For many of us, the memories of our first fishing trip are remarkably similar. We remember the excitement of walking down to the bank of an old farm pond. The smell of soil and worms in an old can. Then comes the “plop” of the red and white bobber slapping the water, followed by the sheer joy of seeing it yanked out of sight. Hopefully, you recall the exhilaration as you reeled in your very first fish – fearful it would be gone before it flopped onto the bank.

Years pass, but those earliest memories of fishing have a way of staying fresh and vibrant. Chances are you replaced the bobber and red worms with a smooth action spinning reel sporting braided line loaded on a carefully balanced, sleek carbon fiber rod. Equipment changes, passion doesn’t. If you’re passionate about fishing today, it’s because someone took the time to teach you. Somebody got you “hooked.”

We don’t just want you to remember the person who baited your hooks, unsnarled your lines, and showed you how to hold a fish without discovering the business end of the spines. We want you to be that person.

Maybe you know fifteen different knots for tying on swimbaits. You can spool up your spinning rod with lily pad-busting braid faster than a machine. You know when to fish low and slow with a Carolina rig, and you know when to tear up the surface with a buzzbait. That’s great! Now pass it on. Chances are you know a young person who is either dying to be taught or who just needs an introduction to how fun fishing can be. Maybe it’s your own, maybe it’s a relative or a neighbor. Regardless, you have the power to open the door to a new world in the heart of nature, pursuing a sport that never ceases to reward. Consider a few things while you plan out that first fishing trip.

Be Patient

On this trip, you’re a teacher, not a trophy hunter. Plan on fishing very little. Your new pupil is a blank slate. He or she will not know the simplest knot or that a heavy-handed cast means climbing a tree to retrieve the rig. Chances are you’re going to be doing a lot of untangling! If you’re taking multiple kids, this is a guarantee. When that hook whizzes by with your hat in tow or you’re staring at a snarl of line big enough to rig a sailboat, keep cool. Everyone starts somewhere. Casting, retrieving and picking likely spots will be entirely new to your student. It’s easy for young anglers to become discouraged or embarrassed as they go through the learning process. After all, you make it look so easy! Keep encouraging them. Your passion for the sport and your willingness to teach will have a huge impact.

Keep it Simple

A kid’s first fishing trip is all about the basics. All you need is fishable water and some very simple tackle. Chances are you already have a fishing hole in mind. Great. Forget about your collection of every crankbait made since the Carter years, and think simple. You know your local waters.

What’s the minimum amount of tackle you need to put that child on some fish? Think back to the small bobber and the can of worms. Yep, good choice! Unless you’re planning to teach the neighbor kid to fish for grouper, simple rigs and a lightweight, or ultralight spinning combo should be enough to help a child put fish on the bank. This is about the experience, not the tackle. To a little kid, quantity overcomes quality! Pick a place where they will catch many fish in a short time – size does not matter.

Keep it Fun

You may be able to fish hard for five hours in the driving rain with a smile on your face, but let’s face it, kids have short attention spans. Keep the trip short and sweet connecting them with that first fish. You have plenty of time to teach the value of patience on the water later. For this outing, concentrate your fish-finding powers on helping them experience the magic of the catch. That said, don’t be discouraged when they drop the fishing rod and go running off after a turtle. It’s all part of the experience, and you should plan on it! In fact, you should combine multiple activities into the trip to magnify the fun. The ideal spot for a young child is a dock near a playground in a picnic area. Do all three! They will remember.