The Saltwater Magazine for Gulf Coast Fishing!

Basics of Poling from a Platform

by Capt. Fred Everson
Fall 2006


Florida fishing guide, Capt. Fred Everson,
poling from a platform on his skiff.

I am a sight fisherman by inclination, which is why I own a poling skiff instead of a tower boat. I prefer to stalk my fish with the stealth of the pole instead of running through them on plane. Even a trolling motor proved to be an impediment to getting close enough to cast to snook and redfish, and when my trolling motor finally succumbed to salt water, I decided not to replace it. Instead, I upgraded my push pole to a lighter, more expensive, multi piece graphite model. The advantage of the sectioned pole is that it's cheaper to ship. The pole is also white, which unlike a darker colored pole does not get too hot to handle, and should it fall off the boat, it's easier to find. Even so, I still tie it down when running in chop, and have my name and phone number engraved on the foot, just in case.

Fishing From a Poling Platform
I spend a great deal of my time on the poling platform because of the enhanced visibility it affords, even when I go out by myself. I also do most of my fishing from the platform, and that calls for some thought. To manage the pole and a fishing rod, while maintaining boat position is something of a challenge, but thankfully there are some accessories that make it possible.
I used to wedge a rod behind my belt and when I saw a fish I would step over the pushpole, holding it between my knees as I reached behind me to grab the fishing rod. How I never fell off the platform while trying this maneuver is something of a mystery.
A few years ago, I finally bought a Pole Mate, a plastic pole holder that belts on to my hip. That solved the push pole problem. The same company also manufactures Rod Mate, a plastic device similar to the Pole Mate, but smaller. The butt section of the fishing rod is clipped into place and carried on the hip opposite of the push pole. With the rod pointed down and behind me, it's never in the way when I'm poling. Now I can make the switch from push pole to fishing rod instantly without having to take my eyes off the fish.
Another problem that arises is maintaining boat position once I put the pole down. I'm always poling with the wind at my back, and in clear shallow water keeping enough distance between the fish and the boat is critical. The solution here was already at hand. My boat is equipped with a Power Pole, a hydraulically powered stake out device. I upgraded it with a wireless remote, and now I can stop the boat quietly in a matter of seconds with the push of a button. The remote control is like those used to open car doors, and I attach it to a belt loop with a D ring. Now when I see a fish, I can stow the push pole, pick up the rod, and anchor the boat in seconds.
On a very good day, the wind blows parallel to the shoreline with the sun at your back in a clear sky. When that happens, I let the boat drift and secure the push pole in a holder mounted on the platform. With the rod in hand and ready to cast I let the wind and the boat do their thing, occasionally correcting course by putting the Power Pole down for a few seconds, or perhaps even dragging it lightly through the sand. I also keep a close eye on the push pole when using this holder, as it can slip out.
On days when it's very windy and overcast or cloudy, sight fishing is pretty much out. If the wind is blowing up or down the shoreline, I get the boat as shallow as she will go and just blind cast. If the wind is onshore, or offshore I will stake out frequently with the Power Pole, and zig zag my way down the shoreline.
This is pretty much an artificial affair because the casts have to be long and accurate. I like a selection of Rip Tide jig heads, some of their Realistic shrimp, Realistic Crabs, and curly tails. On calm days in low light situations I might throw Mirrolure's Top Dog Jr. or 7MR. In the summer months when weeds and algae are a factor, I throw Flats Chubs rigged weedless on keeper hooks. That covers most of the bases for snook and redfish, and just about everything else you might find on a Tampa Bay flat.
I have finally succumbed to microfilament line, and once you get used to it, it's hard to beat. It casts far, has little stretch and no memory. It still knots up when throwing jerk baits on windy days, but so does monofilament. I tip it with a 20-pound fluorocarbon leader in the winter when the water is extremely clear, or 30 pound mono when targeting snook, or if the water is murky.
Casting to fish you can see is a tricky business. The fish are usually moving, and they seldom travel in a straight line. Put the cast too close to them, and they will spook. The idea is to sneak the lure into the fish's line of vision, and then make it look like it's trying to escape. When a fish charges a lure, the natural tendency is to stop the retrieve to let him catch it. What actually happens is it gives the fish time for a closer look, and it will usually break off the attack. Keep the bait moving. Then there are times when you want a pause. Say you make a good cast to a fish and it holds its position as the lure passes in front of his nose. Sometimes stopping the bait here for a second or two will generate a strike.
I have spent so much time on my poling platform in the past 12 years, that I find it hard to get used to fishing at deck level. The view is much better from the higher elevation, but it also amplifies wave action. In a chop, you have to bend at the knees and ride the platform, almost like snow skiing on moguls. I have yet to fall, mostly because the pole helps maintain balance.
The prime time for sight fishing from the poling platform is when the water is low and clear, as it is here in the winter months. Here, the poling skiff will go where no tower boat can. Redfish are schooled up on bare sand in barely enough water to cover them. In this environment they are spooky as any bonefish, and poling up on them is one of the great challenges in flats fishing.
Email Capt. Everson.

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