By Tony Peterson
Live bait is always the first step to getting youngsters hooked on fishing. A nightcrawler below a bobber in panfish territory probably has accounted for more first fish than anything else. And that’s a good thing, but there comes a time when older kids want more than sunfish.
My little girls, now age 8, hit this stage when they were 6. The wanted to cast, and they wanted to catch big fish. This is probably genetic, because that’s exactly how I’m wired. The problem? They weren’t good at casting, setting the hook, or fighting fish.
Their frustration led me to a couple of solutions. First, I let them use quality rods that would probably get me divorced if my wife saw the price tag. Casting with low-quality gear is tough for adults, but harder for kids. The second thing I did was look for lures that are single hook, easy-to-work options.
Swimming jigs are dynamite for this. Not only are they weedless, but they have a high hook-up rate and will catch everything from pike to bass to walleyes to dogfish. They are low-profile so they are easy to cast and if you can turn a reel, you can give them all the action they need.
My little girls have also learned to use weightless stickbaits. With a wide-gap hook buried in them, these are weedless, too, and they are dense enough to cast easily. Fish, particularly bass, grab them and are content to gum them for a long time, which means you don’t have to be on your A-Game to set the hook right away. They also often produce strikes near the surface, which kids love because they can see the action as it unfolds.
Both of these options also decrease (but don’t eliminate) the potential for a hook ending up in something or someone it’s not supposed to, which a parent always can appreciate.
If you’re tasked with keeping the fishing fire burning in young kids who have graduated beyond bobbers and worms, consider lures they could easily cast and that will draw in a wide variety of potential biters.
They’re the ticket to the next stage of fishing, which is a fun one.