Updated: May 17, 2021
As we discussed before, toddlers don’t exactly have the discipline or strength to set a thick stainless steel J hook into the boney mouths of a fish. So how do our kids come tight to some of the most formidable fish in our waters? Let’s break it up into two categories, the mechanics behind the lure or bait and the safety of the fish.
Before we dive in, one of the most important things that most parent anglers overlook is matching the lure weight to the rod action. Little Johnny isn’t going to be throwing a 1/4 ounce snook jig on a 6’ medium light pan fish rod or drop shot a light weight finesse worm on a XXheavy crow bar for largemouth bass. Whole point is to match the weight of the lure in accordance to the weight and action of the rod. Not all lures cast and perform the same on each rod.
We don’t want our kids throwing light weight technical baits on the water that require a lot of wrist and arm manipulation, so let’s think about some pretty straight forward options that yield high results. One of my favorite “go too” for kids are swim baits combined with a lead head jig that uses a light wire hook that is chemically sharpened. Hook size is dependent on the species being fished and the size bait being used. Swim baits are simple in the aspect of, you can cast and retrieve them. Wrist manipulation and arm movement are not necessary in most cases for fish to interact with the lure. As long as the lure is retrieved at a steady pace, hook up ratio is very high and usually yields no casualties on the fish side of things.
Weedless lures, are a god send in the aspect of mental sanity and efficiency. If there is one thing that we spend more time doing while fishing in the mangroves is retrieving Grayton’s bait or lures out of the branches. It’s part of fishing, getting stuck on all the obstructions that attract our fishy targets. Some great choices for this are weedless soft plastic rigged flukes, worms, swim baits, jerk baits. Mind you, your hook up ratio is going to drop a little because our kids are not going to be able to reel tight and set the hook immediately and most of the time resulting in either a failed hook set or a gut hooked fish. Possible alternatives to weedless soft plastics are a weedless gold spoon or a mirrodine with the trebles replaced with in line J hooks.
Scented baits are a lot of fun around lunch time. All you do is cast them out and let the current do all the work for you. My family and I usually stop at one of the local sandbars to stake out and eat lunch. While we are eating lunch we love to throw out one knocker rig with a dead shrimp. Bonefish use their nose to find food just as much as their eyes. (I don’t like chumming for bonefish in the lower keys because of the effect it has on some schools of fish resulting in changed behavior and are not as receptive to fly fishing.) Some things to consider when using scented baits are make sure you are up current to the school of fish so that the scent is dispersed down to the fish. If you’re going to leave your rod stationary in a rod holder be sure that your using a circle hook to ensure no gut hooked fish.
Finally, my favorite technique I use when fishing with kids, circle hooked live bait. Live bait always makes for excellent entertainment for kids. You probably never thought that the bait well is actually a television and swimming pool for small kids. When Grayton was 2 he used to kick it in our Maverick HPXV live well with the bubbles on. Its like a toddler jacuzzi, add small bait fish and you have yourself an aquarium. Entertainment is key to keeping the attention span of a 3 year old focused, so while your throwing out live pilchards to the mangrove snapper, let your kid have some fun with the bait and teach him why its important to keep fish in the water because they are going to want to take all of them out and stuff them in your gunwale mounted rod holders…..which you find a week later because your boat reeks of rotten fish. Lets talk about that hook set, the easiest hook to set in our tackle box. All you do is reel tight, none of that bass master elite series lip ripping boat shaking hook set going on here. Your kids line starts moving or peeling off and he simply starts reeling. The design of circle hook does the work for you resulting in a nice lip or corner of the mouth hooked trophy for your little one.
I hope you enjoyed this topic, please let me know how you guys take your kids fishing and your favorite lure and species!
Stay hooked fam