With every year there comes along a few fishing trips where I am taking out a very inexperienced fisherman. I’ve learned that I cannot treat such trips like any other trip due to their limited skills. I know that I have to make adjustments to the overall game plan for the day as well as make some equipment adjustments as well. These adjustments will make for a more enjoyable experience for everyone, including me. So how do I approach these trips and what adjustments do I make?
The very first thing I do when taking out someone of questionable fishing abilities is that I try to gauge their experience. I want to discuss with them their fishing history. So I ask some basic questions like, “how many times have you been fishing? What kind of fish? What kind of rod/reel have you used, as in spinning, baitcast, or spin-cast (push button)?”
The answers to questions such as these will determine where and how we fish and also what type of rod and reel combo I will offer them to use. Oh, and I also like to ask them if they can swim. I get some confused looks with that question sometimes. But I ask it because what if they fall off the boat. My response to a man-overboard situation is going to be drastically different between a swimmer and a non-swimmer.
Choosing the right style of fishing is very important for ease and enjoyment of the trip. I avoid target oriented fishing patterns like fishing docks and/or laydowns. Inexperienced anglers just won’t have the skill to accurately present a lure to targets. Casts will fall too short, too left, too right, or too far. So instead, I only consider patterns that are away from targets which usually means some type of off-shore structure fishing. Precision casting is much less important when fishing off-shore.
The rod/reel setup is vital to the beginner’s success. I won’t ever give a spincast (push-button) to anyone. They are cheap and are not without faults of their own. The best option for an inexperienced fisherman is a spinning outfit. Within ten minutes, most people are able to make a decent cast at least 60% of the time. Within an hour, that number is 75% or more. To make spinning outfits even more easy and tangle-free, spool it with braided fishing line of 15 to 20 pound test strength. Braided line has no memory so it tangles much less often as compared to monofilament and fluorocarbon lines, both of which have memory. Memory is the coils or spirals seen when the line lays limp. Braided line will not form and retain the memory of these coils.
Some people may suggest having a little experience with a baitcasting reel and wish to use one. As you know, these are prone to terrible backlashes in the hands of the wrong person. But if somebody suggests that they prefer it, then I will outfit them with one. But before handing it to them, I will do two things to it. One, baitcasting outfits have adjustable braking systems, so I will tighten the brake to help minimize backlashing. And two, I will make sure that I have a lure tied on that weighs at least a half ounce, preferably more. That is because casting lures weighing less than this when using a baitcasting reel can be difficult.
When it comes to choosing lures, I have found that with attentive instruction by me, most beginners can learn just about any technique in a short period of time. Just be certain that the lure they are using has enough weight, because lighter lures present a greater degree of difficulty when cast and even when retrieved sometimes. But with that said, if a topwater bite exists, that is the first thing I tie on for the beginner (prop baits, poppers, and hollow-body frogs are great starters). First, it will float above any submergent weeds we may be fishing, and second, the whole visual experience of a topwater lure provides an added level of awareness to the angler and an added level of excitement when a bass grabs it. But of course the topwater bite isn’t always there, so I usually just go with whatever I think is the best technique for the given situation. I do this knowing that some techniques will require more instruction and continued observance from me as the angler tries to figure it out and get bites. I do avoid lures and techniques that are prone to snagging, whether it’s rocks or weeds.
To get the most of a fishing trip with a beginner, consideration has to be given to them. Gauge their fishing experience by asking questions before heading out. Chose areas in the lake where precision casting isn’t important. Outfit them with a rod/reel/line/lure combo that is easy to use. Pay attention and observe what they are doing so you can offer adjustments. By setting up your beginner fishing partner for success, the trip becomes more enjoyable for everyone including yourself!