As the old summertime church youth camp song goes, it only takes a spark to get a fire going.
True in building a campfire and in passing along faith from one generation to the next, the idea also holds water — yes, the pun is intended — when it comes to the pastime of fishing.
“The most valuable thing that anyone can do is to pass on knowledge,” bass angling legend Denny Brauer once told me.
Brauer, an inaugural member of the Professional Bass Fishing Hall of Fame and the 1998 Bassmaster Classic champ, knows what he’s talking about too.
And not just because Brauer — now a resident of the Del Rio, Texas area where he regularly fishes Lake Amistad — was the first professional fisherman to ever get his picture on a Wheaties cereal box.
And not because he has won 17 B.A.S.S. events, a B.A.S.S. Angler of the Year title, a FLW Tour AOY title, and a Major League Fishing Summit Cup.
But instead because Denny has taken his own fatherly advice to heart, nurturing a long running love of fishing in the life of his son, Chad.
Interested in doing the same thing this summer?
Well, whether your goal is to raise the next Bassmaster Classic champ or to just simply share some good time on the water with your child or grandchild, here are my “10 Commandments” of introducing a child to the sport of fishing this summer:
• 1. Keep it simple: Kids, especially young ones, have short attention spans. Keep fishing trips short, sweet, and simple with user friendly equipment.
• 2. Do your homework: This is one type of homework that most kids don’t seem to mind, the preparation required for a successful fishing trip. From researching lakes on Internet sites to perusing magazines like Bassmaster to looking at lake maps to buying groceries and supplies, getting ready for a fishing trip is almost as much fun as the actual trip is — to a kid, anyway!
• 3. Plan for success: Want your kids to enjoy fishing? Then plan for easy trips that maximize their chances to catch fish! Such outings are much more likely to feature corks, crickets, and bluegills at a local pond or small lake rather than PhD post-spawn summertime bass sitting on an underwater hump in 30-feet of water on a 20,000-acre plus reservoir.
• 4. Be prepared: Pack a PFD (personal floatation device) for you and your child; plenty of snacks, Kool Aid, or water; high SPF sunscreen; insect repellent; a first aid kit; and a change of clothing in case of an accidental soaking.
• 5. Variety is the spice of kid fishing trips: On my childhood bass fishing trips with my dad, he always managed to bring along a box full of crickets, a couple of bobbers, and some small hooks. When the bass fishing slowed on eastern Arkansas’ Horseshoe Lake where we often went, the crickets were more temptation than the lake’s big bluegills could handle! So whatever the target species is for the day, don’t be afraid to make a change in plans should the situation warrant such a move.
• 6. Explore the world around you: Fish aren’t the only thing that a fishing trip has to offer. On your next trip, don’t be afraid to lay down the rods-and-reels if the fish aren’t cooperating. A hike through the woods, a marsh, or a field to observe the wonders of the Good Lord’s grand creation can do wonders for a child’s life-long memories of the outing.
• 7. Take plenty of photographs: We live in the era of Instagram and Facebook, so be sure to take plenty of Smartphone photos of your summer fishing trips. Share them on social media so that family and friends can see. And be sure to print a few of the best ones off and put them in a frame for the wall. I still have the photos of my early bass fishing trips with my late dad. The fish aren’t as big as I remembered them being, but the Kodak memories are priceless.
• 8. Keep it fun: Fishing with your children isn’t the final hour before the Bassmaster Classic weigh in. So keep it fun and lighthearted, laughing a lot, and smiling a lot too. Because you never know — by focusing on good times on the water, your kids just might get hooked on the sport of fishing for the rest of their lives.
• 9. Keep a journal: Trust me, writing in a journal or a scrapbook after a tiring day on the water can be difficult. But both you and your child will one day appreciate the yawning attempt to anchor these memories — with a written record and a few photos. Especially when you’re both a little bit older and the day’s details start to grow a bit fuzzy.
• 10. Don’t be afraid to keep a few for the table: Sure, catch and release is all the rage on many good bass lakes like Lake Texoma, Lake Ray Roberts, and Lake Fork. But newcomers to the sport of fishing, especially younger children, often want to eat the fish that they catch. As long as the fish is of the appropriate legal size and species, and the resource will not be negatively impacted from the catching-and-frying of a few fish, then don’t hesitate keep a few for the table. Teaching your child about filleting a fish, dipping it in batter, frying it in hot peanut oil, and enjoying every last morsel is another good way to create an enthusiastic angler. Besides, such culinary treats got many of us hooked on fishing. And it’s often all that it takes to get a newcomer hooked on the sport of fishing for a lifetime.
One thing to keep in mind as you consider the 10 tips listed above is that your children or grandchildren aren’t the only newcomers that the sport of fishing needs today.
Spouses, extended family members, neighbors, co-workers, or even your friends from church or civic organizations are potential converts to the joys of fishing.
Remember that idea about it only taking a spark to get a fire going?
If you enjoy fishing and want to see it continue for generations to come, then please heed the most important and fundamental fishing tip that I know how to give: introduce someone new to the sport and keep taking them out until they’ve fallen in love with fishing hook, line, and sinker.
In other words, create a spark or two, get that fire roaring and pass your love of fishing on!