Consider differences coaching kayak kids

Kiera Landers and her dad Zach unhook a pair of largemouth they caught at the same time. Kiera is an enthusiastic angler, already a tournament winner, who Zach says sometimes needs to be dragged off the water. Photo Dave Mull

Kiera Landers and her dad Zach unhook a pair of largemouth they caught at the same time. Kiera is an enthusiastic angler, already a tournament winner, who Zach says sometimes needs to be dragged off the water. Photo Dave Mull

By Dave Mull

Sometimes you have to nurture the spark of desire a kid has for fishing. Other times you need to stand by with a loaded fire extinguisher.

Recently I fished with some kayak friends on a chain of five lakes fed by Rice Creek near Springport in east-central, Michigan. It was an informal gathering put together by buddy Joe Colegrove, followed by a cookout at Joe's house in Eaton Rapids.

While Joe towed his 6-year-old son, Owen, seated in a small kayak tethered behind his own pedal-powered Hobie, another new fishing friend, Zachary Landers paddled his Wilderness kayak and watched over daughter Kiera, 11, and son Kaleb, 9, each in separate pedal-powered Hobies. Robert Tayler and his 15-year-old Alex cast soft plastic lures nearby. Jeremy Crowe and his fiancee Shannon Williams fished while Jeremy's young son Fisher paddled around visiting with the other kayak kids. Everyone fished from the little plastic boats under a brilliant blue sky, chatting and socializing on the water.

Fishing was overall pretty tough, although this is a good handful of lakes for catching bass, the target species of the day. What struck this writer as I pedaled my kayak around taking pictures and chatting was the different degrees of fishing interest among the youngsters and what the parents did to bolster that interest.

Zachary's daughter Kiera had two spinning combos in her kayak and had already caught one of the bigger bass of the day. As I watched, both she and her day hooked up simultaneously and then carefully unhooked and released their fish.

Kiera has been fishing since she was 5, and has developed skills as well as a passion for the sport. In the first Kayak Anglers Tournament Series Midwest event this year she won the Social Division, and her total inches in the "catch-photo-release" event bested 26 of the 30-some anglers in the Pro Division. That earned her an extra $260 from Jeff Sherwood of Summit Sports, one of the tournament's sponsors. Before the contest began. Sherwood said he'd donate $10 to her college fund for every pro  Kiera beat.

"To be honest I think (Sherwood)l just saw her as a cute girl who wanted to fish with her dad," Zach told me later.

Fact is, Kiera is wild about fishing, and has been since she caught her first fish. Her dad guides her to Youtube videos, magazine articles and books about bass fishing, and she eagerly consumes them.

"There’s days I have to drag her off the water," Zachary said. "If we are not doing anything on any given day it’s 'let’s go kayak fishing.' And if we’re not fishing from a kayak, it’s from shore."

He noted that although he has focused on teaching Kiera how to catch bass, she wants to catch catfish and carp, and has done research on her own on how to do that.

Owen Colegrove trails along behind his dad, Joe, who is bringing his 6-year-old son into fishing slowly, making sure Owen is comfortable and having fun first, catching fish a distant second. Photo Dave Mull Owen Colegrove trails along behind his dad, Joe, who is bringing his 6-year-old son into fishing slowly, making sure Owen is comfortable and having fun first, catching fish a distant second. Photo Dave Mull

Perhaps at the other end of the spectrum is Joe Colgrove's son, Owen. Wearing similar broad-brimmed hats in their tethered kayaks, (calling to mind "Me" and "Mini Me" from the "Austin Powers" movies) Joe is bringing his son along slowly, having had Owen out fishing from a kayak just four times in the last two years. Saturday was the longest time on the water, about four hours.
"The trick is to have him watch other kids having fun doing it," says Joe.

Creature comforts are important, too.

"I make sure he has water and a snack, that he's not being eaten alive by bugs and is protected from the sun,” notes Joe.
"I make sure that the experience he has a fun one and that he knows it's not all about catching fish."

And while Owen hasn't caught a fish yet, Joe patiently instructs him on what he has to do for success.

"I tell him where to cast and tell him that we can't be changing lures every ten seconds," Joe says. "I try to catch fish in front of him so that excites him to trying catch fish.

"Each kid advances at their own pace, I try to help Owen at his pace," Joe adds.

Zachary offered advice to parents getting their kids into fishing.

"Focus on having fun and bonding," Zach said. "This whole tournament winning thing was a fluke. We entered just to have a memorable daddy-daughter moment. It turned into an amazing blessing for everyone but that wasn’t the intent. Focus on the experience, the failures, the success and just enjoy it."

Sound advice for anyone who wants to develop a young fisherman.