Like most things, there’s a right and a wrong way to do everything. Northern Alabama guide and B’n’M pro-staffer Brad Whitehead provided some great tips not only on why you should take a kid fishing, but also puts things in perspective, courtesy of his young son Nathan, on how to teach a new angler and have him coming back for more.
“I have a 17 year old stepson who was 5 years old when I first met his mother and I started taking him fishing,” said Whitehead. “I made several mistakes back then that I now regret making. The first mistake was I made him stay all day. Even when you could tell he was ready to go, I wanted to stay, especially if the fishing was slow and I thought we could do better. I was more focused on fishing than I was on his needs. I would also insist that he go fishing with me even when the weather was bad, when it was cold, and that was just the wrong thing to do.”
Several years later, Whitehead and his wife Alicia had another child, Nathan who is currently 7 years old. After watching his older son lose all interest in fishing, Whitehead was determined he wasn’t going to make the same mistakes again. He was determined to set the hook deep with Nathan
“The first thing I had to change about myself was the idea that we were going to catch fish the same way as I would fish with adults on a guide trip,” he said. “I had to develop the mentality that I was out there with him to do what he wanted to do, not what I wanted to do. I used to have the mindset that what the child wanted to do was go out and catch 40 fish - 40 crappie, just like I wanted to. You need to focus on what the child wants to do. When he wants to just go riding in the boat, you ride him around in the boat. When he wants to go to the bank and throw rocks into the river, that's what you need to do. A fishing trip is not just about fishing. It's about spending time with the child and doing what they want to do.”
After it dawned on him that fishing, in the eyes of a child, isn’t all about catching fish, Whitehead began to understand the elements that made up an ideal day on the water for the kid.
“You know you want to take them anytime you can but I found the perfect time of year is June and July,” he said. First of all, it’s warm. He’s not having to put on a bunch of clothes, just to stay warm because it's really hard for a 7 or 8-year-old kid to find warm clothes.”
Whitehead also learned which accessories a child preferred to have and which were better not to have.
“We carry plenty of snacks,” said Whitehead. “I don’t get all hung up on sticking with any kind of routine. If he gets hungry, I let him eat. If he sees a flock of ducks or geese, and wants to go see them, we go look at them. But one of the things I try to stay away from is letting him carry his Game Boy on the boat. There is enough time that kids are doing that at home. I want to make sure there’s direct interaction between him and me when we are on the water.”
In time Whitehead discovered that the interest in actually catching fish blossomed on it’s own, without him having to force the issue at all. Part of that success was in providing Nathan with his own fishing rod, not making him use equipment he couldn’t handle.
“Without a shadow of a doubt, the 410 rod is a great rod to get a kid started in fishing,” said Whitehead. “Nathan has no problem casting it. It is really simple. It is short and easy for him to handle. You can pair 6 pound test line on a little B'n'M reel and you've got the ultimate kid combo. Let me tell you, he’s also caught some pretty dang nice fish on that little rod. Now I can tell when he gets that itch cause he looks at me and says – Daddy when can we go fishing again.”
Remember – “Take A Kid Fishing” but also remember, “Take A Kid Fishing” the right way, and if the folks at B’n’M can help you, just let us know.