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Kids

When Bassmaster Elite pro Brandon Lester started teaching his younger daughter, Shiloh, to fish, he kept it simple. He took her to a pond that had bluegills and let her dangle a worm under a small bobber.

So you’re the parent of a young girl or boy, and you want to teach your child how to fish.

It can be a daunting task, even for one of the nation’s top fishermen. Brandon Lester, a Bassmaster Elite Series pro out of Fayetteville, Tennessee, has been mentoring his two daughters, Leann and Shiloh, and he has some advice for people who would like to do the same with their own youngsters.

With 26 top 10 finishes and more than $600,000 in career prize winnings, Lester clearly knows how to get a fish to bite. He said, however, that the first requirement for teaching a kid to fish isn’t technical expertise, it’s a fishing license.

That’s right. If you’re going to be handling your kid’s fishing rod — even if it’s just to bait a hook — you need a fishing license.

“Don’t be intimidated by buying a license,” Lester said. “Most states offer one-day or three-day licenses versus a full year to save new anglers money. And you can nearly always get a license over the phone [or online] from the state fishing-license sales center.”

In West Virginia, licenses can be purchased online at www.wvhunt.com.

Lester said safety should be a priority, too.

If you’re planning to fish from a boat, a dock or a pier, your child should be wearing a properly fitted life jacket. It only takes one slip for a kid to take a tumble out of the boat or off the pier, and a life jacket will keep the youngster afloat until he or she can be rescued.

Kids don’t care about catching big fish; they’re mainly interested in getting bites. Bluegills make an ideal quarry because getting them to bite is pretty easy most of the time.

“Keep in mind [bluegills] are not big fish, and they don’t have big mouths,” Lester said. “So don’t buy a bobber that’s so big they can’t pull it under. And make sure your hook is tiny enough for bluegill and other panfish to get their mouth around, too.”

A typical round bobber, he added, should not be any larger than a golf ball. Hooks should be no longer than the diameter of a nickel. A package of size 6 baitholder hooks should be perfect.

Rods and reels don’t have to be expensive. A 6-foot rod equipped with a simple spincast reel will handle just about any fish a youngster might hook.

A container of red worms or Canadian nightcrawlers, often available at convenience stores, should provide more than enough bait for several days’ worth of brief, kid-centered outings.

“You shouldn’t expect your kids to fish for eight hours, because the reality is they often lose interest after 20 minutes if the fish aren’t biting,” Lester said. “Don’t wear them out. Make fishing a short adventure for them.

“The key is to keep them entertained, and if that means throwing rocks in the water, a short walk down the shoreline, watching for turtles or whatever, that’s fine. Keep it fun!”

Lester said a few cell-phone snapshots can go a long way toward setting a youngster up for a lifetime of fishing.

“If you catch a few for photos and make some great memories, there’s a good chance they’ll want to go again,” he said “If that’s the case, you’ve succeeded as a parent, no matter what your level of fishing experience was previously.”

Reach John McCoy at johnmccoy@wvgazettemail.com, 304-348-1231, or follow @GazMailOutdoors on Twitter.