Tips for Getting a Novice Fisherman Hooked

By Garrett Lee
father and daughter holding catfish

Fishing is one of those sports that can be enjoyed by anyone throughout their entire life. It's an opportunity to spend time outdoors enjoying and connecting with nature, family and friends, learning about conservation and, in some cases, maybe even some life lessons. Here are few tips to help spread the joy of fishing. 

Start them off right to keep them fishing for a lifetime

As a fisheries biologist and father of two, can you guess what I gave each of my girls on their first birthday. That's right: a decent rod and reel and their very own tackle box loaded with hooks, sinkers, bobbers - the works. I knew they wouldn’t be able to enjoy it for a few years, but it was important to me to get them excited about something that I loved from an early age. It starts out as fond memories during a family vacation or just a trip away from everyday life and turns into a lifelong hobby. 

For novice anglers, look for quantity vs. quality

Large Bluegill caught on a private pondIn your attempt to create a great experience for the novice fisherman, it is important to remember to focus on the basics that helped to get us started, just as many parents and grandparents have done with generations of fishermen before. First, if you are taking someone fishing with minimal experience, or limited attention span, don’t spend the day trying to catch a trophy fish. Instead, focus on a species that provides steady catch rates because that will translate into high involvement. Novice anglers will be way more likely to want to fish again if they are rewarded for their efforts by catching something - really anything. Plan your trips to match high fish activity, like the white bass run, the Crappie or Bass spawn in the spring, or a private pond with a high density of Bass. During the summer months, try to find an area with a high population of Bluegill - like the one pictured to the left. Don’t go out and spend all day trying to find the fish either - go to places where you have already located fish. If you have access to a private pond, start there. Most often, private ponds have reduced fishing pressure and higher population densities, delivering higher catch rates. Remember, young and inexperienced anglers will be extremely excited to reel anything in, regardless of size or species. 

Focus on short, enjoyable fishing outings

Another critical point to remember is that a youth or a novice will not have the same stamina or drive you have built up over the years. Sitting on the bank or driving around in a boat all day can wear-out these young fishermen. When they start showing signs of fatigue, head back home. Think of it like this. Would you rather push that one trip for a few extra hours or have company on your future fishing trips? Don’t make something that should be enjoyable seem like a punishment. And schedule your trips around the weather. Don’t take them on their first fishing trip in the middle of a cold snap or when there is a high chance of wind and rain. It all ties back to making the experience as enjoyable and comfortable as possible. They will build up their stamina and learn to push through the early mornings, inclement weather, and long days once they fall in love with the sport. 

Choose equipment appropriate to their fishing experience

Choose fishing styles, equipment, and tackle that are age/ experience appropriate. Don’t hand an inexperienced angler a baitcasting reel with a weightless worm tied on and expect them to be able to handle it. It may seem rudimentary and not what you see all the guys on TV use, but start them out with a simple push-button reel. They are simple, easy to use, and, most importantly, cheap! I always keep a couple around just in case someone comes over, and we want to go hit the water. As for tackle, start off with bobbers and live or artificial bait. As their casting proficiency goes up, move towards a spinnerbait or crankbait that has a decent amount of weight to it. These will be easier to cast and will keep them engaged as well as. Start teaching them to vary their retrieve speeds and techniques to help later on.  

In the beginning, keep it non-competitive

Teaching someone to fish can be a bonding and very personal experience. Don’t take multiple novices at once. This will give you time to focus on their individual needs as far as their skill sets go. Not everyone learns at the same pace, and some will struggle with tasks at which others excel. Having a large group around can feel daunting and impose a sense of competition. Having this 1-on-1 or 2-on-1 experience helps to limit this from occurring. 

Use non-conventional fishing methods to get them hooked

32in Bluecat caught on a jugline

A final consideration is to try out some non-conventional fishing methods. For example, we caught that blue catfish pictured above using juglines. Juglines are tackle that fish for you while you aren’t even present. They are easy to assemble and, depending on the construction materials, relatively cheap. This is a fishing method I utilize quite often when fishing with my daughters. There is a lot of involvement when we are setting out the baited jugs, baiting the hooks, picking our spots, and throwing out the anchors. Then, once we have set our last one, we either go and find some schooling White Bass or head on back to the house to rest up and get ready to check them the next day. Seeing the excitement on their face when a fish pulls the jug out of their hands, I’m telling you there isn’t anything better. This fishing method needs to be approached with caution. Always wear your lifejackets and have a fixed blade knife ready just in case you need to cut the lines. 

Remember, it isn't just fishin'

Take someone fishing, a kid, an adult, a family member; it doesn’t matter. This is a wonderful hobby and should be shared with as many people as possible. It is an opportunity to teach them about nature and conservation that is associated with enjoying the outdoors. If you have any other questions, feel free to contact me anytime at

Watch the video: Teaching a Novice to Fish

See y'all down at the pond ... just fishin'.

Tags: Pond Management

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