Pro angler Nancy Koep holding fish on boat

Nancy Koep, manager of Koep’s, met with us to discuss her passion for helping young anglers learn the basics of fishing. Accomplished walleye angler and tournament pro, Nancy boasts an impressive list of credentials, such as:

  • American Angler League (AAL), former instructor
  • Fishing with Vets, board member 
  • MN DNR Becoming An Outdoor Women Mentor
  • Women Anglers of MN, member
  • Minnewaska Lake Association, board member
  • Glenwood Rotary, member
  • Melvin Jones Fellowship Award, recipient  
  • Minnewaska Lakers Fishing Team, coach

She also has numerous affiliations with top brands in the industry, including, but not limited to:

  • Lund Boats
  • Mercury Marine
  • Smooth Moves Seats
  • Motorguide
  • Garmin
  • Ray’s Sport & Marine Moorhead
  • Off Shore Tackle
  • Clam Outdoors
  • Blackfish Gear
  • Dead Eye Inc. 

We wanted to hear what Nancy’s been up to these days and find out what she has planned for young anglers this summer!

Q: When Did Your Passion for Fishing Begin?

Nancy: I started fishing at a young age. Growing up at a resort in Clitherall, I spent a lot of time outdoors. Every day, after finishing my chores, I’d grab my tackle box and fishing rod, hop into my boat, and I spent the rest of the day on the water. My dad and grandpa took me fishing a lot as a kid, so I learned the basics from them. 

Q: What’s Your Favorite Type of Fish? What Technique Do You Use?

Nancy: Definitely walleye! I usually keep it simple with the old-fashioned lindy rig. If I am seeing them on my Garmin and not getting them to bite then I will change up my presentation. Normally by pitching jigs, trolling crank baits, or jigging raps. 

Q: When Did You Join the AAL? 

Nancy: I started with the AAL about 10 years ago. As a member of the National Professional Anglers Association (NPAA), I got involved in leading youth fishing clinics, hosting seminars, and going to fairs to help kids learn basic skills (i.e. putting on a bobber, learning fish species, etc.). During that time, I became an instructor for the AAL. After the program ended, however, I started a high school fishing team, which is where I still teach kids today. 

Q: Has COVID-19 Affected Your High School Fishing League? 

Nancy: To practice safe social distancing, we’ve made certain alterations to help ensure everyone’s safety and comfort. For instance, during a normal season, the kids enjoy a 20-minute session of learning fishing techniques out on the water, which is directly followed by a group session, where we compare scorecards, stories, and hand out fun awards for who had the biggest, smallest or oddest catch of the night. 

This summer, we still have the kids get out on the water (2 kids per boat with one boat captain), but rather than holding the group sessions later on, the kids fill out their scorecards and hand them over to their captains at the end of the night. The following day, we announce the winners and send out prizes. We all miss sharing stories together, but the most important thing is the kids are still getting outside and doing what they love! It’s a slight adjustment, but we’re making it work. 

Q: What Does Your 2020 Summer Schedule Look Like? 

Nancy: Our summer fishing league is already in full gear. The program lasts from June to August, taking place three Monday nights each month. In the past, we usually have our students participate in local tournaments with other neighboring schools. We hope to continue that tradition next year! The cool thing is there are all these new virtual fishing apps out there to help kids who are staying at home still enjoy some fun, friendly fishing competition. 

In fact, in May, when we were still in shutdown mode, I helped sign up our whole team to compete in an online fishing contest. The kids had to go out and fish, snap a pic of their catch with a ruler for accurate measurements, upload this to the app, and wait to see if they got in the lead. The team loved it! It gave them a chance to practice their techniques and share their experience with one another. 

Q: In a Male-Dominated Sport, like Fishing, Do You Notice That More Boys Participate in Your Program than Girls?

Nancy: Our program consists of 26 kids and 3 of whom are girls. I’m confident this number will grow in the future. In fact, I’m noticing that fishing is becoming a popular hobby among families these days, especially in Glenwood where I run my bait shop. I think everyone is looking for an opportunity to get outdoors and have some fun together. Fishing offers a great escape and one of the best ways to bond with your child. It’s a great feeling when you watch a mom or dad teaching a daughter to fish, and it’s even more awesome when you see how excited she gets when she lands her fish catch!

Q: Why Should Kids Learn How to Fish? And Why Should Parents Get Involved, Too? 

Nancy: Fishing is one of those lifelong, learned activities that you’ll never regret knowing how to do. The best part is you can do it at any age, and the memories are invaluable! When my teenage son asks me to go fishing, that is a quality time I cherish! Whether you’re having a good or bad day on the water, the memories are what really matter. As I tell my friends, “Sometimes the fish are just a bonus!”

Q: Do You Have Tips for Parents on How to Get Their Kids Excited for Fishing?

Nancy: It’s always important to remember to take your kids out on a nice day. Not when it’s 25 mph winds, or going to rain when you want to introduce them to fishing. Make the day about them, not about you. Don’t go out for a 6 hour fishing trip. Depending on your kids and their ages, they may not last that long. More than likely, they will play with the minnows and have more fun with them than they do fishing. 

Try for fish that are easier to catch, such as sunfish, perch, etc. And don’t forget the snacks when getting the kids out on the water. 

Q: When You’re on Your Boat, Do You Use Smooth Moves Seats

Nancy: Yes. I love them! I am currently recovering from another back surgery. It’s nice to know that when I get back in the boat, I will be protected by the suspensions on my seats. I won’t have to worry about the oncoming waves from other boats, or the wind that Mother Nature decides to throw at me when I am out there. 

Get Outdoors and Enjoy the Breeze with Smooth Moves

Whether you’re practicing your technique or teaching your kids to fish, take on each new wave with more comfort and ease! Smooth Moves boat seats make you feel like you’re floating on air and are easy to install and maintain, so you spend more time on the water! 

Shop Smooth Moves online or visit a dealer near you! To find more articles from pro anglers like Nancy, stay connected to our blog.