I’M WILLING TO BET that you caught your first fish with a Zebco rod and reel. Released in 1959 and now synonymous with entry-level tackle, the company’s cartoon-themed combos pair an easy-to-use reel with a rod sized just right for budding anglers. After nearly 60 years, these nice little setups are still one of the best ways to get your kid excited about wetting a line. Here’s the right way to get your little one hooked—and have blast a long the way.
1. RESIST NOSTALGIA
Your Zebco might’ve been a Snoopy or Mickey Mouse model. But let your youngsters pick their own—there’s been one for damn near every kids’ movie. This will help fishing feel like their hobby, not just yours.
2. EMBRACE LIVE BAIT
You may have moved on to finesse worms or dry flies, but live bait puts fish on hooks. And the fast action will keep your kids interested.
3. WELCOME DISTRACTIONS
Remember, you aren’t fishing. Your kids are. And they won’t care about it until there’s a fish on the line. In the meantime, let them play with the bait bucket or look for crayfish along the bank. And bring plenty of snacks—a surefire way to pass the time.
4 . PICK THE PERFECT TARGET
Pint-size panfish, found in most creeks and ponds, are great for young kids, since they’re suckers for crickets and wax worms. Older kids will like the big tugs of bass and catfish, which favor live worms.
5. REEL DEAL
Casting a baited hook with a short rod can be dicey, and even dangerous, for little ones, so you may need to do it for them. But have them reel in every fish. Let your kids hold their catch in the water, and teach them the importance of keeping the fish wet for a good, safe release.
This article is part of our Summer School series, a comprehensive guide to acing the year’s best season.