Share your fishing knowledge with teens

Courtesy of Kevin VanDam
Kevin VanDam with Cam Neely, McLane May, Noah Lambrix and Ben Cole after a day on the water.

About the author

Kevin VanDam

Kevin VanDam

In the world of professional bass fishing, Kevin VanDam is at the pinnacle and arguably the best in the world.

It’s graduation season here in southern Michigan, so when you have two teenage boys, you can count on graduation parties filling up your calendar.

I’m not complaining, ’cause I know a lot of these kids and their families and I’ve watched them grow up. It’s pretty amazing that they’re all leaving high school and headed to college.

Unfortunately, my Elite Series and travel schedule interferes with some of the celebrations, so my wife and I were trying to figure out what I could do.

“Why don’t you take them fishing?” Sherry said.

Obviously, I liked that idea a lot!

So, this week, I put four high school boys in my boat on a local lake one morning and we had a blast.

They love to bass fish and each is hoping to hook up with a collegiate fishing team.

Their awareness and interest in college fishing programs shows just how far our sport has come. When I was that age, my only source for competition was to join a local adult bass club, which was a pretty intimidating experience for a teenager. It was a great experience because I learned a ton about fishing with different adults on a variety of different waters, but to do it with guys my own age would have been something I would have preferred.

Nowadays, even high schools offer competitive fishing programs and the teens are eating it up. They can learn and compete within their own peer group and gain valuable experience.

In fact, we have high school bass clubs work as volunteers during some of our Elite Series weigh-ins, and I enjoy talking to them. We also see quite a few collegiate anglers at our weigh-ins and you can tell their fishing knowledge learning curve has been shortened as a result of those programs.

When I took these four boys fishing, we caught a ton of fish, but more importantly, I answered a lot of questions and taught them a few things about bass fishing.

The timing was good, too. There was a mayfly hatch on the lake and the fish were in all phases of the spawn. It was a good opportunity to show them what the fish do this time of year and how and why they react to certain baits and conditions. I showed them how to fish lures to match the seasonal pattern, and they really learned quickly. It was a big confidence builder for them.

It was good for me, too. They reminded me of myself when I was their ages, trying to learn more and get better at the sport. Catching fish is gratifying, but sharing your knowledge with young anglers is a rewarding experience as well.

That’s why I encourage local anglers and bass clubs to take a serious look at the local youth fishing programs and get involved.

While some of the collegiate anglers have boats or access to them, most high schoolers do not. They have to rely on others to take them fishing, and if their parents don’t fish, they need boat drivers and mentors.

If you know of a local youth group, contact them and find out how you can help. You’ll be passing along knowledge someone else taught you and when you see how quickly a young angler improves with your help, you will be equally rewarded!

Remember, it’s all about the attitude!

Kevin VanDam's column appears weekly on Bassmaster.com. You can also find him on Facebook and Twitter.

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