By Chad LaChance
There is a progression in angling. It starts innocently enough with standing on the side of the lake, casting out from one spot and hoping a fish comes by and makes your day. As we grow as anglers, we start moving around the bank more, sampling casting spots until we find one that our target fish apparently prefer on that day. We also begin to notice that our tackle needs to be mobile along with us and at the same time, our tackle has also grown in volume; we have more stuff to carry to match our angling situations and we are strategically looking for fish. If the old saying is true that 90% of the fish are in 10% of the water, good anglers will seek out that 10%.
But, what if that 10% is not reachable by casting from the bank? Or perhaps that 10% IS right along the bank and therefore it is tricky to present a fly or lure to it right at your feet? Obviously, the right answer is to get off the bank - yep, you need to be floating.
So, the next step as an angler is to find a way to get on the water’s surface and move around the lake. Perhaps a boat is in your future? Wait, you don’t have that much money or a big ol’ truck to tow it with? How about a float tube? Nope, too slow and cumbersome and your butt is in the water all the time. Hmmm, kayak! Yep a kayak or canoe is the answer - or maybe not when you realize that you still have to transport it and in many cases can’t stand up to fish. Sitting makes it hard to spot good places to cast and also makes the cast itself far more difficult. Have no fear, your answer is just an SUP away!
An inflatable stand-up paddleboard, aka iSUP, is the most mobile, affordable and fun way to get your fish on. You can haul it on your back or in the trunk of your car, it doesn’t require gas, registration or a boat ramp and they’re affordable in the first place. Most importantly, an inflatable SUP will get you and all your tackle to the fish efficiently and quietly while getting a little exercise. That you are standing while you fish is a serious bonus and of course you can always kneel down to land fish!
Now before you dismiss my iSUP suggestion as merely a great way to end up swimming with your tackle, you’ll have to trust me that they are far easier to use than you’d think. Since, unlike canoes or kayaks, paddleboards have flat bottoms, they don’t tend to roll side to side like even boats do. Geez, if people can do yoga classes on them, I’m confident most anglers can handle the balance!
There are specialized iSUPs on the market that are tailored for fishing. There are a couple of racks available that make them even more fisherman friendly. They hold rods, tackle, cooler and other accessories that invariably make their way into an angler’s arsenal of gear. And between available anchors, leashes, waist pack style PFD’s and more, they can be accessorized to fit your exact needs. Best of all, many models transport in a backpack, air pump and all and can be inflated in short order and launched virtually anywhere.
I have found after several years of fishing from an iSUP that there are a couple of things to keep in mind when choosing the board itself and the options. First, consider a board built for stability; in this regard, wider is better. Wider is also slower to paddle, so if you have great “boat legs” (no, not nice calves - the ability to balance comfortably on small/rocking boats) a narrower board will be fine. Second, racks are great for not only holding your extra rods (or the one you are using while you rig, etc), but also strapping stuff to or holding your personal action camera. You can strap tackle boxes or anything else that might sink should a mistake happen to them. Since the racks I’ve seen are easily detachable, you can streamline the board for non-fishing trips.
There are a couple of items I consider required if you step onto the floating world of paddle boarding and the first is a Personal Flotation Device of some sort. I settled on the manually inflatable waist pack style for its comfort and general ease of use. Regardless of which type of PFD you prefer, wear one! A board leash that attaches around your ankle is another must have; while I have yet to fall off any of my paddleboards accidentally, I have bailed while playing around and the board will invariably take off in the opposite direction. A leash will keep it close by you regardless and yes, you can easily remount the board while floating. Since iSUPs do float so effortlessly, they are prone to drifting or even being pulled around by fish you hook, thereby earning an anchor MVP status on many days. My anchor is actually for kayaks and stows in a small bag. I don’t SUP fish without it. And lastly, since we all want to post those grip-n-grins with our catch, a waterproof floating phone case allows you to keep your device handy without worry.
SUPs are a blast to spend time on and afford anglers mobility and a great view down in the water. They’re fast and sneaky, portable and once purchased, basically free to fish from. Maybe it’s time to kick your angling up a notch by joining the legions of folks that have discovered the fun and effectiveness of fishing from a SUP.