Motivating Kids in to Kayak Fishing

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This morning I watched a viral video of 8 girls on their cell phones during a baseball game.  It was one of many reminders that our battle, as parents, against the digital age is ongoing and that we should never relax our efforts to get our kids out of the house, away from the iStuff and into the great out doors!  The challenges are many, but, in  my opinion its a lot to do with motivation.  So how do we keep our kids interested?  One of the founding principals of any educational process is to keep their exposure from a young age… positive.  This is especially true for my son Sambo (Sam).  He’s continually bombarded with so many cool things that it’s sometimes hard to keep kayak fishing up there in his priority list.

‘Positive’ comes in many forms but is the primary driver for any kid.  If he or she doesn’t like or enjoy the experience, or if something they are trying doesn’t have enough ‘ease of entry’ to it, they will push back.  Some pushback can be over come by diligent encouragement and the parent/teacher easing them around stumbling blocks, but having the right environment and tools to make the transition easy is key.  For us, already enthusiasts, its hard to believe that our kids wouldn’t like the things we like.  But in reality we have all gone through the same process they have to go through to become enthusiastic, usually lead by a family member or friend encouraging us along all the way.

So what are the motivating factors?  I see two:  Ease of entry into the sport and success.  Ease of entry is established by a positive learning experience.  Success is what motivates further development, more importantly further interest in developing.

The teaching side of things for kayak fishing for me has only one rule,  don’t make it complicated.  Teach them how to get the line in the water first, then teach them where and why they cast to where they need to cast.  The rest will follow along your own education as each day everyone fishing has to figure out where the fish are and what they’re biting.  Do that with your child.  Figure out the fish, location, water conditions and choose the bait and technique with them.  We do this, even as ‘experts’ ourselves every day we fish… even if it is subconsciously.   The real secret to teaching is to be positive in learning… “that was great, now try this” vs “you messed that up dummy, do it right!”.  Keeping it all fun where you laugh at mistakes makes all the difference in the world.

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A real advantage for teaching kids to kayak fish these days is equipment.  The bad news for my parents was that, NOTHING was made for kids.  There were few kid sized paddles, performant life vests, nor kayaks.   fishing gear sized for kids were crappy little Scooby Doo rods and dumb little starter kits.  Kayaks were all adult sized of course.  If you have ever seen a kid try to paddle an adult sized kayak, with an adult sized paddle, its frustrating to watch.  It becomes a blocking factor in their development when they struggle to keep up, get tired manipulating the kayak and more.   Products like the Aquabound Sharkey, life vests like Kokatat’s Aires series and the new Jackson Kayak Skipper take all these frustrations away from the learning child.  They can keep up with daddy and mommy with relative ease and can catch just as big a fish and as many as adults can!

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That brings us to Environment.  If you are not catching fish, well, your kid will not find too much satisfaction unless you’re a solid entertainer 😉  I have a few places I go to for the easy hook up.  I do take my son to some of the harder fishing environments, but for the early stages of his kayak fishing life it needs to be continual adventure or those video games will win out on the ‘excitement scale’.  Success is a clear motivator for Sambo.  When the fish are biting, he’s the last one off the water.  When they are not biting,  he’s the first to say “how long are we staying out?”  No matter how many “fishing is 90% the chase, 10% catching” speeches you make, the fun factor is the catch for your kids.  The good news is that you don’t need constant lunkers to keep interest up, even sunfish will do.  Make it fun, challenge them, compete even.  For Sam, I didn’t give him a bobber and worm.  I gave him a full line of weedless soft baits.  Where worms and bobbers catch your tiny fish, these caught just as many fish, but bigger fish.  Bigger fish are impressive and no kid ever gets sick of catching fish over 2-3 lbs.

Bottom line is keep your kids motivated and soon enough they’ll be the ones shaking you awake to go do that sunrise paddle and fish.

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