The cast was not great. But for a 5-year-old it would be good enough.
The red-and-white bobber hovered on the surface over a small lead weight and hook with a piece of night crawler on it.
On the other end of that small fishing rod and reel was one of our two grandsons. I phrase it that way because both boys learned to love fishing in the exact same way… 8 years apart.
Starting a kid on the road to a passion for fishing takes patience. In the beginning patience is required to get them to sit still and watch the bobber long enough for a bite.
That having been said, start kids off in a spot where those bites can come fast and often.
To really light the fishing fire in a youngster’s life there must be quick and constant success. That is why panfish are the obvious choice for this first phase.
Bluegill and crappie have been the first catch for many millions of anglers across the country. So do some scouting and pre-fishing and have the spot for these initial fishing trips well planned.
Greater success leads to longer attention spans, leading to improved patience. This is critical as you move your young anglers into the next phase.
In this phase the bait under the bobber changes from worms to minnows. The plan here is to target larger panfish — like bigger crappie and possibly some small bass, as well.
This is also the phase where we begin to move away from the bobber. Now is the time to teach them how to use heavier gear and set tight-lines for catfish.
Show them heavier weights and bigger hooks. Teach them about some different catfish baits like stink bait, liver, shrimp and even hotdog chunks. In this phase you will see if the patience training has worked.
At the end of this phase show them how to multi-task as a fisherman. Have them set out a tight-line or two for catfish in the right spots and then pick up their lighter gear and go after panfish at the same time.
This method can make time go by faster than an otherwise tedious sit waiting on the tight-lines to get bit.
Also in this phase the size of the fish tends to increase. With a jump in size also comes a natural jump in your angler’s enthusiasm.
Nothing feels better than catching a big one, regardless of the species, and to be a part of that celebration.
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Their excitement will elevate when they see and hear you get excited for and with them. Do not hesitate to show your pride in their accomplishments.
The next phase is possibly the most difficult and time consuming. Hopefully by this time the patience lessons have taken effect and the fun is in the fishing, not necessarily just the catching.
It is now time to move toward artificial lures. This move is to get your young apprentice in the mindset of “cast & retrieve” as opposed to “cast & wait,” which they have grown accustomed to doing.
This phase begins with different kids at different ages.
Our oldest grandson, Ayden, made it to this phase at about age 10. His little brother Connor (CJ) made it there at 8-years-old. I truly believe that competition was the driving factor in that difference.
CJ’s desire to catch up with and pass Ayden for the biggest fish in every category drove him to learn quicker to stay competitive with his big brother.
So as we moved to artificial baits, crappie jigs and spinners were the first ones I had them use. This was just to get the cast and retrieve down pat.
Then we progressed to larger lures like spinnerbaits and crankbaits and targeted mainly bass. Take your time with this phase because fatigue can be their enemy.
The final phase of bobber to bass boat is the boat itself. Boat and boating safety are the first and most important lessons of this phase.