Tag Archive: poling

The smallest and greatest skiff

Skiff design, built, main advantages, and noteworthy shortcomings

Skiffs come in different sizes and configurations, and similarly to Jon boats, they are flat bottomed mono-hulls, a feature that reduces draft, which is advantageous for fishing in shallow water.
But this design feature also makes skiffs less seaworthy compared to other boats of similar size.
This is yet another example of specialization that enhances the product’s performance in one application while diminishing its performance in others.
Skiffs’ limited seaworthiness is the reason for their being unpopular as boats for offshore fishing, and opinions about their performance in bays and estuaries are mixed. The skiff design’s limited seaworthiness is one of the reasons why owners of big boats and yachts don’t use small skiffs dubbed microskiff as tenders.
Typically, skiffs’ hulls are molded from fiberglass, mainly because this material is more durable in saltwater than aluminum, which is the most common building material in Jon boats. However, fiberglass doesn’t perform well in terms of impact resistance, and it requires maintenance, while other polymer resins (plastics) such as Polyethylene don’t.
Fiberglass is also heavier than Polyethylene, too heavy to make a small skiff that’s lightweight enough to be transported on top of a vehicle’s roof, namely a portable skiff.
Skiffs are propelled by one or more outboard motors mounted at their stern.

Typical skiff features

Depending on a skiff’s size and level of outfitting, it may feature a center console, a casting platform at its front, and a tall structure at the stern, for a person to use for poling and/or for sighting fish for one or more anglers fishing from the deck.
Skiff are sometimes outfitted with an electric trolling motor, typically mounted at their bow.
The main advantages of a frontal casting platform are that it offers the angler a broader range of casting, be it with bait, lures, flies, or a fishing net, and it puts a bigger distance between them and other fishers working from the middle of the deck.
The main advantage of a center console is that it improves the driver’s comfort and stability, relatively to driving from the stern, and it allows them to drive standing.
Poling is both exhausting and rather ineffective as a mode of propulsion, and therefore increasingly unpopular among anglers who fish the flats and other shallow water. This leaves the poling platform to serve mainly as a watchtower, and possibly as an ornament.
Electric trolling motors are quiet, and they can be controlled remotely, which is one of the reasons that more skiff owners use them these days.

Microskiff – a class of very small small skiffs

Microskiff is a term that refers to compact skiffs, namely of small size, and typically of reduced features as well. The smaller size saves money on gas and maintenance, but the need to transport microskiffs on a trailer still presents a challenge in terms of launching and beaching, as well as storage.
At the lowest end of microskiffs both in terms of size and price, is a group of large size boards, some of which feature backward pointing extensions that provide extra support for the outboard motor’s weight, and some that don’t. These boards usually offer enough stability and load capacity for just one user (I.E. “solo” skiff), and they hardly offer any free board, which pretty much guarantees that this user will get soaked, whether they like it or not.
As far as comfort is concerned, these large size boards marketed as microskiffs or “solo” skiffs seem to be designed with no concern for ergonomics whatsoever, to a point where watching a video featuring such a skiff might give the viewer an uneasy feeling.
In terms of portability and transportation, their small size allows for an unusually strong person to transport one on a pickup truck bed, but car topping such a vessel is beyond reach for anyone who’s not a professional weight lifter.
Most of these board type skiffs are molded from fiberglass or other cold-molded resins, which reduces their impact resistance, durability, and therefore reliability.
The board skiff that’s made from Polyethylene weighs 150 lbs without the motor, which is still too heavy to rival the portability of most fishing kayaks and canoes, and let’s not forget that square-stern canoes can be outfitted with small outboard motors…
Despite their small size, including a beam (width) that’s narrower than the beam of conventional skiffs, board skiffs do not paddle well, a factor that reduces their appeal to anglers who fish skinny water and water where aquatic vegetation abounds.

The Wavewalk S4 – the smallest and greatest skiff

In physical terms, the Wavewalk S4 is smaller and much lighter than any skiff, microskiff, and board skiff, and it its Polyethylene hull makes it more resistant to impact. It is the only skiff that anyone can car top without help from a second person.
The S4 can carry up to three adult fishermen on board, which is comparable to the crew size of good size skiffs, and it enables these anglers to fish at the same time and standing up, which is something that only full fledged medium sized and bigger skiffs may offer.
The S4 is a much seaworthy skiff that can be driven through ocean waves and other choppy waters without problems, both in a solo mode and with a second passenger on board. The patented combination of its twin-hull (catamaran) and saddle seat is extremely stable as well as easy for the users to balance, even more than a personal watercraft (PWC).
In fact, driving an S4 in the ocean and in choppy water is pure fun.
The S4 offers plenty of free board, which is good news for passengers who are looking to stay dry, and it is the only skiff that can serve as a tender for a big boat or a yacht.
The S4 offers its passengers to use the entire internal space of its twin hulls for on board storage, and this makes its storage capacity rival with full fledged and good size skiffs.
Like a full fledged skiff, the S4 can be easily outfitted with a front mounted electric trolling motor.
And unlike any other skiff, including the smallest board-type microskiffs, or kayak skiffs, the S4 works really well as a paddle craft, namely kayak or canoe, to a point that some owners use it as a fishing kayak, without even motorizing it.
Typically, the S4 is used with outboard motors in the 3.5 HP to 6 HP range, but it can be powered by bigger motors.

In sum, the S4 is a craft that’s so advanced in performance and versatility that it deserves a class of its own.

 

 

 

Read more about the Wavewalk® Series 4 (S4) »

 

Flats boat or bass boat, or something else?

“My father is retired, and he owns a sixty thousand dollar bass boat that he takes out maybe twice a year, but he fishes out of his Wavewalk nearly every day.”
-Clint Harlan, Missouri

Different boats with many similarities

Bass boats and flats boats have a lot in common, and they also differ from each other in some details.
Depending on their size and the speed required from them, these two families of small to medium size motorboats are propelled by one or more outboard gas engines, and they are relatively wide for their overall size.
The decks of both types of fishing boats are generally flat, and they don’t feature a cabin. Both types of boats feature a special casting area in the front of their deck, where one and sometimes two anglers can sit or stand, and cast comfortably.
Both bass boats and flats boats are stable, and their hulls are designed to have a shallow draft, which is why they are generally more flat than the deeper hulls of boats designed to travel offshore, in rough seas.
All these boats are comfortable to travel in and fish from, and the more expensive ones offer a plethora of amenities that make traveling and fishing easier, more comfortable, and more enjoyable for their crew.

Another noticeable difference between flats boats and bass boats is color – Flats boats tend to come in light colors, predominantly white, and bass boats tend to have a dark hull, with dark blue being their more popular color.

Many people who own a flats boat use it inland, in freshwater, as a bass boat, but it seems that the opposite is less commonly practiced.

Flats boats are skiffs designed primarily for saltwater, and in general, their makers strive to enable them to go in more ‘skinny’ water, namely very shallow water. They are named ‘flats boats’ after the wide stretches of flat, shallow water in coastal areas in the southern regions of the United States.

How shallow can you go?

Fishing in shallow water is the raison d’être of flats boats, skiffs, etc. This is where fishers of all disciplines, from reel and fly fishing to net casting strive to get those big redfish, snook, seatrout, snapper, tarpon and many other species that live typically in those rich fisheries.

When push comes to shove, it’s the depth of the propeller that determines how shallow the water you can go in can be, and not just the number of inches that the hull drafts.

Unless a boat is outfitted with a special outboard motor called ‘mud motor’, the effective depth where you can drive it is about one foot of water, or more. This is because even a small propeller is about 8 inches in diameter, and it rotates at least an inch below the anti ventilation plate (often referred to as anti cavitation plate), which itself is required to be immersed in one to two inches of water below the hull’s lowest point (typically, its keel). And naturally, you need some good clearance between the propeller and the bottom of the body of water in which you’re navigating, or else…
Needless to say that the water you drive in has to be free of seaweed and other types of aquatic vegetation that’s likely to snag your propeller.
These are the reasons why you need an alternative mode of propulsion for the really ‘skinny’ water, and this alternative is poling –
The quintessential element that makes a boat a flats boat is the poling platform featuring at the stern, and some flats boats are dubbed ‘poling skiff’.

Poling? Come on…

Opinions differ as to how effective poling is in terms of covering any meaningful distance, because in the first place, not too many people are sufficiently fit to pole, and even an athletic, experienced and highly motivated pole pusher cannot move a skiff at a speed that’s comparable to the speed achieved in kayaks and canoes.
As for poling against a current, even such as in a slow moving river, and let alone a faster, tidal current – good luck with that.
Being flat bottomed, flats boats don’t offer very good directional stability, and their high deck structures tend to catch wind, and for these reasons, plus the overall size and weight of the vessel, poling in unfavorable wind conditions must be ruled out.

To be fair, it would be hard for one person to move a fairly large and heavy boat such as a flats boat just by using their muscles. These boats don’t lend themselves to human powered propulsion, whether it’s paddling, rowing, or poling.

It seems like the only effective human powered mode of propulsion for boats this size could be stand-up sculling, which is a traditional method that’s still popular in Asia, especially with heavier boats. But stand-up sculling is a technique that requires a skilled and experienced rower, namely someone who’s in excellent shape and rows frequently, and let’s face it, this requirement doesn’t fit the description of our typical weekend flats fisherman…

Hey, what about me?

The person who activates the push pole in a flats boat can help their fishing buddy by identifying fish from the height of their poling platform, but they are pretty much prevented from taking part in actual fishing action. Too bad for them…

Stranded

Whenever you fish in skinny water that’s affected by tides, you risk getting stranded as the tide ebbs, and this means you and your fishing buddy would have to spend many more hours together, and in the company of mosquitoes. Lots of them… In other words, skinny water capabilities are not just about fishing.

Putting in, taking out, etc.

Being full fledged boats, you can launch neither a bass boat nor a flats boat from a beach, let alone one where rocks and oyster beds are present, and you can’t launch from a dock either. You need a facility known as a boat ramp that allows you to access water that’s deep enough with the trailer on which you transport your boat. Such boat ramp has to have a parking lot too, for you and other boat owners like yourself to park your vehicles and trailers.
Driving to a boat ramp takes time, waiting for other boaters to launch and beach may take additional time, launching takes some extra time, and so does parking. And none of these activities is something to look forward to, because they’re not fun.
Taking your boat out is equally frustrating in terms of time wasted on doing other things that are not fishing.

In dollar terms

Buying, operating and maintaining a bass boat or a flats boat isn’t cheap. However, we will not discuss these well known issues because we assume that if you’re reading this article, you can afford such expenses. Whether you would want to spend this money if you had a good, cheaper alternative to owning such a boat is another question.  After all, owning a big and expensive boat offers other advantages that are not directly related to fishing.

In sum, neither bass boats nor flats boats are very practical for really shallow water and for shorter trips. 

Not an alternative, really

No sensible angler would consider a SOT or sit-in kayak (SIK) to be an alternative to a full fledged motorboat, because of the obvious shortcomings of fishing kayaks, which are that they are extremely uncomfortable, wet, and slow, and paddling or pedaling them takes too much time and energy. A kayak’s range of travel is limited, even with an electric trolling motor, and besides – why did we even bother to mention these kayaks in the first place?…

Canoes are OK for a crew of two paddlers (well, sort of), but they don’t work well for one paddler, and motorizing a canoe is problematic.

As for Jon boats, dinghies, and other smaller fishing boats, you need a trailer to transport them, and you can’t paddle them effectively.

Inflatables? Nah…

A pretty good alternative

The patented twin-hull, 60 lbs Wavewalk™ 500 can be easily outfitted with an outboard gas engine, and easily driven across long distances. It’s back pain free, dry, and it offers plenty of storage. It paddles better than any other kayak out there, including in strong wind, and one person can car-top it effortlessly in less than thirty seconds. 
You can launch a motorized W500 from any dock or beach, including rocky beaches, and you can paddle it in water that’s just a few inches deep, and even go over obstacles. The W500 is the most stable kayak out there, and anyone can paddle it standing, and fish standing in it.

But there’s an even better alternative:

The best alternative

While the W500 is unrivaled in the world of kayaks, it is limited as far as load capacity is concerned. Its 360 lbs capacity is fine for one large size fisherman, an outboard motor, and plenty of fishing gear, but that’s about it – no carrying capacity for another large size fishing buddy, and this can be a problem for many people who are used to fish in crews of two.
And this is where the perfect alternative can be introduced: The Wavewalk™ 700.
This new boat does more than effectively bridging the worlds of kayak fishing and regular fishing from boats – It offers a range of benefits that in some cases make it a better solution than bass boats and flats boats –

The ultra lightweight (80 lbs) W700 can carry on board 580 lbs of passengers, motor and gear, which is enough for two full size fishermen, their fishing gear, and a powerful outboard. The 6 hp outboard featuring in our demo movies is overkill for it.
The W700 offers all the advantages listed above for the W500, namely easy car-topping, easy launching anywhere you want, easy paddling, skinny water mobility, easy stand up fishing, comfort, storage, stand up paddling and fishing, etc., plus full tandem capabilities, for both short and long trips.
This makes the W700 both a full solo and a full tandem car-top boat and paddle craft, and if you tried to go on a fishing trip in a bass boat or a flats boat by yourself, without a fishing buddy, you’d probably agree that neither of these full-fledged boat types are optimal for one person to use on solo fishing trips. It can be done, but it’s not that much fun.

The W700 is a unique watercraft, and you’re likely to appreciate it either as a great alternative to a bass boat or a flats boat, or simply as a new type of fishing boat that redefines the market.

 

Wavewalk™ 700

 

Poling the flats, casting, and catching one more redfish

By Kevin Eastman

I thought I’d send you another report from sunny Florida as the sun is setting for the Northern kayak fishing season. Our inshore waters remain high with continued unpredicted floods at high tide so I took advantage of one this morning before work. Again, this fish took some work to find, though the catching was easy. I poled to a couple of my not so secret secret spots only to find not enough water and no fish. I decided to leave since it didn’t look like the water was coming up and I hadn’t seen any fish on my way in. I figured that would be the end of it for the day since the tide was receding. There is little bait left in the grass after two weeks of twice daily flooding there are very few fish foraging now. I checked out one more small flat near the launch on the way back and did find one lonely fish to stalk. I was fortunate to get a couple of good casts and he was interested in my offering (spoon fly). It was a nice long fight thanks to the cooler waters as fall creeps in. So, not big numbers but at least there was no skunk today.

It’s been fun this year learning to use the fishing belt I made that holds my fly rod and push pole so I can cast from the poling platform an not have to put everything down, then wade after the fish. I think I’ve managed to get casts at fish that I would normally not have. An added bonus is staying dry for the whole trip.

 

nice-redfish-caught-in-flats-fishing-poling-trip-10-2015

 

Read more about Kevin’s DIY rigging projects and fly fishing adventures »

October flood tide fishing report

By Kevin Eastman

Well, I managed to squeak out a single fish again on my last trip of three for October’s flood tide period.
We actually had too much of a good thing. The floods were predicted higher and longer than normal and we had the addition of storms off shore that were keeping the water in the inlets for this period. That made for some difficult fishing. Water levels were about two feet above normal flood and flooding was occurring hours before predicted. Winds also made it difficult to pole the kayak. I had two unsuccessful trips earlier in the week and only saw a couple of fish that I couldn’t get set up to cast to. I had decided not to go out again because of the conditions but Sunday was sunny and the winds had subsided. At the last minute I decided to give it a go and packed the truck for a quick trip. I arrived a bit late but fortunately the tides were still fishable. I poled quite a distance and eventually found a lone fish that I could get a few casts too. Luck was with me and it was finally teased into going for my spoon fly.
Now another month of waiting for what will likely be the last decent flood to fish for the year. We usually have one in December too but the temps have dropped enough by then that there is little bait in the grass so the fish don’t feed heavily.

 

redfish-swimming-near-the-surface

 

redfish-caught-on-a-spoon-fly-in-flood-grass-2015

 

redfish-caught-after-push-poling-in-tidal-flood-grass

Read more about Kevin’s DIY rigging projects and fly fishing adventures »

 

Flood tide fishing, three days, nine hours, one fish!

By Kevin Eastman

Not real impressive but I did end up with one to take a picture of.

I was able to get out three days last week for my favorite flood tide fishing. I wasn’t as successful as I’d hoped for but in the end I was able to at least get you one picture of my prey.
The first day I had a nice hook up on a fish and a short fight, only to have my leader break and see the fish go swimming off with my fly in his mouth. Briefly exciting but not real rewarding. That was my only hook up for the day.
I got out the second day and wasn’t having a lot of luck finding fish that were interested in my offerings. Finally I found one that decided my spoon fly looked tasty. Again, I got a nice hook up and brief fight, only to have the hook pull loose and come flying back at me. Apparently I didn’t set the hook well enough. Once again that was my only hook up for the day.
The third day I was tired and decided I wasn’t going to get up early. I couldn’t really sleep so I got out of bed and decided I may as well give it one more go than lay in bed awake. That was a good decision since the third time was a charm and I was able to hook a nice fish and actually land it. Now I have to wait a few more weeks for another flood, hopefully with some better luck.

 

finally-after-3-days-a-redfish

 

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Flats fishing W500 with poling platform and fishing pole

 

redfish-caught-in-flood-tide-trip

 

Read more about Kevin’s DIY rigging projects and fly fishing adventures »