Why kids need to fish

I used the word “need” in the title of this column for a reason. You see, a kid fishing is about a lot more than catching a fish, or about an outdoors lifestyle. It’s about moral values and decency.

No one should take what I just said out of context. I’m not denigrating fishing or the outdoors and I’m certainly not saying it isn’t important. Of course fishing is important. It’s a part of the fabric of our society. But, it’s not necessarily the most important thing.

What is the most important thing is putting young men and women in touch with something that’s wholesome and that’ll teach them the right values. There’s nothing much immoral that’s going to happen when you’re trying to catch a fish. It’s legal. It’s honorable. It’s fun.

Trying to catch a fish teaches youngsters the value of working towards a goal and that despite our best efforts sometimes things don’t go our way. That’s pretty much the way life works in the real world, at least that’s the way it’s worked for me.

Another thing about fishing is that most of the anglers I know are pretty good people. We all have our quirks and individual strengths and weaknesses, but underneath all of that is a set of decent and respectable values that we can teach our young people, not by lecturing them but by showing them.

What better way is there to show a young boy what it means to be a real man than by taking him somewhere and spending the day fishing? Regardless of how many fish are caught — or not — he didn’t see someone in a saloon, using drugs, committing crimes, hurting someone else or running around just generally up to no good. He saw a man doing the right things and having a good time doing them.

Everything I just said applies to young girls, too. They’re just as vulnerable to the evils of the modern world as are the boys, and they need just as much guidance. They can get it on a riverbank just like their brother.

That’s the thinking behind our Ike Foundation. It’s not about creating a class of pro bass anglers or top guides with national reputations. It’s not even about catching a lot of big fish. It’s about using fishing as a vehicle to help promote the right values in our upcoming generation.

If we’re successful, we’ll be able to help some young men and women get on the right track with their life and stay that way. At the same time we’ll help keep fishing strong despite the changing demographics in our country.

Obviously, the foundation needs your support. But if you can’t do that, I urge you to take the time out of your schedule to take a kid somewhere and try to catch a fish. You don’t need a boat, fancy tackle or a lot of skill. All you need is the right attitude. The rest will take care of itself.

Mike Iaconelli's column appears weekly on Bassmaster.com. You can also find him on Facebook and Twitter or visit his website, mikeiaconelli.com.