How to Help Kids Catch More Fish

Professional angler Brandon Lester offers some proven tips to help families and kids catch more fish.

How to Help Kids Catch More Fish

Pro angler Brandon Lester of Tennessee enjoys catching bass in his big rig, but catching bluegills from the bank may be more fun thanks to their spunk and the laughs they create with kids. (Photo: Alan McGuckin)

With more than $600,000 in prize winnings to his credit, Team Toyota angler Brandon Lester has proven himself to be one of America’s most accomplished young professional bass anglers.

The Tennessean is also one heck of a family man. Lester was gracious enough to lend some advice to parents who soon might be taking their children fishing for the first time.

Fishing License, PFDs

A lot of families overlook the fact adults who are handling a rod and reel are required to have a fishing license, even if fishing is simply a brief part of your family camping trip or picnic.

“Don’t be intimidated by buying a license,” Lester said. “Most states offer a 1-day or 3-day license versus a full year to save new anglers money. And you can nearly always get a license over the phone with a fast Google search for the state fishing license sales center and phone number for wherever you plan to fish."

In addition to making sure you have a valid fishing license for whatever day(s) you’ll be fishing, safety needs to be the absolute top priority. Lester reminds us that children are required to wear a properly fitted life jacket on a boat at all times. Common sense dictates it’s wise for them to wear one when fishing from a dock or pier,  too. 

Bait and Tackle

While everybody dreams of catching a fish the length of your arm, for kids it’s all about getting bites. No species provides more easy action than bluegills and other shoreline oriented panfish sized about like your hand. Most know a container of red worms or Canadian nightcrawlers are the fast route to success. But where many beginning anglers go wrong is on the size of hooks and bobbers they buy.

“Bluegills are a ton of fun for kids," Lester said. "But keep in mind they’re not big fish, and they don’t have big mouths. So don’t buy a bobber so big they can’t pull it under. And make sure your hook is tiny enough for bluegills and other panfish to get their mouth around too."

As a rule of thumb, a typical round bobber should not be any larger than a golf ball, at the very biggest. Hooks should be sized about like a nickel. Ideally, find a pack of hooks such as Mustad’s classic baitholder in a size #6 marked on the package, and you’ll be right on target. 

Keep It Fun, Don’t Stay Long

“You shouldn’t expect your kids to fish for eight hours, because the reality is they often lose interest after 20 minutes if the fish aren’t biting," Lester said. "The key is to keep them entertained – and if that means throwing rocks in the water – a short walk down the shoreline – watching for turtles - or whatever – that’s fine – keep it fun!”

When the attention span starts waning, make a switch to something else or take a break. Maybe both. Remember, kids are interested in anything new, different and fun. But they're also interested in just hanging out to make memories they'll keep forever.

“Don’t wear them out. Make fishing a short adventure for them. Take some snacks and drinks, and a wet rag to wipe your hands on," Lester said. "If you catch a few for a photo, and make some great memories, there’s a good chance they’ll want to go again. If that’s the case, you’ve succeeded as a parent, no matter what your level of fishing experience was previously.”

Alan McGuckin is Director of PR for Dynamic Sponsorships, a Tulsa-based company with clients including Toyota, Carhartt, Quantum Fishing and others.

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