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Choosing Your Child’s First Rod and Reel Really is a Big Deal

Youth Fishing Gear

Youth Fishing Gear- A child’s first fishing rod and reel is an important milestone on life’s journey say the people who run the Wal-Mart Kids All-American Fishing Derby. Here are some tips to help parents get their fishing gear needs right. KETCHUM, Okla. –Some gifts children receive are more than gifts; they are milestones, proud installments in life’s journey that say -- with feeling – “You’re a big person now.”

A child’s first pair of lace-up shoes or a bicycle without training wheels are those kinds of milestones. In many families, the milestone gift that remains a fond memory for the giver and the givee is a youngster’s first rod and reel.

So, parents, don’t blow it.

To help parents make the right call on this all-important decision are these gems of advice from the people who run the Wal-Mart Kids All-American Fishing Derby, the world’s largest youth fishing program. Every year Hooked on Fishing International of Ketchum, Okla. produces close to 2,000 events for about 300,000 young anglers from 5 to 16.

Buy a short rod, about the same height as the young angler.

A short rod is not only easier for the young angler to cast, it’s easier to carry and, therefore, less likely to break. Dear parent, expect that from time to time the rod tip will be drug through the gravel of a parking lot. “Kids don’t comprehend that rods and reels can break. Rough treatment is the rule, not the exception,” says M. Scott Smith, director of marketing for Zebco, the fishing tackle company. His other jobs, parent and “proud father of three case studies,” underscore this all-important tip.

Equip the rod with a push-button reel.

Line tangles may be frustrating for a parent but they can be tragic for a kid and could even end a life of fishing enjoyment before it starts. Head off that kind of trouble by equipping the rod with a closed-face spin-cast reel, about as trouble-free as they come. ”The closed cover keeps the line in check and doesn't expose it to curious hands like a spinning reel would,” said Smith.

The rod handle should be designed for two-handed casting.

Zebco studied the casting actions of kids as they learned to cast and noted that those from ages four to six were more likely to use both hands when casting the rod. The information led them to design beginner combo rods so that the young consumers could grip the handle with both hands. It’s not a coincidence that these two-handed beginner combos also sport the image of cartoon characters admired by four to six year old anglers, characters like Mickey Mouse, Sponge Bob and Tigger. Smith notes that if your child accidentally drops his Zebco Character combo into the water, the rod does not sink. Zebco’s Character combos have a patented system that allow them to float and to be retrieved.

Practice makes a difference.

Practice doesn’t always make perfect at this stage in an angler’s life but practice with a patient parent can make the difference between a tearful episode and big fun on the bayou. Casting is not easy for little persons but a good cast is immensely satisfying to two people – parent and child – who work together from start to satisfaction.

Some young people may dream about sugarplums but young anglers with a rod and reel combo have visions of fish dancing on the end of the line. Give them that opportunity by taking them fishing and helping them achieve another milestone -- their first fish. Many communities participate in the Wal-Mart Kids All-American Fishing Derby, a structured half-day of free fishing with grown up supervision and fun contests. Parents can go to the official website,, and search the “Derby Locator” for the location and date of the derby nearest to you.

Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. is the title sponsor of Hooked on Fishing International’s very successful program, which includes contests, giveaways, prizes and even a hot dog roast. It is supported financially and otherwise by a growing list of corporate partners such as DMF Bait Co., Edy’s Grand Ice Cream, PURELL® Instant Hand Sanitizer from GOJO Industries, Repel Insect Repellent from Spectrum Brands and Nestle Waters North America, which markets the natural spring water brands of Arrowhead, Deer Park, Ice Mountain, Ozarka, Poland Spring, Zephyrhills, and Nestle Pure Life, BAND-AID® BRAND ADHESIVE BANDAGES, Bar-S Foods Co., Berkley PowerBait, Berkley Trilene, Dubble Bubble Bubble Gum, Eagle Claw, EverStart Batteries,, Fujifilm, Kraft Foods, Laker Fishing Tackle, and Zebco.


To catch more fish, fish with a bobber. That way you’ll be able to see when a fish is nibbling at your bait. But be patient. Wait for the fish to take the bobber completely under the water before you start to reel it in. I’ve got more fishing tips for you on the Internet. Visit me at Sebastian’s Corner at

WHAT IS 9,000,000, ALEX?

Nine-million: that’s the number of young anglers and parents who have participated in the Wal-Mart Kids All-American Fishing Derby program since it began in 1986. About 2,000,000 were young anglers from 5 to 16 who participated in the fishing and contests. These factoids are courtesy of Hooked on Fishing International, Ketchum, Okla., the company that started and has managed the successful program since the beginning.


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