Size is not the most important thing for fishing with kids, but it doesn’t hurt. The smiles always tell the story. (Capt. Josh Brown Photo)
How to Make Kids Into Catmen
by Ron Presley
Guides are the perfect role model to teach kids how to fish.
Good catfish guides are good role models and good teachers. That applies to teaching their adult guests as well as the young ones who accompany the adults. Most often it’s sons and daughters who come along with mom and/or dad for a day on the water. Other young guests may just be friends, but it puts the guide in a perfect position to impact the youngster’s view of catfishing, and it may just last the remainder of the young angler’s life.
In the first place, guides are professionals and come with a certain level of respect from their guests that get on the boat with them. Believe me, the kids recognize that and look up to the guides for leadership. And needless to say, they expect the guides to perform.
CatfishNOW asked four professional catfish guides how they live up to the expectations in a way that might create some new catfish anglers.
Downsize and Catch Plenty of Fish – Capt. Paul Blackwell, Fish-On Guide Service LLC,
When Capt. Blackwell (864-202-3095) hits the waters of Santee Cooper Country his main objective is trophy catfish. That’s why his guest hires him. But when youth anglers are involved, he makes adjustments aimed at the younger anglers.
“When I have youth anglers on board the SeaArk I always downsize a few baits,” responded Capt. Blackwell. “Even though I’m targeting trophy catfish for my adult clients I want to try and keep the fishing a little more active for the youngsters on the boat.”
He recognizes that the size of the fish doesn’t matter that much to the kids. Action is key and that’s what he’s after. He also recognizes that he has a teaching opportunity that he doesn’t want to miss out on.
“I also coach the kids before and during the catch,” continued Blackwell. “They need to learn how to catch fish, but they also need to learn the related issues of fishing. To that point, I try to show/explain to them why I do things the way I do as well as the importance of selective harvest. I explain, that if we take care of the fish there will be other kids someday that can have the same opportunity.”
“Kids are the future,” concluded Blackwell. “It is my job to teach them as much as I can.”
Involvement is Key – Capt. Terry Rogers, Hooked On Cats Guide Service
Like Blackwell, Capt. Rogers (270-210-4308) believes that our youth are the future of our sport. Recognizing that, he does all he can to give the kids on his SeaArk Pro Guide Boat a positive fishing experience.
“The most important thing I do with youth anglers is taking the time to get them involved,” offered Rogers. “I try to involve them in every aspect of the trip—cutting bait, casting out, adjusting the depth of lines, tying leaders, netting fish, etc.”
Kids are naturally curious and often have lots of questions. The way those questions are answered may make or break them as future catfish anglers.
“We should always answer their questions and explain things in easy-to-understand terms,” advised Rogers. “Also, we need to make it fun. They need to encounter a positive experience with no negativity whatsoever. If the kids are smiling and having fun, they have had an experience they will remember in a positive sense.”
“These kids that I take out are the future of catfishing,” concluded Rogers. “They are very impressionable and we need to present ourselves in a friendly, professional manner. It’s important to set a good example for our future anglers. We have to make sure that they have a positive experience while out fishing so they will grow up and love the sport just as much as we all do now.”
Method Matters – Capt. Josh Brown, Backwoods Catfishing Guide Service
With adult anglers on the boat Capt. Brown (256-393-1058) is normally going to use whatever method is likely to catch his guests some bigger fish. But kids are different and decision-making needs to be different too.
“I will do a lot of dragging with kids,” explained Brown. “Dragging is the method that usually produces the most bites and therefore gives the kids the most action.”
Brown pointed out that he still targets the same quality fish as he does with the adults unless he’s requested to do otherwise. The result is some pretty young kids on some pretty big fish.
In Brown’s experience, most of the adults that bring kids want to focus the trip on the kids and don’t usually pick up a rod themselves. They want the kids to have the experience and get hooked on the sport.
“Most parents that bring kids don’t catch the fish,” observed Brown. “The exception is when the kid gives up and needs their help.”
“It seems that the hardest thing for the young anglers to learn is the pump and reel method,” Brown said. “Often the parent will end up holding the rod while the kid reels until they are exhausted. LOL. Or they will leave the rod in the Monster Rod Holder and reel until the fish is at the boat.”
“I try to make every trip interesting and memorable for the kids,” concluded Brown. “I try to go the extra mile for them because they are the future generation of anglers.”
Include Competition – Ben Goebel, River City Catfishing
Capt. Ben Goebel likes to feel out his young anglers by engaging in conversation with them. It helps him get to know them and aids him in setting up some character-building competitions on the boat.
“I like to get them to talking,” explained Capt. Goebel (812-568-8716). “I like to find out what they like to do, what kind of sports they play, that type of thing. Generally, the kids that can carry on a conversation are usually more involved with the fishing than the ones that don’t.”
The B’n’M Poles prostaff angler also makes every effort to make the fishing fun, interesting, and educational. He teaches them the correct way to cut bait, how to hook it properly, and when to change it. He also lets them drive the boat, learn to tie hooks, and develop basic fishing skills.
“I have found that if they are siblings I can making them laugh by giving their brother or sister a hard time,” continued Goebel. “At the same time, they need praise and encouragement when they accomplish something.”
Finally, he likes to insert some competition into the trip. He says that if they are participating in the competition they tend to stay involved and fish harder.
“I think that competition and goal setting is good for them,” concluded Goebel. “Having small goals each time out helps them gain skills in fishing, but also in life. At first, the goals can be simple and not too hard to achieve. If you caught a fish last time talk about catching a bigger one this time. If you caught 3 fish last time, try to catch 4 the next time. The idea is to develop a pattern of lifelong goal setting. If you’re not competing in something you can get left behind in our fast-paced world. This is an important lesson for kids to learn.”
All the guides surveyed for this story agreed on one important thing—the future of the sport of catfishing will depend on the successful recruitment of new catfish anglers and there is no better place to start than with the youth.
Kids are impressionable and a positive experience with catfishing is likely to make them want to do it again. So when you have the opportunity to take a youth fishing take the advice of Capt. Blackwell, Capt. Rogers, Capt. Brown, and Capt. Goebel. Plan the trip around the child. Make it all about them. Base your decisions around a goal of giving them a positive experience and maybe they will become those recruits that we need to keep the sport of catfish growing.