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Remembering Christmas past

Christmas is such a wonderful time around the VanDam house. It brings us together with other family members and friends during a very special holiday.

The holiday often brings back childhood memories of my younger days when my siblings and I couldn’t wait until Christmas morning.

There is one in particular that I remember most: The morning I unwrapped my first baitcast reel.

I believe I was about 8 years old at the time. I had mastered push-button and spinning reels and loved throwing spinnerbaits. However, those reels couldn’t accommodate the heavy line I needed for the bigger baits. It was top priority on my Christmas wish list.

And there it was under the tree that morning – a Shimano Bantam baitcaster on a Lew’s Speed Stick casting rod!

As soon everyone was done opening gifts, I quickly spooled up some 20-pound Blue Stren and was ready to put it to the test.

Of course, it was a cold snowy day in Michigan. All the lakes were frozen, but that didn’t keep me from wading out in the snow to try it out. I tied on an old, beat-up spinnerbait and began to attempt casting.

In those days, we didn’t have the broad selection of rods and reels that anglers have today, nor was the equipment as user friendly. In fact, that Bantam reel didn’t have a magnetic braking system and the only way you could adjust it was with the spool tension knob.

Needless to say, I struggled for a while. I was a little nervous, of course, but more surprised by the difficulty of making a cast without a backlash.

I eventually figured it out.

When I went back in the house, I began practicing casting to close range targets. That was before flipping had become real popular, but I was still trying to put it under coffee tables, into fishing hats and anything else that looked like a fun target.

I didn’t want to ever take that reel out of my hand. In fact, I slept with it for a few nights thereafter.

One of the reasons I’m sharing this story with you is to remind parents that it’s possible that your child or young family member may be ready for his or her first baitcaster sooner than you think.

Today’s youngsters are a lot more intuitive than we were in my generation. They learn things fast and new equipment doesn’t intimidate them.

More importantly, modern day baitcast tackle is far more user-friendly than it was when I was young. The reels have finite adjustments for all skill levels and the rods are far more comfortable to use.

Those are some of the features we included when Quantum and I created the KVD Combo (under $100 for rod and reel). It won’t break the bank yet is suitable for the beginner or weekend angler.

It’s a little late for Christmas, but remember that a youngster in your life may be ready for that first baitcaster when it comes time for future birthdays or special events.

In the meantime, I wish everyone a very Merry Christmas and a healthy and prosperous New Year!

And remember, it’s all about the attitude!