Part 1- Winter Preparation
I think most fathers dream of having their child share their passion so they can spend time together regardless of what that passion is. Mine just happens to be fishing. So when I asked my ten-year old son Aidan if he wanted to start tournament fishing with me this year you can imagine my elation when he said “yes”. Once I knew he was interested, I started my mental checklist of the things I needed to make his experience on and off the water the best possible. I know there are other dads out there who are either already fishing with their child or are contemplating it, so I thought I would put together a series on tournament fishing with kids. This series will include: preparation (including pre-fish, tournament day, gear, food and the seasons), techniques that will keep them interested and engaged, mistakes I make through the year (so you don’t make the same ones) and hopefully a few stories of our success.
We just got back from our first event on the Future Pro Tour at Lake Berryessa where the weather was terrible and we blanked on tournament day. Because it’s fresh in my mind (even though spring is here), and weather is always a factor in fishing, let’s start with winter gear and how you can be better prepared on the water if the rain is going sideways.
When getting ready for a tournament or a practice day, you first need to think like a kid (In my situation, a 10-year-old boy with the “gift of gab” and the attention span of a gnat). When it comes to inclement weather, being prepared is an absolute must if you want your child to have fun and last the entire day. Cold, wet, shivering kids can result in lots of whining and an early trip back to the ramp. Here is a list of items to make sure your child is as warm and comfortable as possible:
-Waterproof insulated boots: Finding good quality kids gear can be a chore but I did find a pair by The North Face that didn’t break the bank, were insulated and more importantly, waterproof. You will also want to pair the boots with some wool socks.
-Thermal base layer: More layers are better since you can peel off each one throughout the day as needed. Under Armor makes a great base layer called Cold Gear and they have kid’s sizes available.
-Water poof gloves and/or mittens: Mittens are best since they keep hands the warmest and some mittens have a pocket for chemical hand warmers.
-Gortex rain suit: Not many companies offer full Gortex rain suits for kids but I did find a nice jacket and pair of pants available at Cabelas.com. Remember you get what you pay for. Look for Velcro wrist and ankle closures, adjustable waist bands, hood adjustments, etc.
-Beanie or balaclava, sweatshirt, jeans or sweats: Just don’t over-do it. You want your kid to be able to move!
–A Save Phace mask or helmet for early morning runs and/or if it is raining.
-Dual console: Not a must, but an accessory you should seriously consider adding. Having a dual console will add protection and comfort on long runs or chilly mornings.
-Bimini top: It looks odd on a bass boat but you will get over that quickly while having a place to hide from the rain throughout the day.
-An entire change of clothes (including shoes and another rain suit): Rain suits can leak and in the unfortunate event your kid goes overboard, a fresh pair of clothes is a must have.
-Extra hand and foot warmers- Once chemical hand warmers get wet they no longer work. So stow a few extra just in case.
-A few towels to dry off wet hands, faces and seats.
*ALWAYS HAVE YOU CHILD WEAR THEIR LIFEVEST*
This is just my list and some suggestions; make sure your list is catered to your child and their personality. While at Lake Berryessa I had to make decisions based on Aidan’s comfort and not decisions about catching fish. Some of those decision included short runs, staying in areas to hide from the rain and wind (even if the fish were not biting), and heading back to the ramp at any point in which I felt Aidan was too cold and/or he asked to go home. If you are as competitive as I am, you will have to completely shift your thought process when it comes to fishing with your child. It’s is about them having an enjoyable experience regardless of the outcome. You will have to put your ego aside and relish in the fact that you are spending quality time on and off the water together. You are making memories that will last a lifetime. Sure catching a great sack and winning would be awesome, but really the ultimate goal is to keep them coming back for more. Until next time stay focused, fish hard and I’ll see you on the water.
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