Passing on the passion – By Ben Secrest

By March 12, 2020Featured, Spring 2020

Growing up with my dad was a blessing. His love of the outdoors came from a very good upbringing from his father in Ohio and Pennsylvania. His early life was spent hunting and fishing daily not only as a first love, but to feed the family during the great depression.  He loved the time spent with his mentors, and the memories he had were awesome childhood stories for me.

Fast forward to my birth, dad’s love of the outdoors was something he viewed as important part of his life so it was inevitable that would pass onto his son. Taking me to the pier in a stroller, barely able to walk, he wanted me to be comfortable around the environment.

We started with opaleye perch around the rocks, then graduated to bonito at the Redondo bubble hole, then trips to San Clemente island, with the end result being my total love of the water and fishing. My dad purchased a piece of land at Canyon Lake and my introduction to freshwater bass was born.            My early years fishing salt with pop after work then spending Saturday and Sunday at the lake were the best years of my early life. I learned a lot that became my foundation for the other fishing adventures that the future had in store for me.

With today’s electronic society, it’s really important to get kids outside to experience what’s out there. The importance of finding something that you, your kids, and friends can enjoy together is key. Passing on the passion cannot be forced, it has to be instilled in them at young age by taking them fishing.

When kids are in their formative years, 3 to 5 years old, it’s a perfect time to introduce them to fishing and the great outdoors.  It gets them use to being outside and comfortable around fishing, the equipment, and especially the fish. My dad use to fish on the ½ day and ¾ day boats bringing his catch home to show me and let me help clean them. I remember my dad would make the effort for me to touch and hold any fish we caught. If we had plenty to eat, he would have me kiss the fish, and throw it back in to catch another day. He was a pure conservationist prior to the wave of green we see in today’s society. Starting kids off at a young age experiencing the outdoors is good, but I have had a lot of friends that did not have the same upbringing I did regarding the outdoors and fishing.

Throughout the years I have met people and if the subject of fishing comes up, if I see they are really interested I offer to take them. Many of these individuals are getting their first introduction to fishing, and it’s amazing to see how many adopt it as a passion for life. Many of these anglers have become my fishing partners now. I hear a lot the” tug is the drug” and with the newbies it truly is.

I guess my point is, it’s never too late to start fishing, and experiencing the outdoor adventure.

Another common thing I have experienced is my kids enjoyed fishing when they were little, and with the introduction to other interests like baseball, basketball, and soccer they slowly moved away from it. I was fortunate enough to experience the love of sports and learning what it was to be part of a team. I spent my teenage years surfing, fishing, and playing baseball. My love for my dad and the time we spent together was always there so I spent weekends fishing with him until college.

The key influence in my life was my father and the bond we cemented came from our time on the water as a youth. Remember that good memories as kids live in us for ever.

There is no better place to be then with your kids enjoying your passion in life. My kids continued to pursue their interests with Summer playing collegiate softball, Ben running track, and Kailey becoming an artist. The point I am passing onto you now is that if they experience the outdoors and fishing in their youth it becomes part of their DNA, so they will return to it later.

Many of my friends always ask me now “how do your kids fish with you so much?” My answer is that they are asking me to go as a result of those magical moments experienced in their youth. One thing I know to be true is all our experiences through life create many memories both good and bad. The memories my kids have of all the time fishing with their parents have been positive, and that is what drives them as adults to continue the fishing experience. I know that showing your kids or friends true passion to something you hold dear to your heart makes an impression. These impressions tend to introduce others to your contagious love of the sport instilling their passion to explore and experience it.

The best times of my adult life now are to fish with my kids. I have made it an annual trip on my birthday that my daughters and I spend the day fishing. It’s the best birthday present ever for me and they have the time of their lives. To watch them create memories of their own that I am included in is absolutely the best.

Recently my good friend Joe and I took the girls Sword fishing which is like watching grass grow waiting for the bite. We had so much fun talking about our previous adventures that I realized that its not so much the importance of catching fish but the time together that counts.

You can’t go back into their youth and change what is already done, but remember its never too late to introduce your kids or friends to something that can alter their life in a very positive manner.

The key in life is to pass on the something people will enjoy too. Passing on the passion is contagious, and the legacy you leave your kids and friends will always remind them that your love of the sport lives in them all.

Take your kids fishing and remember it’s never too late to introduce people to fishing and the outdoor world of adventure.

 

Food for thought:

When taking the kids fishing make sure you start with something that will get their attention, and they can enjoy the experience as a whole. It’s all about their experience. Go catch mackerel off the pier. Hit up a lake full of panfish, or time the perfect trout plant.  Make sure they catch fish so they can experience the tug. If they want to play with the bait so be it. Just remember it’s about introducing them to the whole scene.

If you are going to take the kids or a friend on the boat for the first time, make sure you ask about if they get seasick. If this happens get them back to the dock. There is nothing more uncomfortable then being seasick as a child or an adult. This will definitely be a negative experience and any further trips for the kids will be tough. I think it’s easier to start them on the pier or on the shore.

Make sure you bring tackle that is easy for them to use. Its best to start with spinning reels and work towards bait casters or conventional tackle for the future. Make sure its set up so you alleviate any possibilities of problems. Braid can be difficult at times in the wind so I would look at having a couple rods with mono. Get them set up and show them how to cast and instruct them on the process. If you are fishing with younger kids, either hook and hand so they feel the tug, or actually fish a bait with them. The tackle should be right for the fish. Way better for kids to fight the fish instead of the tackle.

Prior planning will help alleviate the percentage of not catching. Have the kids be part of the preparation process with tackle and lures. This is the best part of the experience, it teaches them that being ready is a critical part of success. Make sure you bring plenty of goodies for them to snack on and some of their favorite drinks. Bringing sunscreen and hats will help keep them safe from the sun. What I did with my kids worked, video games were left at home, making their focus on the surroundings, fully immersed in the experience.

Planning a semi or annual trip for the weekend to some cool fishing location can be a great way to spend family time as well as create new fishing experiences for the kids. My father would take me every August with my mom to the West Walker River and those trips are some of my fondest memories. We caught a ton of trout keeping enough to eat at the local restaurant, and releasing the rest. This experience also got me thinking on how I could catch fish on my own with the river right behind the motel. I remember looking for new turns in the creek or stones that cast long shadows. No better way to learn than doing it.

We also found arrowheads at higher grounds when the sun was high. Exploring the creek and its surroundings was a fun part of my childhood making a great memory.

If you have a child that likes fishing and shows interest introduce him to different species and techniques to broaden his horizon. This will help them understand the basics of fishing and get them thinking how they can do it better. Most of the time the only thing that changes is the size of the tackle. The more you help them to better understand the aspects of fishing, the better your fishing partner will become.

My girls have been to East Cape, Alaska, Montana, northern California, and other locations to pursue their love of fishing.

Teach them catch and release to help sustain the fisheries. As I mentioned before make sure they understand “keep what you can eat and let the rest go.”  This will help future anglers enjoy fishing.

The last thing to remember is Pass on the Passion.

They will thank you for the rest of their life.