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MAKE IT FUN AND KEEP IT SIMPLE

by: Larry Henrichs 5/13/2013

There are few things in life more enjoyable or rewarding than taking a kid fishing, especially when their world of angling is all brand new.
I introduced all three of my boys to fishing when they were right around age 6. My youngest and oldest took to it like, well, a fish to water. My middle son tolerated it mostly because I'd occasionally let him take the wheel of my bass boat so we could go "really fast." To this day, he won't even eat fish.
What I learned through trial and error is keep it simple in the early stages.. No fancy rods. No fancy reels. No fancy terminal tackle or confusing rigs. A push button Zebco style outfit with a bobber, hook, and bread ball will keep a child fascinated for hours.. However, here is the catch. Do not make it hours. Make it until they tell you it’s time to quit.
If that’s hours, great. If it’s 20 minutes, equally great. However, let them take control of as much or as little as they choose to take on. There’s going to be plenty of time to scale it up or down or, in some cases, recognize the time may not be yet right.


My latest “student” is my 6-year-old grandson Chase. The first time he actually noticed my rods and reels and, especially, all those really cool rubber worms, crank baits, spinner baits, jigs, and on and on and on, he was intrigued. And while his questions were certainly those of a six-year-old, he got the message. Use these/Catch fish. Now the challenge was to convince him bread balls work just fine.
I live on Lake Harris in Central Florida and my community has a pubic marina and pier. The marina is a virtual aquarium of minnows, bream, warmouth, bass, tilapia, turtles, and even some hybrid stripers. This year we even got to watch the bedding and spawn of fish without leaving the dock. Quite a lesson in aquaculture and an instant fascination for the youngster to try to figure out “how can we hang that big one over there? “
So here we are. Standing on the dock armed with bread balls, a Zebco with bobber and hook, and a virtual pool of assorted and hungry prey.

It took all of about zero seconds before the first fish was dangling from the end of the line.
Of course, there’s the usual horror of the baby fish with a hook in its mouth and the “what do we do now” series of questions. However, they are quickly replaced with more bread balls, more dangling fish and, if we’re lucky, an entry into the world of a lifetime of angling.
We went through the initial fears of touching the fish, which moved into holding the fish, which became “lipping” the fish. Then came the series of questions about which fish have teeth and why “we can’t hold birds by their mouth because then they can’t breath” to “I bet you could 'lip' an alligator, Grampa” to why this and why that. Whew! It’s all new and their hunger for knowledge is amazing.
 
We’re about six months down the road now. We’ve not completely abandoned the bread ball theory but Chase had his sixth birthday and with it came his first step up. He’s now got his new Shimano bait caster, his mini tackle box of worms, crank baits, spinner baits, and jigs and of course his Columbia fishing shirt.
I have him throwing either a spinner bait or a crank bait depending on whether we’re on the shoreline or in my boat. We’re still keeping it simple. He was immediately good at backlash fixing but a little tweaking of the magnet and spool controls helped substantially reduce the need for that.
He’s managed to lure, catch, land, and release his first three pounder all on his own.
Later that same day he hung about an eight pounder that jumped once, scared both of us with its size, and retreated to the lily pads to do it again on another day. As if Chase wasn’t hooked before, this was the underscoring of his burning desire to be on the lake as many days as possible from now on.
I’m writing this on Monday, the day after Mother’s Day. We barbequed, celebrated with moms and grandmoms, and hung out with aunts, uncles, and cousins. And, at that special moment when no one was watching too closely, Chase and I quietly slipped away for a few casts down at the dock.
It‘s what boys young and old do.
Summer vacation for him is right around the corner. I have to believe it’s going to be a banner break from 'reading, writing and arithmetic' and I also have to believe that in 20 years or so he’s going to be me all over again. With his child at his side, talking the talk, walking the walk, and passing on the amazing joy of teaching a kid to fish.

The action of a bobber can keep a child mesmerized
Blog content © Larry Henrichs
Member comments
Sean D, CO   5/13/2013 3:18:37 PM
Great story, thanks for sharing! I actually introduced my oldest to fishing last year, just after he turned 4. He has no problem casting a spinning rig, can name any fish in the lake, and is now more excited to spend summer fishing with dad than he ever was last year. It's a great time fishing with kids.
 
Flyrodn, CO   5/15/2013 9:34:49 AM
Fully agree. Kids are the future of the sport and anything we can do to get them involved is fantastic.
 
JKaboom, CO   5/16/2013 7:34:37 PM
Great story thank you :)
 
Larry Henrichs
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