Friday, April 25, 2014

Rookie School: Topwater 101

If your a seasoned angler, a weekend warrior or a tournament jersey wearing pro, then this series of articles may not be for you.. but then again we can all use a refresher on the whats, whys, when and hows as it pertains to teaching a kid to fish.

lets start off with a pretty standard reminder..  "the main goal of objective when teaching a rookie or child to fish is to ensure they have fun". That means focusing on fair weather days, shorter trips, and of course plenty of fish.. you know, all the stuff you ignored when teaching your wife/girlfriend to fish.

Disclaimer number two, if you are teaching a  child who has not yet mastered art of worm and bobber fishing, then this may not be the time to tie on a top water bait, so be patient and enjoy the peace and quiet that goes along with watching a red/white bobber float along.

Ok, now on to some tips for teaching a rookie the art of the top water bait.

Bait Choice

Bait choice is key when learning a new technique, and although this may seem pretty easy  there are some things to take into consideration when teaching a rookie or child to use a top water bait, here are some good choices and baits to avoid:

Poppers - are a great choice for rookie top water anglers, they float, meaning they can take their time and not worry about getting hung-up on any submerged weed or timber. Poppers are also super easy to use, no technique is required, simply jerk the rod tip back or to the side, and pop away, that's all there is too it (well at this stage anyways)

There are a few things to watch out for when teaching someone to use a popper, the first is that that are often too slow for some youngsters. I don't know about you but most kids I watch fish like to cast, reel, cast, reel, cast reel and a  popper will force them to slow down, which may not hold their interest allowing them to get bored quick. The next concern may be the twin treble hooks that come on most poppers, this can be dangerous (for you and your student). If your worried about the trebles feel free to remove one, or replace both with single hooks, your hook-up ratio may lower, but your trips to the ER will be fewer

Floating Buzz'n Baits - are the perfect combination of fish catching noise and motion and also allow plenty of room for error without fowling up. Baits like the Arbogast Buzz Plug or the Rebel Buzz'n Frog both float when paused, giving your youngster the the chance to take a breather on their retrieve without having to worry about the bait sinking. In place of treble hooks most floating buzz'n baits are equipped with double frog hooks, yes they can still stick you, but the longer shanks and wider gaps make them easier to handle and remove from fish (giving you a great opportunity to also teach them  how to handle fish with out the worry of trebles)

Standard Buzz-baits are fairly easy to use, but not as child friendly as the floating versions. A Standard Buzz bait really requires patience and the ability to retrieve steadily at a certain speed to catch fish. The floating version will be easier to use, and cast (due to the added weight).

Walking Baits - I personally don't recommend selecting a walking bait as you child's first top water lure. They all require some level of patience and technique in order to fish them properly. Walking baits are intermediate level lures and your rookie should only be promoted to them once they get past the beginner baits listed above. That being said there are some walking- baits currently available that have a "swayed-back" which makes them much easier to walk than most. If you are going to start you student out with a walker, be sure to check out the Live Target Walking Frog as well as Heddon's Swayback Spook (if you can still find one) these baits are a breeze to fish will help build their confidence.

WakeBaits - Although not technically a top water bait ( i can almost feel you rolling your eyes) a wake bait is a great way to get started out  and excited about top water fishing. Wake baits like their deeper running brothers are designed with a built in wobble or action that will allow a rookie to easily retrieve the bait and get the desired action, without really any skill. Like the other baits listed above wake-baits will float on the pause and even though they will run 1-2ft below the waters surface you will still get to see and react to that great top-water blow-up.

Practise & Patience 

In sticking with our original goal of keeping your trips short, you should always ensure that when teaching a rookie angler to throw a top water bait that you focus on the time of day (and water conditions) that are best suited for top water fishing,  this may mean spending a few hours in the morning or evening tossing top water, but then putting it away as the conditions dictate. Remember the goal is not only to teach them the skills required, but also to build their confidence, so going hours without catching a fish or getting a blow-up may be great practise,  it probably won't be any fun and will do nothing for the newbies confidence level.

The last tip that I will share with you is patience, not only will you need to impart patience to your student, but you'll have to show patience yourself. Top Water fishing is fun, it's exciting and for some its pretty difficult to master, so be patient with them, and allow them to make mistakes, as long as they are having fun while doing so. When I have a rookie in the boat with me, I won't comment or offer advice on the first few missed fish, unless I'm asked. After they have missed a few I try to gauge their confidence and frustration level, if confidence is high and frustration is low, let 'em keep fishing, they will learn as they go. But if you see frustration setting in,  be sure to offer some advice (not criticism) and give them a few pointers, tips or tricks that work for you, not jargon or something you read in a magazine.

We were all rookies once and in order to grow our sport we need good coaches, teachers and students

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