First Kids Fishing Pol & Everything You Need to Know to Catch a First Fish

Fishing is an affordable outdoor activity for kids.  I went to the local Walmart and picked up the basics for catching a trout or bluegill and have broken down the basics below.

You can put your kids on their first fish for under $25.  There are not many things that are cheaper and will teach your kids as many lessons as spending a few hours at the pond waiting for a fish to nibble/

Essential Equipment

  • Push Button / Spincast Rod
  • Bobber
  • Swivel
  • Weights
  • Hooks
  • Bait

Additional Tools Nice to Have but Not Necessary

  • Pair of pliers
  • Bucket
  • Fishing Net

Drinks and Snacks

Always bring plenty of drinks and snacks on fishing adventures with kids. Nothing is worse than getting all set up and not having a few treats and goodies to enjoy at the water’s edge. If the fishing is slow, toss the bait in the water, grab a beverage and a cookie and you might be surprised how quickly a fish will decide to test your response.

Trip to Walmart for Kids Fishing Pole

I chose Walmart for this article.  They are in nearly every community across the country.  You certainly can go to any one-stop shopping store with an outdoor section and get the few essential components needed below.

Rod Selection

Spiderman rod – Barbie solid alternative = $11.98

These rods come with the line already spooled on the reel.  It also comes with a casting lure.  The casting lure lets you teach your kid how to cast in the backyard or at the park.  When fishing with really young kids, it is a good plan to practice before getting to the water.  There are a lot of new things to see and play with once at the water’s edge so it can be overwhelming to also be teaching the basics of how the rod and reel work.

Watch the video below to learn how these push button rod and reels work.


2 pack Danielson red / white bobber = $1.98


Barrel Swivel with Snap = $1.40


Pinch on split shot round sinkers = $0.96


2 packs of hooks size 6, size 8 $1.58×2 = $ 3.16


Jar of Powerbait = $4.97

All in total $24.45, that’s it. You can get all the essential equipment you need to put a fish on the bank for under $25.

How to Set Up the Rod

The most basic kid fishing rig is the classic red and white bobber, split shot weight, and a hook.  I recommend adding the barrel swivel with snap to make it easy to add the pre-tied snell hooks.

The following steps were written for the complete novice.  Even if you have never gone fishing yourself, you can follow these basic instructions to rig up the rod and help your child catch their first fish.

Watch the recommended videos at the bottom of this post to get some visual aids for knot tying, casting, and catching.

Step 1

Click and release the button on the reel to open the spool.  Pull out several feet of line and feed the line through the eyes on the rod.  Leave a couple of feet of excess line past the tip of the rod to tie the swivel.

Step 2

Rotate the handle of the reel to engage the spool, no more line will come out.

Step 3

Using a Palomar knot (see video below) tie on the swivel with the barrel end opposite the snap.

Step 4

Open the snap on the swivel and place the loop from one of the pre-tied hooks on it and close the snap.

Step 5

Below the swivel put 1 or 2 split shot weights on the line.  You can use your fingers to squeeze the weight tight to the line, best when squeezed lightly with a pair of pliers.

Step 6

Add the red and white bobber 1- 3 feet above the swivel.  Press the button on the bobber to expose the hook, attach it to the line, then release and slightly depress on the other side to expose the clasp and run the line through it.

Step 7

Open the jar of power bait.  Grab a small pinkie fingernail size ball of bait and surround the hook.

Step 8

Make a cast by depressing the button and holding the rod at the 10 o’clock position behind you.  Swing the rod forward and at 2 o’clock position release the button to allow the line to fly toward the water.  Reel the reel once to engage the spool and pick up any slack in the line and wait.

You are fishing now!

Step 9

When the bobber starts to bounce and dance, wait.  Wait until the bobber goes under the water.  Reel in any slack in the line while pulling up on the rod to set the hook.
Twitter avatar for @bowtiedhalibut

BowTiedHalibut @bowtiedhalibut
Watching the bobber start to get a bite and then eventually go under is a great way to teach young kids about fishing and what might be going on underwater.

Step 10

Reel the fish all the way back to shore, use a pair of pliers to unhook the fish and take a picture.  Release the fish or keep it by putting it in your bucket or on a stringer.  The choice is yours.
Twitter avatar for @bowtiedhalibut

BowTiedHalibut @bowtiedhalibut
The little kid fishing rig every dad needs: -push button spincast reel with short rod (Spider-Man or Barbie are Halibut approved) -red / white bobber -split shot -small hook -night crawlers, meal worms, or anything from the bug section at the supermarket


Common Baits to Use

Trout Fishing
  • Berkeley Powerbait (works great in ponds, lakes)
  • Earthworms (works everywhere)
  • Salmon Eggs (works great in streams)

Bluegill Fishing

  • Berkley Gulp Alive Waxie Worm
  • Mealworms
  • Earthworms

Knot for tying the swivel

The Palomar knot is the simplest knot to tie, see the video below.  Alternatively, the improved clinch knot is a straightforward knot as well.  I would go with the Palomar knot for tying on the swivel for this rig, it is by far the most simple knot and it has good strength.

Places to Go Fish

Ponds and lakes are the best places to go fish with young anglers.  Small streams can be a good option.  I would avoid going to a regular river unless fishing in a backwater slough that is connected to the river but has no real current.  The current in most large rivers is strong and swift and no place for youngsters to be playing around. Bad things can happen and when they do they occur quickly.

Most states provide fish stocking to ponds and lakes in urban and rural locations.  A quick google search for the state you live in and fish stocking or planting will serve up opportunities for kid-friendly fishing places.

Example: California Fish Planting this is the website that is the first result on Google:

The page displays the date, body of water, county, a map, and species that will be planted.  Fishing in places that receive frequent fish plantings can improve the chances of catching a fish for a beginner.

Do you know someone with a farm?  If they have a small pond the chances of it having bluegill and other species of fish are very high.

Where to Cast?

I recommend looking at the body of water when you arrive and looking for places that are likely hang-out locations for the fish.

Points in the water where the land sticks out into the lake are good places to start.  If there is a creek feeding into or out of the lake those can be natural congregating areas for fish.

Most lakes that are fed by rivers and streams will have deeper channels that hold fish.

In the springtime bluegill can be found close to shore.  Look for cover in the water such as clumps of weeds, laydown tree branches, or near docks.  This cover provides shade and places for the fish to hide.

Do You Need a License?

As an adult fishing, you will need a license.  However, the child themselves may or may not need the license.  Most states allow fishing for kids under a certain age for free.  Always know the rules for the state that you live in though.

Many states also have free fishing days periodically throughout the year, when no one needs a license to fish.  Check your local department of fish and wildlife for rules, regulations, and details concerning fishing licenses.

Alternative Fishing Techniques for Kid Fishing

Fishing close to the bottom is a good option.  It will require a little more weight since the bobber provides enough weight to cast your lure.
Twitter avatar for @bowtiedhalibut

BowTiedHalibut @bowtiedhalibut
Aside from fishing under a bobber a bottom rig is the other set up you should know how to rig. This is my preferred method for fishing powerbait. Kids like to watch the bobber, but you will get more bites fishing on the bottom with one of these rigs.

A slip bobber is also a good choice for rigging a deeper presentation.

Twitter avatar for @bowtiedhalibut

BowTiedHalibut @bowtiedhalibut
How to rig a slip bobber This is to fish deeper depths and still, easily cast the gear. It requires a bobber stop which is a piece of thread tied into a knot on the line with a bead. This is how you set the depth of the rig. The rest of the setup is very similar.

Actively fishing with a lure

I am a huge fan of teaching kids to cast rooster tail spinners for rainbow trout or beetle spin spinnerbaits for all kinds of panfish.  Getting a bite on a lure is exhilarating.

Casting and retrieving lures requires a little more skill by the young angler.  As soon as they are proficient with casting and retrieving though, it is a good way to break up the day on the water.

Simply cast the lure out into the water, let it sink for a few seconds, and then slowly wind it back to the bank or boat.  If your child is getting a little restless on the bank switching to one of these will let them actively fish.  Fish will react to the lure as it swims along.  Have them cast towards stumps or weed clumps that are visible in the water, where the fish may be hiding near.

Sharing the Joy of Fishing and the Love of the Outdoors

Hope you take your kids on an adventure to the lake or stream this year.  There is so much to learn and explore for young ones when sitting by the water.

Twitter avatar for @bowtiedhalibut

BowTiedHalibut @bowtiedhalibut
The joys of bringing kids fishing. Some of my earliest memories are from the river or hiking trails to a stream or lake in the mountains. Even if you don’t fish much yourself I encourage you to expose your kids to the opportunity. There’s a lot to learn from time outdoors.

Video Tutorials

Rather than me make up a series of videos outlining all the tips and suggestions above.  Please find a few curated videos that cover the basics and will get you and your kids out on the water and having fun with a rod in your hands.

How to Cast a Push Button Reel

How to Tie a Palomar Knot

Twitter avatar for @bowtiedhalibut

BowTiedHalibut @bowtiedhalibut
The Palomar Knot I use this knot for tying on lures, hooks, and terminal tackle. It’s super simple and I can tie it in the dark with no issue. Drawback is you will lose line each time due to the long tag end. I use it with 17lbs test line and below.

How to Rig a Red & White Bobber with a  Worm

How to Rig a Slip Bobber for Powerbait

Have fun on the water!

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