First, let me say there is no better way to approach
and catch fish on shallow water flats or in shallow creeks, than
to use a push pole, and pole quietly, in a flats boat until you
are in casting range. It will amaze you how close you can get to
Redfish, bonefish, anything when you are in a quiet skiff and poling
it along. I have poled across a flat and had fish literally jump
out from under us, all by using a push pole, and being QUIET !!
We will not try to give you all the details of poling here, our
focus is to help you beginners with the basics to get you poling
a skiff effectively enough to catch fish.
Poling a skiff across a flat should not intimidate you, it is actually
quite easy once you know a few basic concepts.
In order to effectively pole a skiff and hold your position a few
key pointers will greatly help you understand and learn the basics.
Lets get started.
Remember, you are propelling the boat from the transom. In order
to go in a straight line towards your targeted area, you must first
point the boat in the right direction by turning it with the pole,
actually pushing or spinning the rear of the boat until it is pointed
towards your heading. It is comparable to backing up your car because
you are steering from the rear. This concept can be easily demonstrated.
Lets do an experiment. Grab a book and put it on the table or desk
in front of you. Place a finger on the end of the book, centered
left to right, on the edge of the book. This is like the position
of your poling platform - the rear center of the boat. Only use
one finger and try to push the book in a straight line. Notice how
you have to alter the direction slightly in which you push to keep
it traveling in a straight line ?
Now try a few different things, aim at a spot on the table and pay
attention to what you have to do to get it there. As you will see,
you must first, turn the book by pushing the rear to line up with
your target spot ! Now push the book in a straight line with one
finger and gently push on the side with another. While doing this
look at what you have to do with the ‘push pole finger’
to keep it going in a straight line or towards your target. You
have to adjust the direction of force to compensate for the yaw
of the book caused by pushing on its side. The same goes for poling
a skiff. But the book exercise will give you an idea as to how your
position and the direction you push at the rear of the boat effects
how you steer it and where your skiff will be headed. Also try using
a pencil to push the book...it makes it even more graphic.
First things first. A point I want to make clear, which will make
things easier on you while learning is this; when you are poling
a skiff remember that your goal is to get to the point you are aiming
at, not keeping the boat in a perfectly straight line, in other
words the boat may move in the right direction, say south, but it
may actually be pointing south-south east, get it ?
Look at the drawing. The wind and tide will make the boat ‘crab’
along in a yawed or crooked position as you are poling. This is
important as if you are poling a flats boat cross wind and trying
to keep the boat ‘pointed’ in the right direction, you
will most likely be headed in the wrong direction. Look at the illustration,
your boat is pointed at ‘A’ but your poling towards
‘B’. There is nothing you can do about this, except
get used to it. This is only the case when the wind or current is
yawing or turning the boat. In calm conditions you should be able
to push your boat in a straight line and keep it pointed in the
The next point (and a very good one) I would like to make is positioning
your push pole. This is very important. Always try to keep your
push Pole foot as close to the engine as possible. Imagine a hula-hoop
tied to your transom, in the center, dragging behind the boat just
past the prop of the engine (with the engine tilted), on the water.
This circle is where you should always place your pole in the water
and push the foot straight to the bottom. The closer you place the
foot of the pole to the transoms center, the easier it is to pole
the boat straight, and travel in the direction you want to. To turn
the boat you only need go off center slightly or to the rim of our
imaginary hoola-hoop to make quite a snappy turn. The only time
you really need to go out of this circle is to do an immediate 180
turn or to stop, or avoid an object, but we wont deal with these
topics here. If you concentrate on keeping your pole foot close
to the skiff when you place it, you will have come a long way towards
proper technique.Now as far as pushing the skiff, TAKE YOUR TIME
WHEN LEARNING ! Most people use far to much force when trying to
learn and push the skiff all over the place zigzagging, only to
When your push pole foot contacts the bottom gently push the boat
forward, keeping your pole in line with the center of the boat,
remember you must push or apply the force in a line with the center
of the boat or where you are headed, otherwise you will push the
boats transom off to the left or right pointing the skiff in the
wrong direction. Walk your hands down the pole as you apply force,
and bingo - off you go ! If you push the skiff and it goes off to
one side, pick up the foot and place if a little off center towards
the side the transom is moving to get your boat back in line with
your target. This is a constant process that you will get used too.
Just remember, take it SLOW and easy while you are learning and
you will soon master the art of poling your skiff. Just remember
to keep the pole behind the skiff in the ‘hoola-hoop- and
keep it in straight line with the boats center line.... these two
hints will help you greatly.
One more item I will address. To stop the boat push your foot into
the bottom and gently ‘walk your hands down the pole’
pulling it to a stop. this takes a little practice. You can also
place the pole up in front of the boat or to its side and stop but
this takes practice to keep the boat from spinning. These are things
easily learned though once you master the basics.
I hope this article helps you learn the basics of poling. With a
little practice you will soon learn it is not as hard as some people
Good Luck !