Casting for Kids

Ladson, SC – For kids, the choice to jump headlong into fishing forever or to cast it aside like an old toy often distills down to a singular, special day on the water. Fishing chooses you, not the other way around. If it’s meant to be, something just clicks in the heart and mind of a youngster: That magical, unforgettable tug on the line and the grip-and-grin of a first fish. You’re captivated by the life in its eyes, fins and gills as it attempts to wiggle and slip free from your fingers. And then, contentment as you watch the creature swim gracefully back to the depths.

But what if you’re never given the opportunity to experience fishing for yourself?

Professional angler Grae Buck remembers those early runs to local creeks and rivers with his grandfather. He recalls with a smile the profound impact those bullheads, bluegills and bass made on his life—and how they helped shape his future as an adult and a professional angler. So, three years ago, to assure kids in his neck of the woods might experience the same thrill of fishing he did, Buck and his wife Jessica organized a youth fishing event.

z man casting for kids grae buck
Z-Man pro angler Grae Buck hosted 55 kids at his 3rd annual youth fishing derby.

“To give back just a bit of that joy and magic, my wife and I run a kid’s fishing derby at Deep Creek Lake near our home in eastern Pennsylvania,” said Buck, a Z-Man pro and rising star on the Major League Fishing Pro Circuit. “We just had our 3rd Annual Youth Fishing Event and in terms of participation and fish caught, it was the best one yet!”

In concert with sponsor support from Z-Man, Aqua-Vu, Favorite Rods and others, as well as volunteer efforts by the Pennsylvania Fish & Boat Commission and the local bass club (known as the Knock Mafia), Buck hosted 55 kids, eager to cast and hopefully, catch a few. Participating youth learned to tie knots, cast and retrieve lures and most importantly, how and when to set the hook. They also discovered the value of conservation, camaraderie and catch and release.

“While most of the kids have fished at some point in their lives, many of them don’t have a chance to be near water on a regular basis,” adds Buck, just days after his most recent national fishing tournament. “I think everyone’s excited to come out to catch a few fish and compete for prizes in a fun, relaxed atmosphere.

z man casting for kids zinkerz

“We get kids from age 3 to about 15, with most of them between 5 and 11. The neat thing is, everyone goes home happy with a goody bag of tackle—including Z-Man ElaZtech® baits and ChatterBaits®. We’ve got an Odyssey Grill for first and second place, two Favorite Spinning Rod Combos and reels and an Aqua-Vu underwater camera. We also give a new Flambeau tackle box to first 24 kids that catch a fish.”

For added intrigue and hands-on learning, Buck parks his tournament truck and fully rigged bass boat on site, using it as a weigh-in station for fish. “It’s neat to watch the kids’ reaction to all the tackle and equipment in my rig when they hop aboard,” he notes. “I think we probably have at least a few future fishing stars here in the works.”

Although the event provides a fun opportunity to cast lures or livebait (both are allowed), learn from veteran anglers and catch fish, top prizes award the biggest fish. Prizes go to the young angler who catches the biggest bass and the biggest “other fish,” including yellow perch, channel catfish or carp. Buck also rewarded kids who catch the first and second bass and first and second ‘other fish.’

z man casting for kids bluegill

“Last year, I showed a group of kids how to rig and fish with a Z-Man ZinkerZ™ and one of the young anglers caught the winning 17-inch bass. We’ll give the kids help tying knots and casting, too, if they need it. But we like to encourage them to experience the thrill of fighting and reeling in the fish themselves.”

This year’s top catches included four bass over 16 inches and a 17.25-inch winning largemouth. In the ‘other fish’ category, a 15.5-inch carp took top honors, with a 14-inch catfish finishing second. “This was our best year in terms of participation and fish caught. The kids landed 40 fish total in just two hours of fishing. One talented lad caught and measured nine different fish alone. Throughout the event, you just heard a lot of yelling and excitement happening out there, which created a fun environment for everyone.”

Already in the works for 2023, Buck plans to continue building on the success of the event for a fourth time next June. For details or to sign up for the 4th annual Deep Creek Lake Youth Fishing Derby, follow Grae Buck Fishing on Facebook or Instagram.

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