You never forget your first catch, from small fry to largemouth bass

You never forget the first fish you catch. For me, it came almost 30 years ago on a small lake in backwoods Mio, Michigan. It was a yellow perch, maybe 6 inches long. But it was one of the best moments of my young life, and it set me on a course of lifelong adventure that continues to this day.

The firsts kept coming. My first big fish was a carp I caught with my Uncle Mike in the Detroit River. My first good big fish was a largemouth bass I caught off a dock using a Rebel Crayfish. Then came my first saltwater fish. My first fish on a fly rod. My first Chinook salmon.

That’s one of the great things about fishing — no matter how many fish you catch, you never run out of firsts!

The topic of firsts has been on my mind lately. My daughter Quinn recently turned one, and I’m thinking next year is probably go-time for our first daddy-daughter trip. That will be a first to remember!

Not long ago, I helped my buddy Caleb wrangle his first tiger muskie at Little Payette Lake. The excitement of getting that fish in the boat was a rush I hadn’t felt in some time.

I also have the fortune of helping firsts happen through my fishing classes and lessons. A student from my recent “Stop Fishing, Start Catching” class emailed me to say he’d put the skills he learned to use, and that they paid off with some great catches. That was the best email I got all week.

Another group of students, the three-generation Thomas crew, told me the fish they caught were usually outnumbered by lures they lost. After a hands-on tutorial with a weedless plastic worm, they were pulling bass out of the lily pads like a bunch of old pros.

Over the holiday weekend, my sister-in-law Katherine, from Arizona, asked if I could put her on some Idaho fish. We jumped in my truck and headed down to the Snake River, where I showed Kat how to tie a cinch knot and thread a night crawler onto the hook. As the evening shadows grew, the smallmouth bass turned on.

“There’s one!” Kat exclaimed, but the fish was gone.

I reminded her how to set the hook, and on the next opportunity, it was fish on. Kat wrestled the feisty smallmouth to the bank. I showed her how to lip the bass and remove the hook while avoiding the spiny fins. After a photo, she gently tossed her catch back in the water.

“That was awesome!” Kat said. “Let’s do it again.”

With a catch under her belt, Kat’s confidence surged. Soon, she was launching perfect casts into the current, baiting her own hook and landing smallmouth with ease as I fished from a nearby rockpile. Together, we landed 20 bass before the sun disappeared behind the canyon.

On the drive home, Kat was already making plans for a return trip — and for getting into fishing with her husband, Tony, when they returned to Arizona. A 10-inch bass had Kat hooked.

I’m sure she’ll remember it for a long time—but the future experiences that first fish made possible will be unforgettable. Tight lines!

Jordan Rodriguez has been fishing Idaho waters since he was a teen. Share your fish stories, adventures, tips and tricks with him at or visit

Related stories from Idaho Statesman