How to get youth interested in your favourite sport
Lifelong friends and pro fishing partners Darren Jacko and Steve Voros are the brains behind Edu-Cast, a unique tournament series designed to get youth interested in fishing. Over the past seven years, the Ontario duo has taken more than 7,500 high school kids fishing, making them experts in getting young people hooked on the sport. They’ve also succeeded in encouraging a love of fishing in their own children. Here’s how.
"Just take them," says Voros, whose own fishing career began with treasured time spent on a boat with his dad and grandparents. “That’s what it’s all about—spending time with each other.” Kids like to do things with family and friends, and introducing them to fishing and making the opportunity available can become a special part of that. “Take a friend and a friend’s dad as well,” adds Jacko. “Introduce them to the sport and they’ll get hooked, too.”
Take kids “anywhere they’re guaranteed to catch something,” says Jacko. Most youngsters will choose quantity over quality, so search out piles of panfish or perch rather than a single trophy bass. Voros likes stocked ponds, and limited travel to places where kids are virtually guaranteed to quickly hook into something—before they lose interest. Begin by catching fish and having fun, adds Jacko, then gradually build on that success with more challenging outings.
Kids take pride in ownership, says Jacko, so get them their own rod and tacklebox, along with a few lures they picked out themselves. Voros’ 10-year-old daughter, Alyssa, for example, insists on a blue fishing pole, while her seven-year-old sister, Kayla, is all about pink. You don’t have to spend a fortune, says Jacko, for “something they can call their own.”
“The worst thing you can do is take them out too long and turn them off,” says Voros. Instead, let the kids decide when they’ve had enough. And don’t dwell on lost fish or broken lines, turning a potentially positive experience into a negative one. Be patient and positive, minimizing mistakes and celebrating every small success.
Don’t go fishing in bad weather or on an overly hot day, says Voros, adding, “It’s just not worth it.” And always put safety first—sunglasses, PFDs and sunscreen are a must, as are plenty of favourite snacks and drinks.
Fishing can be the main event during an outing, but it shouldn’t be the sum total of the experience. For example, while Voros discourages his girls from bringing along electronic games when fishing, they sometimes read books during slow periods, or take swim breaks. Then when they get home, they have a backyard fish fry. And Jacko’s four-year-old son, Tanner, enjoys helping his dad “drive” the boat, spotting wildlife and stopping at a favourite hot dog stand. “It’s more than just fishing,” says Jacko. “It’s a life experience.”