When it comes to stalking game fish in shallow water, stealth is of the utmost importance. While trolling motors are useful in many situations, if you're really serious about shallow water access than you need push pole propulsion on your side. You may be under the impression that all push poles are created equal, but this couldn't be any further from the truth.
Push poles can be manufactured from a variety of materials and as a result, vary greatly in weight, flexibility and price. To get a professional opinion in regards to push pole selection we contacted Captain Steven Tejera of Knot Tight Charters, a rising star among South Florida's shallow water community.
FSF: Push poles vary greatly in construction materials and stiffness. What's the story?
Captain Steven Tejera: Fiberglass push poles are strong and affordable, however they are also relatively heavy. Graphite push poles are light and stiff, but fragile. Utilizing aerospace technologies carbon fiber is the latest and greatest, offering incredible stiffness and durability as well as an extremely lightweight finished product. You should also consider the texture of the gripping area. Push poles that have a smooth finish can slip out of your hands when attempting to pivot to make a tight turn. In my opinion a ribbed texture that's not too abrasive is the best.
FSF: Is stiffness or flexibility more important?
Captain Steven Tejera: It really depends on your experience and personal preference. Professional guides favor a stiff pole over a more flexible one because they are powerful and responsive. If you're not well versed in poling and aren't planning your moves in advance, a flexible pole will be more forgiving as it will enable you to make minor adjustments without picking the pole out of the water to reposition, which can spook your targeted quarry.
FSF: How would a prospective buyer decide on the appropriate length?
Captain Steven Tejera: Push poles are available in lengths from 14 to 24-feet. In general, anglers should make their decision based on depth of water normally targeted. You also have to consider vessel size so the pole doesn't extend too far beyond your bow and transom. While a really long push pole could hinder your ability to trailer your skiff, it will also make navigating narrow channels and tight creeks a real challenge. I fish a 16-foot Dolphin and have been very happy with my 21-foot Loop. Someone who regularly fishes a larger skiff targeting tarpon in deeper water may opt for a 24-foot push pole.
FSF: What's with the different ends?
Captain Steven Tejera: Depending on the body of water, shallow water anglers typically encounter various types of bottom, ranging from rock hard oyster bars to mushy mud. This is why push poles feature a point on one end and a foot on the other. The point is used for poling over hard bottom, as well as staking out the skiff. The Y-shaped foot is preferred when poling over softer sand and mud bottoms.
FSF: Some push poles feature a solid one-piece design while others are sectional. What style do you recommend and why?
Captain Steven Tejera: Most professional guides opt for one-piece designs to eliminate weak connections and the possibility of water intrusion. However, the latest multi-piece push poles are turning heads. My 21-foot Loop has four sections that are bonded together and I've never had an issue with it. Plus, it's guaranteed against leaks. It's extremely strong and has a thinner diameter than most, which makes poling for hours on end less taxing.
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