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Fishing Fun with Kids

Not an avid angler? Check out these tips on teaching or fishing with your kids

By James Pressley, Outdoor columnist

Twenty-two years ago in May, my oldest was born. Emma came into the world a little early, which caused some concern and distress. My father, however, was absolutely over the moon happy! I clearly remember him telling anyone who would listen that if he knew how much fun being a grandparent was, he would’ve had them first. I am positive many of you feel the same way. So, with that in mind, I would like to talk about my most frequently asked question when I meet people out and about: How to get kids started fishing.

In my family, that isn’t much of a discussion topic. All my children have been fishing since they were tiny. It seems my son, Beau, came into the world with a rod in his hand, and only added a baseball mitt to the mix in his 13 years since.

But I do realize not everyone is like us. So, here’s a basic how-to list and, just as important, a where-to-purchase guide from the lake country.

Wildside Guide Service customers with big smiles and a nice fish. Photo contributed.

Before we begin, let me give you one piece of advice if you don’t or haven’t fished, or if it’s been some time since you wet a line: Hire a guide. Someone like Richard Malcolm from Jigslingers Guide service or Capt. Kevin Wahl from Wildside guide service. Both men will provide a good wholesome, fun and educational time for you and the grandkids. Trust me, this is money well spent.

First, don’t make this overly complicated. Fishing should be fun and relaxing. Don’t worry about needing a $90,000 bass boat or center console. I mean if you want one, give me a call but let’s not panic and rush to that point. You will essentially need just a few items.

We will start with a rod and reel. A good quality 6- to 6 ½-foot spinning rod is easy to use. Look on the rod for something like a 6-pound to 10-pound line rating and a 1/8-1/2-ounce (or something like it) lure weight rating. This just simply tells the line range and the weight range the rod will handle well.

Next is a spinning reel to match. Now I understand some are reading this saying “I learned to fish and still catch fish on a Zebco 33.”  Well, we are so proud of you; however, along with the rotary dial phone and having to step out of the car to turn the crank in the morning, things have changed. There are better ways to do it. So, get an inexpensive 2,500 or 3,000 size reel from Shimano, Diawa, or Lews. These are quality products and will last for several of the grandkid’s trips to the lake. In fact, each of these companies have already set up combos you can buy.

Jigslinger Guide Service young customer with a slab crappie. Photo contributed

Second, the line. Don’t be overwhelmed when you get to the store and see braid, fluorocarbon, monofilament, red, green, yellow, and clear. If you want your grandkids to sit on the dock of the lake house and catch bream, small cats, bass, and crappie, then buy the good old standby -- Stren 6-pound test mono. It was good enough for my granddaddy, daddy, and me. It’ll be good enough for them.

Third is hooks, weights, and bobbers. Now this is going to be hard for some, but honestly if you want to drown a worm or cricket under a bobber, it’s really hard to go wrong with an Eagle Claw gold number 4 hook. Get an assortment of those, and number 2s as well. If they get hung in a brush pile, dock piling, on the back of the pontoon boat or even themselves, it’s a small thin wire hook that breaks easily but can catch a big fish.

Weights are also simple. Companies like Eagle Claw have what we call split shot. They’re sold in packages by individual weight like 1/16, 1/8, etc., but they also have small containers of the weights in varying sizes sold as a set. Get a couple of those.

Bobbers or floats are an important piece of the childhood fishing experience. There are two choices for beginners and people fishing from a dock -- a slip bobber (one that the line goes through it and hits a stop above it to keep the bait from going too deep) or a clip-on bobber (the old red and white round thing we all saw on the Andy Griffith show). Either of these is fine, but I reccomend a small one. Even though almost any size fish can pull down a bobber of most sizes, you can’t go wrong going small.

The final piece of the hardware is the bait.  On Lake Oconee you need one of three things:  Crickets in the spring and early summer when you see them hopping around; red worms or night crawlers; or crappie minnows. That’s pretty much it other than something to carry them in. Most of the time worms and crickets come in containers, but minnows need a good bucket with an aerator to keep them alive all day. This is something you can spend a few bucks to a couple of hundred dollars on. It’s up to you.

Now, where can you get the help you need to find all of this? Well, here’s a list of the places I go when I need something:

1-       Sugar Creek Marina, 353 Parks Mill Rd., Buckhead. My first stop whether I am looking for a new rod, reel, or swimbaits is going to be here. William has a great store, and they are super friendly. You can buy expensive bass rods there or beginner setups for the grands. They always have minnows, crickets, or worms depending on the season. If in doubt on what to buy, just ask one of them what everyone else is fishing with. Plus, pick up some fried chicken while you are there… Best at the lake!

2-       Veazey Bait and Tackle, 4160 Veazey Rd., Greensboro. A small store on the east side of the lake and not far off Walker Church Road. It’s a good stop for worms and crickets, and I hear they have a good hamburger, too.

3-       Long Shoals Country Store, 1093 Sparta Hwy., Eatonton. You can’t miss it. Pass the last Dollar General and it’s the next store. A good place to stop for minnows. I’ve never bought any other bait there, but I’ve had good luck with their bass and crappie minnows.

4-       The Citgo station, 406 Pea Ridge Rd. SE, Eatonton. They have a nice selection of crappie baits, beginner rods and reels, and some good minnows and worms. Go in there early and get a chicken biscuit. That used to be my stop to gas up, buy bait and breakfast when I was guiding on Lake Sinclair.

5-       Fishtales at the Marathon gas station, 891 Greensboro Rd., Eatonton. They have beginner rods and reels along with great minnows and worms. In the mornings, you will find a number of guides hanging out there as well, picking up clients.

As far as rigging and fishing, there are tons of fishing videos on YouTube that give guidance. Or, simply hire a guide or ask a friend who fishes. Ninety percent of us are more than willing to help anyone out, especially kids! There’s nothing like being there when a child catches their first fish. When my oldest caught her first with my dad and me, she came home and wouldn’t wash her hands for days. She kept telling everyone about her fish and then insisting they smell her hands! If you see Emma around, ask her about that…

Tight lines and following seas, y’all.

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This story appeared in Lakelife magazine, Volume 18, Issue 3 and is the property of Smith Communications, Inc. No portions of the story or photos may be copied or used without written consent from the publisher.


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