Twice this past week I've had a chance to pole a flats skiff through the back country shallows in search of redfish. Typically, I'm on the very point of the bow casting, adjusting the speed of the trolling motor with my hand and steering with a combination of hands, knees or feet.
Grow-ing up bass fishing using trolling motors and the run-and-gun approach allowed me to cover lots of ground and present my lures to lots of fish. But when you climb up on that platform and actually pole the boat you then instantly realize how many fish you have been missing.
From that vantage point or angle a whole new world opens up to you. It becomes even more obvious when the angler down on the deck has no clue where the fish is that you now clearly see.
Capt. George Tunison
I see so many new boat buyers pay for their poling platform because all flats boats have to have them, don't they? I would wager that 85 percent of all new boats purchased that have a poling platform, the platform never gets used other than for a lunch table, tackle workbench, or a place to get away from a thrashing tarpon intent on breaking your legs after it mistakenly jumped into your boat.
I see boats every day with the platform, yet no pole is onboard.
There is no quieter way to sneak up on fish besides simple wind drifting. Also, if you don't think fish can hear a trolling motor think again. Even the best trolling motors like a Minn-Kota Riptide emit an audible whine that alert fish to your presence, especially if the motor is constantly being speed adjusted.
If you own a platformed boat give it a try. First, select a good pole and buy the best one you can afford. The number one consideration is weight. Yes, poling is work and in the 100 degree sun it's even worse. Once you learn to properly pole and become efficient with your movements it becomes much easier.
Picking the right pole
Cheap solid fiberglass poles are heavy and will give you Popeye arms in about three months of poling. These are in the $75 to $100 range.
At the other end of the spectrum all-graphite poles rule. Expect to pay $600 to $800 for a premium pole. These make poling a pleasure as they are feather light. The downside is they can fracture or crack just like a graphite rod.
The hybrid poles probably are the better bet as they are less expensive and more durable. Usually they are a combination of graphite and E-glass at about an 80/20 ratio and are highly recommended.
Several times this past week I quietly came upon fish that we would have never seen, which allowed me to alert the angler to "fish at two o'clock, 20 yards" and also allowing me to see the fish's direction of movement to relay that to my angler.
Again, a whole new world opens up from the platform. Those who don't have a built-in platform can do well to stand on a cooler placed on deck in front of the outboard. Even a two-foot increase in height can make a world of difference. Make sure the cooler is secure and wont slip allowing you to fall in, or worse.
By the same token a bow platform and or front cooler give the angler a real advantage as well. In a day's fishing, platform anglers will see and probably catch more fish.
Several times this week I've fished on the inside of the Burnt Store Bar. Several times we had our fish scared away or blown out by rude boaters traveling 40-60 mph inside the bar. This area both north and south of the marina should be a designated pole or trolling motor only zone. It is the ideal place for this designation.
Tell me what you think.
Capt. George Tunison is a Cape Coral resident fishing guide. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org, or Flying Fins Sportfishing.