Team Padrick and Smith
When Team Padrick and Smith, “The Redfish Guys”, had the idea of beginning The Getting Started Series of articles, our goal was to help the upstart inshore angler save some time and money by giving advice on tackle, gear, fishing techniques, etc. However, I’m going to do something a little different in these series of articles, because I recently sold my 189 Back Country flats boat and need a replacement. Consequently, I had the idea of asking a group of accomplished anglers who fish the same area a simple question: Why did you purchase your boat? By picking a group from the same general area, I eliminated environmental variables such as geography, climate, and tidal fluctuations. Subsequently, I picked some of the best Captains Morehead City, North Carolina, has to offer: Gordon Churchill, Noah Lynk, Team B&G Dave Bernstein/Daniel Griffee, and Matt Lamb. Like “The Super Friends” of the 1970’s animated TV series, they all have their own special powers but share a commonality: they’re catching a lot of reds! Our heroes know the flats, marshes, and creeks of Morehead City like their own proverbial backyards. However, they choose to fish out of different boat designs. Why? Hopefully their explanations can shed some light for all of us on the benefits of fishing out of a bay boat, flats boat, traditional skiff, and a technical poling skiff.
Why a technical poling skiff? By Gordon Churchill
You are an accomplished inshore angler. You have a nice boat that allows you to run far and fast. It’s rigged up the way you like it, with trolling motor and power anchor and loads of storage for all your rods. You can fish any lure that an inshore saltwater fish could ever eat, plus you have a good live bait well and, if necessary, the ability to fill it with a cast net. You usually find your fish in the places you can get to them and, if they are not in your usual places, you pick up and run.
All that changes in one fateful day. You are fishing a familiar cove on the falling tide. It’s starting to get late enough in the tide that you are starting to think about leaving and hitting one of your low water places. Looking up, you notice a shiny spot moving along the shoreline in the back of the creek. It’s moving along slowly. Then there is a splash next to the shiny spot, and you realize that what you are seeing is a 28 inch redfish swimming in 4 inches of water with it’s back out, and you just witnessed it eat a small crab or shrimp. There is no way you could possibly get your beautiful 24 foot bayboat in there. In fact, you need to leave now or be stranded until the tide starts to come back in.
As you are crawling out with your trolling motor plowing up mud, you see a tiny flats skiff drive up. The driver sees you and comes off plane. He gives you a wave and climbs up on his poling platform and poles off in the direction of the back of the creek. His friend gets up in the bow with a fly rod in hand. You watch as they notice the redfish crawling (that’s what it’s called when they swim in water so shallow their backs poke out), pole over, make a cast, and catch it. Both guys give a wave and say thanks to you for leaving them one. As you finally get to water deep enough to get on plane, they are poling further back into the creek, and you think you see another redfish crawling in front of them.
What you have just witnessed is a technical poling skiff doing what it does best. These small (less than 17 feet), ultra light (less than 500 lbs.) skiffs are designed to float shallow (less than 6 inches), pole straight, be quiet, and get you close to fish that you could not have gotten close to otherwise. The real benefit of these types of boats is to get anglers into spots that other boats just cannot get to and, often, the person fishing one of these boats will have an area all to himself where three or four boats may have fished comfortably at high water. Sometimes fish that were scattered all along a shoreline at high water will concentrate in easily predictable locations at low water. If you are fishing in a little skiff, you will be able to pole your boat along the small channel that usually is left and be able to fish these areas long after others have to go. Many times, these will be areas that are well known and fished by other boats, but at low water you will have it to yourself. Along the Atlantic Coast, there are miles and miles of spartina marsh. At extremely high tides that coincide with the full and new moons, redfish will swim in places that have water in them only for a few hours a month. When you are in a “Micro Skiff”, you can target these tailing fish for a very exciting and visual challenge.
Is a Technical Poling skiff for every fishing situation? No, of course not, it will never beat a big bay boat in a race, and if you need to make runs of more than 10 miles, you will want to find a close boat ramp. But for fish that you know are using extremely shallow water, and for approaching them stealthily, you can’t beat it.
There are many manufacturers of these kind of skiffs today. The market was started most famously by Hells Bay with their Waterman. Another excellent line of boats is made by East Cape Canoes and Skiffs. The boat I use is the Copperhead, made in Ft. Pierce, Florida, by Ankona Boatworks.
Thank you, Captain Gordon Churchill, for an excellent read. Winter is boat show season, and some of us have been infected by new boat fever. Hopefully, by reading the answers to my question in this four part series, I will help clarify the capabilities and benefits of each boat design. What I have found is there is no perfect boat. Every design has its pros and cons. What you have to decide is what type of boat best fits your style of fishing, while taking into consideration the number of passengers you may wish to transport and any secondary boat functions, like water skiing or tubing.
A special thank you goes out to “The Super Friends” who took the time out of their busy schedules to share their true special powers: knowledge, experience, humility, and a willingness to share. Also, thanks go out to Strike Pro, Powell Rods, Deep Creek Lure, Capt. Gary’s Marine Products, Yeti Coolers, No Slack Tackle, PointClickFish.com, and Numa Optics for keeping us on the water. Please take a moment to visit Team Patrick and Smith’s website, www.TheRedfishGuys.com, or on Facebook keyword: The Redfish Guys.