Regardless whether one is learning to drive a vehicle, shoot a rifle or bow or, learning how to catch fish, getting the proper training in the beginning is important. Kids aren’t born fishermen, someone has to devote the time to teach them the basics skills that often lead to a lifelong passion for a sport that has the potential to cost them many hours of lost sleep, sore arms from casting and fighting fish and sunburns, but more importantly, memories of outings past and exciting fishing trips to come.

  I am honored to have Bill Dance, America’s Favorite Fisherman, as a regular on my radio show and enjoy listening to how Bill began his career and later became a professional angler. Bill began fishing the rivers and creeks in Tennessee as a young child, tagging along on trips with his dad and uncles. He tells about setting in cool moving waters as a kid during the summer and watching river minnows hiding in the shoreline grass. He didn’t know it at the time but he was amassing skills and knowledge that would eventually make him famous. Slowly, through the years and through much exposure to the outdoors thanks to his mentors, Bill learned the skills that eventually earned him the title of ‘America’s Favorite Fisherman’. No doubt, Bill has some genetic programming and a great deal of ‘want to’ that added to his ability to locate and catch fish but, at a very young age, he had someone take the time to expose him to the outdoors.

  Chances are pretty good that you know someone that would really enjoy learning to fish and who knows, maybe that ‘someone’ has the potential to become a famous angler. One thing is for sure: teaching a kid to enjoy fishing will add much to the quality of his or her life. Make no mistake about it, spending time teaching youngsters the skills necessary to become successful fishermen can be challenging and sometimes, downright frustrating, but the end results are well worth the tribulations.

  Before embarking on that first ‘training’ fishing trip with a young boy or girl, there’s one thing that you must focus upon: this is not YOUR fishing trip, it’s THEIRS! You will probably do very little fishing. Your time will be occupied baiting hooks, untangling fishing line, applying sunscreen, dolling out peanut butter sandwiches, Kool Aid and… advice.

  It’s best to keep things simple and plan a trip where your youngster will actually catch fish. This can be as simple as using worms under a floater at the city park to catch bream or fishing off the bank for catfish. A guided trip for catfish, crappie or white bass is a great way to introduce a youngster to fishing.

  Your guide can concentrate on running the boat and finding the fish and you can concentrate on your youngster. It’s a good idea to let your guide know the intent of this trip is to make a lifelong fisherman out of your kid, not catching the biggest or most fish of YOUR career. Kids need action and species such as white bass and catfish have the potential to keep them busy catching instead of just fishing.

  Regardless whether you plan to let a good fishing guide run the boat on your child’s first outing or fish one-on-one with your child on the banks of a farm pond, it’s a good idea to invest a few dollars in a basic, push button spin cast rig. Stay away from the little, colorful ‘toy’ rigs and purchase a good spin cast rod and reel. You can get set up for around $40 with a rig that will last for years and has the potential to handle a good-size fish.

  You certainly don’t want equipment problems your first time out. Keep trips relatively short. A couple hours of catching white bass or catfish is plenty for younger fishermen; schedule these outings for early morning of late afternoon when it’s cooler. I usually keep a few fish to filet after the trip and plan an evening fish fry with kids I take fishing. This seems to get youngsters fired up and it also teaches them that fish filets don’t necessarily have to come from the seafood section at the local grocery.

  My wife taught me a long time ago that snacks and drinks, and plenty of them, are key to keeping kids happy while outdoors and I always bring an assortment of candy bars, chips, sandwiches, and drinks. Tell your kid’s mother that these few hours spent fishing with you is not necessarily about learning to eat healthy, it’s about having fun and learning about something new that’s even more fun than video games!

  It’s a great idea to spend a little time before your outing teaching your child to cast a rubber practice plug with his or her new rod and reel. I like to make it fun and set up several five gallon buckets or pots filled with water and let the youngster practice hitting the buckets with the plug. To keep them interested, assign prizes for each target. Remember that when actually on the water, there will be a sharp HOOK on the end of their line, so it’s best to either do the initial casting yourself or pay close attention to their first few casts to avoid the hook winding up in a place other than the fishes mouth!

  Teaching a youngster to fish is definitely a challenge but I think you’ll find it most rewarding and, who knows, you might just be sparking the career of a newcomer to the sport of angling that will one day fill the shoes of greats like Bill Dance!