Father fishing with their young one

Small Ponds, Big Smiles

Standing on the dam of the small pond next to my then 9-year-old granddaughter Emily, we waited patiently for a bass to strike her lure. I could tell Emily had something on her mind as she stood there looking intently into the depths while reeling in her Lazy Ike — once again with no fish.

“Do fish sleep?” questioned Emily. She was very matter-of-fact and I could tell she had concerns since she is accustomed to catching lots of fish. I explained to her that since it was midday and the temperature was in the 80s, the fish were probably down deep, not quite ready to feed.

Taking two children fishing prevents boredom when the fishing is slow. The children can entertain one another! (Photos by John & Vikki Trout)

Typically, we fish this small waterhole early morning or late evening, when fishing is at its best. Emily has caught several nice-size bass and bluegill on many occasions from this private pond. She has used live bait as well as lures and enjoyed success. However, since things were not going well and fully realizing kids are more interested in quantity than quality, I knew we had to change strategies. I did not want her to get bored or burned out on being in the great outdoors.

I prefer small ponds or lakes over the larger bodies of water. It seems that the larger lakes and ponds entice more folks, and the more people fishing, the harder it is to catch fish. Bass and bluegill have an uncanny way of realizing what we are up to! It’s similar to hunting — once the species figures out they are being hunted — they become much more wary. Even fish in small waterholes that don’t see every bait known to man become educated.

Emily had started the day using live bait, but didn’t get any results. That’s when I attached a Lazy Ike to her swivel, but that was not getting the job done either. After trying other under-water lures with no results, we opted to try a top-water plug. I am a firm believer that you have to keep the fish guessing. In other words, if one bait is not working, don’t be afraid to switch it. And, it is my opinion that any kid fishing with a top-water lure will have an enjoyable experience watching the plug producing action.

I attached a Hula-Popper and gave Emily advice on working the plug. She fishes an open-bail reel and has mastered it quite well. After a couple of well-placed casts, a bluegill came up and smacked her lure. This provided good experience for her because she tried to set her hook prematurely. I explained to her, that she had to wait until the plug was taken under before setting the hook. Moments later, a bass rose up, circled the Hula-Popper, then took it down. She had perfect timing and landed the 1-pound bass! Although he wasn’t huge, we were both ecstatic since this was her first catch on a top-water plug. As mentioned earlier, kids just want to catch fish — size is irrelevant.

Kids Love Top-Water Plugs
Top-water plugs accomplish several key issues for the youngster. The child is kept busy by casting and “popping” the lure across the water. As they are waiting for a bite, they can watch the plug skim across the top of the water, giving them a visual that helps encumber boredom.

Another asset provided by the top-water plug is that it teaches patience. Emily found out how important it is to wait until the fish has taken the lure prior to setting the hook. Following patience, I feel equipping the youth correctly is an important topic worth mentioning.

Trout's Small Ponds, Big Smiles 4-12 FG1225 Vikki Trout & Emily Seger w Bass
What better way to introduce a youngster to the outdoors? Small ponds can produce quantity, which is quality in a child’s eyes!

Cane poles are great to use sometimes because live bait is attached to the hook and typically will induce several hits, and a quick hookset of the fish by lifting the pole up. However, if the fish are not biting, it could get monotonous fast and you need to do something quick. Throwing a line in the water and seeing nothing happen will definitely affect the novice in a negative way.

A rod and reel offers a little more in the way of entertainment than does a cane pole. Equipment for youth needs to accommodate their stature. In other words, rod length, types of reels and ease of use must be considered. When starting the youngster, you must keep them interested. If they cannot operate the equipment effectively, they will lose concentration.

Typically, a shorter rod will allow the child to manage casting more effectively. It may not have as much action as a longer rod, but it is more manageable for the youngster. Push-button spinning reels are much easier to master than open-bail reels. One drawback of open-bail fishing is tangled line (the dreaded bird’s nest); rest assured, the novice cannot avoid getting a bird’s nest or two.

Taking our kids or grandkids fishing gets them into the outdoors we hold so dear to our heart. Each June, “Take a Kid Fishing Day” occurs throughout many states. In some cases, they offer free licenses for that day and schedule special events throughout their state. This would be a great time to consider heading out-of-doors with that special youngster in your life. You will share quality time and watch their face light up once they lift that fish out of the water!

I have hopes that someday Emily will accompany me on other outdoor adventures. If our hunting and fishing heritage is to survive the future, we must put the love of the outdoors embedded in our hearts, into the hearts of our children!

Shop Sportsman’s Guide NOW for a fine selection of Fishing Gear!


Guide Outdoors Readers: Do you have any tips you can share about taking kids fishing that were not covered above? Or how to keep children busy or interested when the fish are not biting? Please comment below.

Leave a Reply

Commenting Policy - We encourage open expression of your thoughts and ideas. But there are a few rules:

No abusive comments, threats, or personal attacks. Use clean language. No discussion of illegal activity. Racist, sexist, homophobic, and generally hateful comments are not tolerated. Keep comments on topic. Please don't spam.

While we reserve the right to remove or modify comments at our sole discretion, the Sportsman's Guide does not bear any responsibility for user comments. The views expressed within the comment section do not necessarily reflect or represent the views of The Sportsman's Guide.