Learn to tackle basic fishing

One of the keys to getting a child into fishing is the right tackle. Keep it light and simple. You usually need a small hook and a smaller bobber, such as they one used to catch a 7-inch sunfish.

ELBA — "Cast toward the shade," Michael Kimmel told his son, Logan Kimmel.

Fish like being in the shade, the Edina dad explained as the boy fished for trout, or whatever bit, in the Whitewater River Sunday during a learn-to-fish program at Whitewater State Park.

Logan flipped a cast within a few feet of shore and watched as the small bobber drifted downstream. "I want to go fishing every day," he said. "I like casting and I like catching fish."

His dad agreed his son is a fishing fanatic, a passion he can't satisfy. "We don't get out often, as often as we would like," he said.

The first thing he said his son, or anyone learning to fish, needs is "patience."


As for gear, "just your standard rod, we keep it simple," he said. He often begins with a live-bait setup but also has some spinners or some other artificial lure. "That helps keep the interest," Kimmel said. If one lure doesn't work, "let's try something new," he said.

It was great seeing them out fishing, and seeing the dad's attitude, as well as his taste in equipment.

I've written about fishing for nearly 40 years, I've seen a lot of people fishing, including adults taking a child out. Sometimes, it's a joy, like watching the Kimmels.

Sometimes it's painful. It's as if the adults are out to intentionally drown any interest in fishing.

You can make fishing as complicated as you want. You can be like a pro and spend $50,000 on a boat and who-knows-how-much on tackle. You can try to master keeping a boat on a precise weed line while jigging with two rods (it's legal on the Mississippi River in this region) or lead-core lining.

Or you can keep it simple.

I strongly recommend that.

Let me tell you about two horror stories I've seen.


One was a dad taking his child fishing, I think at the pond at Foster Arend Park. The bobber was about as big as the boy's fist, the line had a steel leader and the hook was 10 times too large. I'm guessing the dad was afraid a monster northern would cut the line.

Yes, a large northern might cut your line, but that's a one-in-a-thousand chance, and that chances of catching anything with that rig are also close to one-in-a-thousand. You don't need heavy tackle. Go light. When it doubt, go light.

I was trying to catch panfish in a Rochester pond and fish were really finicky. I used less and less gear until I was down to a bobber smaller than a dime and a small hook with a bit of nightcrawler on it. Only then did fish bite.

And recently, I watched a boy fish from a pier next to a lock and dam. I was catching fish and was curious why he wasn't. I let him reel in a fish I caught and then looked at his gear. The dad has put a trout fly on the line and a bobber a few inches up the line. Again, chances of catching anything were close to zero because trout flies have their place but not in that water with a bobber.

Here's what I recommend for beginning fishing.

First, a decent rod and reel. The little cartoon character ones aren't that great but they can do the trick because they're the size youngsters need. Don't go right into bait-casting or spinning tackle. The close-faced ones, the ones that are less expensive, can do the trick if you do it right.

If you buy one, the first thing I recommend is strip out a lot of the line and throw it away. It tends to be old, cheap or too thick. Buy some 6-pound Stren or Trilene XL (not XT) or similar lines, learn the simple surgeon's knot to join the lines. Or just go into a good sporting goods store and ask. They are happy to help and they know their gear.

Speaking of knots, learn the basic improved clinch knot and that's about all you need for tying on hooks, swivels or lures. The best knot for tying on hooks and jigs is the Palomar knot.


If at all possible, don't use a snap, or a snap swivel. It just adds extra weight and complication to fishing. That means you have to cut the line every time you change lures or hooks but that's good because line tends to get a bit frayed close to the lure or hook.

Bobbers should be barely big enough to hold up the bait below it. If it's too big, you'll miss a lot of bites. And if you add weight to a line to get a worm down, keep it minimal. The line shouldn't do a crash dive but drop down a bit slowly.

The best live bait is still worms. You can go with minnows or leeches but stay with nightcrawlers — or even simpler, use the wax worms favored by ice anglers.

That's about it. Just head for the local pond or lake and cast out. If the fish don't bite right away, change depth so the bait is further up or down.

When you go, bring food. Children love to snack as they fish.

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