Fishing Rod Building For Kids

1/26/24

Fishing rod building provides an engaging hobby that can develop important skills while fostering an appreciation for the outdoors. For many kids, the process of creating their own fishing rods from start to finish is a rewarding experience that keeps them coming back for more. But it can be challenging to walk a kid through their first build. Rod building requires patience, focus, and a good bit of manual dexterity; all things that kids can struggle with. You may be eager to start your kid on their first build, but the question is, how should you approach fishing rod building for kids?

On a recent episode of the Mastering Rod Building Podcast, we sat down with Justina Edwards to learn how to introduce young anglers into rod building. Justina, known as “The Juice” in rod building circles, is an expert at introducing both young and old to the craft. With over 14 years of experience at St. Croix Rods, including training hundreds of rod winders, Edwards has a proven track record of getting kids excited about rod building. “I just love kids,” says Edwards. “I love being around kids and teaching them new things.” Through her demonstrations at events like the International Custom Rodbuilding Expo, Edwards draws crowds of observers, but most notably she attracts swarms of young builders looking to learn from the “Fastest Rod Wrapper in the West.

Tips For Getting Started

The biggest thing that Justina emphasizes is the importance of starting small and building skills in incremental steps. She begins each new builder with a simple, achievable task. 

“I start off with just doing one guide, just to show how it’s done. Then I’ll have them come in and try. I’ll start the wrap for them, and then have them finish it,” Edwards explains. 

Fishing Rod Building for Kids

Allowing kids to complete a wrap after watching an expert demonstrate gives them a sense of participation and accomplishment without feeling overwhelmed. 

In addition to keeping the challenge manageable, Justina also recognizes the value in letting kids indulge in their creative sides. 

“I think the fun part is just having them customize their own rod,” she says. At events, Edwards provides a wide variety of thread color options so kids can personalize their wraps. Picking their favorite colors can help keep young builders heavily invested in the creative process. Kids may not be able to handle all of the technical aspects of a build as well as an adult can, but they’re completely capable of offering creative, stylistic input. Letting them take over that aspect of the build is a great way to keep them engaged and let them know that this is really “their” rod.

While kids lack nothing in creativity, it can be nerve-wracking to imagine them using razor blades to cut thread, or mixing epoxy. But Justina insists that many kids are quite capable of responsibly using basic tools as long as they’re closely watched and carefully coached.

“I just show them how to use the tools I’m used to using,” she says. “For cutting thread, that’s a really, really sharp razor blade. So it’s important that you take your time, and be careful. But I think it’s good to start teaching them proper tool usage from the start.”

Rod Building Tools And Materials For Young Hands

If the idea of handing your kid a razor blade unsettles you, you’re not alone! The good news is that you can always substitute a good, sharp pair of snips if you or your kid feel more comfortable with them. Justina does acknowledge that there are some times where it’s wise to make a “kid friendly” choice instead of focusing strictly on performance.

Fishing Rod Building for Kids

When it comes to thread selection, for example, Edwards emphasizes considering the needs of small hands. Larger diameter threads are generally easier for smaller hands to work with when wrapping a rod, even though you may be accustomed to using smaller diameter threads for aesthetic or performance purposes.

“Size doesn’t really matter. As long as it holds your guide. It works,” says Edwards. Ultimately, the goal is to make the wrapping process accessible regardless of experience. Larger threads accommodate growing skills, and you can always progress to finer sizes as a kid’s dexterity and patience develop with age. 

Keeping A Kid’s Patience And Engagement

Keeping kids interested in rod building over the long-term requires patience. LOTS of patience! Justina understands that each child’s attention span and skill level is different, and encourages adults to be empathetic. Her approach is to gently encourage hands-on practice without forcing the issue if engagement wanes. 

Edwards also looks for signs that a child may be losing focus. Kids are notoriously easy to distract, and according to Justina a sudden distraction kills more rod builds than anything else.

“The biggest challenge you face when working with a kid is a distraction,” she say. “Otherwise, if they’re focused, you’ll get through the process in no time.”

Fishing Rod Building for Kids

While it’s wise to try and eliminate distractions ahead of time, if something does come up, don’t force a kid.

“You can tell when a kid’s not into it any more,” she says, “if that’s the case, just smile and wrap it up.” Rather than prolonging the process when disinterest sets in, Edwards prioritizes having fun above all. She emphasizes gauging each individual’s cues to know when it’s best to take a break versus continue learning.

Ultimately, patience ensures rod building remains a rewarding outdoor pursuit for both kids and mentors alike.

Final Thoughts On Fishing Rod Building For Kids

It’s important to remember that, at the end of the day, diving into the world fishing rod building for kids is about more than just the rod. It’s about the shared moments between a mentor and a young enthusiast, and the joy and pride seen in the eyes of a child who has created something with their own two hands. 

The tips and insights from Justina offer a roadmap for this journey – start small, let creativity flourish, prioritize safety, and above all, be patient and responsive to the child’s needs. Done right, rod building isn’t just a hobby; it’s a vessel for life lessons, a canvas for expression, and a bridge between generations. So, whether you’re a seasoned rod builder or a novice looking to share a meaningful experience with a youngster, remember that each wrap of the thread, each choice of color, and each moment of focus is a step towards something much greater than just a fishing rod. It’s about nurturing a sense of accomplishment, fostering a love for the outdoors, and building memories that will last longer than the sturdiest of rods.