When fishing with kids, it’s all about them

In every family, individuals take on roles. I am the fishing uncle.

It’s tough, but someone has to do it.

I fished a lot with my uncle when I was a kid. He had a bass boat. Looking back it wasn’t anything special, just an old Glastron with a beat-up 75 horsepower Johnson, but to a 12-year-old boy who lived to fish, it might as well have been a rocket ship.

When my uncle slammed the throttle down and that old tub jumped up on plane, we’d turn our hats backward to keep them from blowing off. I’d have to consciously keep from smiling or else I’d surely catch a few bugs in my teeth.

Now I have two nephews and a niece. They all live in Colorado, so I don’t see them nearly as much as I’d like.

Brenden and Mackenzie are 14. They’re about to be freshmen. As their teenage years set in, I realize their priorities are going to change, so I’m working in as many outdoors experiences as possible while they are still impressionable.

You may recall a recent column about Brenden’s success during Missouri’s youth turkey season.

Caden is 10. A sweeter boy may not exist.

He’s not the most athletic or coordinated little fella, but he makes up for it with his heart of gold. He’s the sort of kid you just can’t help wanting to bear hug even after he has thrown his fishing lure into the same tree three times.

Last week, Brenden, Mackenzie and Caden came to visit with my in-laws.

One evening, my daughters wanted some alone time with their grandparents, so I had the perfect chance to conduct a special Uncle Brandon fishing trip.

My house sits on a little private lake that is about as good of a bluegill fishery as I have ever found. It’s a perfect place to take kids fishing because catching fish is basically guaranteed.

When taking kids fishing, your primary goal should be to keep them from getting bored. The best way to accomplish this is catching fish. So keep it simple and fish for an abundant species. Bluegills are always a great bet.

Kids are going to tangle lines and screw up poles. Your job is to keep them fishing. When you’re taking more than one kid fishing at a time, you should give up on the idea of fishing yourself. Focus on helping them and being ready for the next catastrophe.

For the three kids, I rigged five rods exactly the same. I use a slip bobber system because it is so much easier to cast.

Along with the slip bobber, I add a single split shot sinker, a hook and a chunk of worm. The system couldn’t be much simpler. I help each of the kids develop their casting abilities by encouraging progressively more difficult attempts.

With the older kids, I try to get them to cast under trees or close to cattails. I fully know they are going to get caught at times, but that’s fine. I just break the line, hand them another rod ready to go, and rig the other one again.

Their confidence grows and they become better fishermen before my eyes. With Caden, we work on simpler accomplishments like baiting his own hook and taking off his own fish.

I can’t say for sure if my nephews and niece will be lifelong fishermen, but they seem to really enjoy going fishing when they’re at my house.

I can only hope part of it is that they like spending time with me. It means the world to me to take them fishing, just like my uncle took me so many years ago.

See you down the trail …