second-hand and someone apparently had taken it apart and lost some spacers on the star drag before they gave it to him.
The reel not working properly wasn't the only problem. The problem was that the boy, as much as he wanted to, did not know a thing about baitcasting reels, what the tension nut is for, nor how to cast lures of various weights under various wind conditions. He wanted to know, but somewhere between first learning to catch a fish of any kind on any type equipment and trying to use a baitcasting rod and reel, he had become lost in bewilderment. Talking further, I realized that his "first" experiences at fishing were with the more sophisticated equipment, not cane pole, spincast or spinning gear. It took me back to the days when I learned to ride a bicycle. I started with a tricycle, graduated to a bicycle with two auxiliary side wheels and finally to the bicycle itself.
In fishing, I think the best way to start a youngster fishing is with a cane pole - a simple piece of line tied to the end of a pole, a bobber, pinch weight and perch hook. Teach him or her to love to catch fish, not how to cast. Once they have learned the fun of fishing, it will be much easier for them to graduate to a spincast, spinning or baitcasting reels.
After all, it is the fun of fishing that should be the driving force that brings all of us to the banks of a creek, a small lake or large reservoir. If it isn't fun to a youngster, don't count on him or her wanting to come back to try it again.
Once they know the thrills of feeling and fighting a fish on the end of a cane or fiberglass pole and become old enough to move to more sophisticated equipment such as a spincast and spinning reel, the closer they will be to being able to master the art of using baitcasting equipment.
And if you've followed that path teaching a young person how to fish, stop for a moment and think about what you have accomplished. I can tell you exactly what you have accomplished.
First, you have taught the youngster how to enjoy catching fish with the simplest of equipment. Then you have taught the youngster how to use a spincast reel with adequate efficiency, and then you have taught him or her how to learn the ins and cuts of using spinning and baitcasting gear. In the course of time, you have taught the youngster how to use all of the reels and rods they may encounter throughout the rest of their lives.
On the other hand, had you started them out at, say age 8, 12 or 15, and put a baitcasting rig in their hands as their first fishing gear, you have taught them how frustrating it is to use fishing equipment they are not ready for. I don't know of an angler I've ever met who picked up a baitcasting rod and reel, turned on a depth finder and studied its window, or pushed the start button on a trolling motor the first time out who knew exactly how to operate those types of equipment.
Learning to fish and how to use today's equipment should start as a fun experience and graduate into a learning experience. Take the fun out of it and try to give a youngster a cram course and the results likely will be one lost future angler.