Many of us are stuck in our homes because of the latest virus while I write this column. I believe this is a great time to think about fishing, or even slip out the back door and go. I hope you will remember to take those kids fishing too.
There are few better escapes from the pressures of school or peer pressure than fishing. So now is the time to choose an acceptable rod and reel. You can’t generalize a child; all are different in body size and age. So, it’s important to fit the rigging to your child.
Visit any good tackle shop and you will see racks of fishing rods and counters full of reels, an ocean of choices. These following tips will make picking the right fishing tackle easier and make your child’s day more enjoyable.
The most well-meaning relative or friend might buy a young child the most expensive set up or adult-sized equipment and that is a mistake. This is only good if you plan to hold the rod and reel while helping your child reel in fish. This may work on the first trip, but eventually every child will want to do it themselves.
My daughter Holly’s first rig was a Snoopy rod and reel. The rod was probably 3-feet long and the reel was a simple spin-cast version designed never to backlash. This inexpensive system barely lasted her a year, but she had fun catching her first fish and actually caught a 3-pound channel catfish on the almost drag-free reel.
That light outfit, too, made good fights with big bluegill and crappie. She even caught a 3-pound bass on the light rod and reel. She panicked and ran up the bank, screaming with the poor bass bouncing up the bank behind her. I laughed until tears ran down my cheeks and we had bass for dinner.
So, let’s say from the youngest age possible to about 5 for the Snoopy rod and reel or the equivalent of this outfit. Now, kids in the 6 to young teenage range might enjoy a rod and reel that is more grownup. Even beginning anglers above 6 years old would not want to carry a “baby outfit” to the lake, pond or river.
But most in this age group are still beginners, so a spin-cast reel on a full-sized rod is adequate. We started out with Zebco 33 reels on medium-action rods. You can still find the reels, but the rods we used are considered antiques.
Spincast is good for beginners because it will not backlash. Occasionally line will run off the spool inside the reel casing – but that is an easy fix. Just remove the chrome cover and start peeling off line. Again, choose your rod size for the size of your child. A big kid might do well with an adult-sized rod while a younger child might be fatigued after a short period. The shorter rods are easier to cast for shorter arms.
Finally, young teenagers to young adults might like to start with spinning reels and rods, although many may prefer to first use the Spincast versions. Yet, spinning rig outfits are more grown-up looking and easier to master over a bait-casting reel.
Most adult bass fishermen use bait-casting reels for bigger bass, northern pike or muskie lures. I suggest that you let your young angler get more experience before trying this so-called heavier bait-cast rig.
These days there are spinning tackle that will handle bigger lures too, but bait-casters seem to hold lures down longer in strike zones because of their engineering and construction. But young men and women should master the spinning reel first.
I remember changing from the old Zebco 33 to a Garcia-Mitchell 308 with matching ultra-light rod and my whole fishing world changed. Suddenly I was fishing with equipment generally seen in fishing magazines. But more importantly, I caught more fish because this stronger reel could hold a bigger fish and reel in bigger lures.
Don’t buy your beginner the most expensive equipment, no matter what the sales person claims. Try medium-price rod and reels first until they learn how to care for their equipment and prove they will want to stay with fishing. Those who do will eventually seek out the better rods and reels on their own.
Teach your child how to oil and take care of their rig. Young teens should be able to load their reels with line. There are several guides on the internet on how to accomplish this simple task.
You have chosen the right rod and reel for the right child, now what? Find an open field with short grass and set out four plastic buckets or plastic hula-hoops starting at 7 yards, then 10, 12 and finally 15 yards. Now pick a starting mark and give points for practice lures without hooks cast in each bucket or hula hoop. For example, the 7-yard bucket would be seven points and so on.
This is a great way to make casting practice a game. Perhaps more importantly, this will make your child more accustomed to his or her rod and reel. Then it’s time to go fishing.
Start simple with bluegill or crappie and then work up to bass, trout, walleye or whatever you fish for, and congratulations, you just developed a fishing partner for life.
– Kenneth Kieser, a veteran outdoors writer and member of the Waterfowlers Hall of Fame and National Fresh Water Fishing Hall of Fame, writes a weekly outdoors column for The Examiner. Reach him at email@example.com.