As we progress into 2014, the industry continues to evolve as anglers further explore their desire for shallow drafting, eco‑friendly and affordable platforms that are not only user friendly, but incredibly easy to transport. While some strive for immaculate skiffs outfitted with the most advanced amenities, there’s a new breed of inshore anglers that don’t want or need unnecessary complications. These adventurists much rather prefer the solidarity and simplicity of smaller platforms that still offer the features needed to enjoy a day on the shallows. If you fall into the category of anglers who desire the stealthy attributes of a micro platform, you are fortunate there are a bunch of great options that are perfectly matched for Florida’s numerous and diverse shallow water ecosystems.
Before we go any further, it’s important to note that the following shallow water platforms will put you at a disadvantage compared to tricked-out flats skiffs ready to take on the toughest tournament competition. But that’s not what this is about and if you’re worried about one-upping the next guy these platforms aren’t for you. Traditional flats skiffs can cover a hundred or more miles in a day crossing choppy bays with ease, but anglers who prefer paddle and pedal powered platforms could care less. There’s something about the adventure and challenge of taking on nature without the aid of a hundred horsepower, jackplate and modern electronics suite. When you’re battling the elements on your own, every fish you catch will be much more cherished.
While some strive for immaculate skiffs outfitted with the most advanced amenities, there’s a new breed of inshore anglers that don’t want or need unnecessary complications.
Whatever you choose to label this class of light tackle platforms, stand up paddleboards, kayaks and micro skiffs continue to gain market share and earn angler’s appeal across inshore venues nationwide. The following single person platforms are top picks and the newest and most enjoyable ways to enjoy the shallows.
Self-propelled options are growing in popularity at an incredible rate and no platform puts anglers closer to the action than stand up paddleboards. While the history of SUPs dates back to ancient Polynesian and Pacific islanders as a simple and safe means of transportation and effective way to harvest the bounty of the ocean, the renaissance revolution of stand up paddle fishing has been dominated by one brand—BOTE Boards. With the only fish-specific standup paddleboards on the market, BOTE offers anglers a full-range of angler friendly platforms that are affordable, easy to transport and require practically zero maintenance.
While there are many SUPs on the market and innovative anglers have outfitted standard paddleboards with milk crates and makeshift rod holders, BOTE Boards feature permanent tie down straps and an innovative marine grade aluminum fishing post that features rod holders and installs in recessed receivers. The flagship platform of their extensive lineup of 14 different boards, the Ahab measures 14 feet in length and features a host of industry leading innovations in an effort to help anglers stay connected. Tie down receivers, bungee nets and thru-hull receivers to insert a stake-out stick are only some of the offerings available on this uncluttered platform. Manufactured with EPS foam, fiberglass and epoxy construction, BOTE Boards are built to withstand whatever you can dish out and require no more than a simple freshwater wash at the end of the day.
With a large deck measuring 34 inches wide and a stable and efficient double concave hull, the Ahab weighs in at an incredibly light 38 pounds and can be easily transported to your favorite protected waters featuring limited access. With a racing SUP pedigree, the Ahab easily glides across the water and cuts through chop with ease, but don’t expect to keep your feet dry. If you’re the type of angler who enjoys the solo experience as much as the number of releases at the end of the day, the Ahab is destined to be your next shallow water chariot. With a price tag of $2,399.99 it also represents one of the cheapest entries to kick-start your inshore efforts.
Although the SUP market continues to grow and shows no sign of slowing down, fishing kayaks were the originators of the self-propelled genre and still incredibly popular. While the concept remains the same, the newest model kayaks display some ingenious innovations and enhancements that make paddle fishing even more enjoyable, efficient and effective.
Headquartered in Texas, where there’s no shortage of shallow water habitat, Diablo Paddlesports bridges the gap between SUPs and sit-on-top kayaks with the Adios. This hybrid platform was built thinner and wider than a traditional kayak and enables anglers to choose between sitting or standing. However, one consideration is that a kayak paddle and SUP paddle vary greatly so it may be best to bring both. Measuring 12’6″ long, the Adios turns on a dime and features a unique tri-hull that provides impressive stability letting anglers do whatever they want. Sit, stand, kneel…the options are endless.
Weighing only 69 pounds, the Adios has a cockpit that’s 24 inches wide and an overall width of 36 inches. It also features an easy to access front locker that has a 13 inch by 24 inch opening, with additional dry access hatches in the stern. A unique approach to shallow water sight fishing, the Adios makes the transition from sitting to standing super easy and gets anglers hooked up for only $1,499.
Hobie has been at the top of the ranks for years and remains a go-to option for self-supported fishing platforms. Measuring 13’8″, the Pro Angler 14 weighs 138 pounds fully rigged and provides up to 600 pounds of carrying capacity. With a 38 inch wide rotomolded polyethylene hull, the Pro Angler 14 is the cream of the crop and enables anglers to propel themselves at speeds never before seen in a kayak by utilizing the strongest muscles in the human body—the legs. The removable Mirage Drive requires 18 inches of water to pedal, but greatly enhances the efficiency of the typical kayak paddle and can be removed to access super shallow water. While the innovative concept enabling hands-free fishing is unique to Hobie, the innovations don’t end here and include a Lowrance ready thru hull cavity and mounts with pre-installed cables and plugs for seamless integration of a compact multifunction display. Additional fish-friendly features include an adjustable Boa system that provides a full range of lumbar support adjustment, under seat tackle storage, anchor trolley, livewell cargo area and in-deck hatch with pivoting tackle management system. This amazing fishing kayak is one step closer to a traditional boat and enables anglers to travel great distances with ease for only $2,999.
Although SUPs and kayaks represent the ultimate form and function of simplistic fishing exploits, there’s yet another option for those seeking solidarity. Slightly more accommodating for those not willing or capable of paddling all day, several manufacturers have embarked on a journey to produce the next generation of micro skiffs that provide eager fishermen the same portability and efficiency of kayaks and SUPs but with power options including both ultra-light outboard motors and electric powered trolling motors.
Pelican Flats Boats produces first class traditional style flats skiffs, although the Ambush is unlike anything you’ve ever seen before. Measuring 13 feet long and weighing 125 pounds, the Ambush is rated for 6 HP max and is a completely unique approach to shallow water fishing. While portable like the rest of the platforms in this editorial, the Ambush has high end skiff-like fit and finish work highlighting the high tech composite construction. The self-bailing cockpit features a large dry storage hatch in the bow and sports high end hinges, latches and pop up cleats. Mercury’s 6 HP four-stroke outboard weighs only 55 pounds and lets you run for days with a 3.2 gallon fuel tank. Options are limited only by your imagination, with horizontal rod tube storage, poling platform, push pole holder, livewell and engine bracket with rod holders only some of the aftermarket features available. For only $3,200 you can make the switch to one of the coolest inshore platforms that will take you to shallows once only imaginable.
Another entry to the micro skiff category is the Solo Skiff. Measuring 14’4″, the Solo Skiff weighs 130 pounds and has a remarkable 41 inch beam with a maximum 5 HP rating. Easily manageable and super stable for its small size, this skiff really is in a class of its own. With an open cockpit design and split-tail sponson transom any water that makes its way into the boat is immediately flushed out the stern. You’ll also notice the motor is mounted ahead of the stern, which helps improve overall stability. The only storage hatch in the skiff is located in the center and has adequate room for required safety gear, tackle and also serves as a seat or poling platform. Furthermore, the standard rod tube accommodates a 9-foot fly rod. The MSRP for the Solo Skiff is $2,850, which includes the hull rigged with the rod tube, hatch, push pole hooks and grab rail.
Built with simplicity in mind, the X-Fish provides a stable platform that’s both stealthy and highly functional. Built with hand-laid fiberglass and quality epoxy resins, the construction techniques rival that seen in high performance offshore vessels. With a displacement hull, this stealthy shallow water weapon is ideal for crossing bays en route to pristine shallows, yet is also capable of near-shore excursions when ideal conditions exist. Outfitted with a Water Snake 45 lb. thrust trolling motor and sealed front dry storage battery box you’ll have vastly improved range over traditional human powered options, yet the streamlined design of the X-Fish also enables anglers to paddle with ease. You can also opt for a low HP outboard motor. Once you’ve reached a secluded spot in the backcountry you can further investigate the shallows by anchoring a stakeout stick through the designated thru-hull. Step off the stable deck to wade fish and when you return the grab rails will help you board without a problem. Reach your own slice of heaven in an X-Fish for only $2,995.
When it comes to remote access and extreme efficiency, traditional canoes are hard to beat. However, the inherent design makes them prone to tipping with an unbalanced load. Combining the benefits of an ultra-shallow drafting canoe and traditional skiff, Gheenoe’s Low Tide 25 is one of the most popular and capable of all micro skiffs on the market. While incorporating a proven reverse chine design that offers maximum stability, the LT 25 is the largest Gheenoe to date and offers more space for anglers, gear and larger outboards. Even so, it only measures 16 feet in length and weighs 350 pounds. While the LT 25 can be fully customized to the owner’s desires with the option of a tiller or center/side console, the newest model features an elevated fiberglass console that provides maximum visibility. Outfitted with a 40 HP Tohatsu, the Low Tide 25 literally skips over the water’s surface and cuts through surface chop with ease. With a MSRP of $2,600, the Low Tide 25 will take you places you never knew existed.
Dragonfly Boatworks also manufactures traditional flats skiffs, although their Marsh Hen is anything but traditional. The 14 foot Marsh Hen weighs 135 pounds and easily reaches plane with a super efficient maximum rating of 15 HP. While many of the latest micro skiffs are small and light enough to place in the bed of a truck or atop roof racks, the Marsh Hen has yet another trick up its sleeve to make for easy launches in the backcountry or roadside access points. The removable inflatable tires insert into mounting brackets within the hull and provide anglers with the ability to launch virtually anywhere. However, as stunning and intriguing as this skiff appears at first look, the $13,000 price tag may be a deterrent to the anglers interested in this unique class of simple skiffs. However, this includes boat, motor and trailer.
No matter what preference you have for reaching secluded backcountry venues we can all agree that these new platforms are opening minds to the availability of secluded fisheries. Fishing by yourself can be incredibly enjoyable, but with no witnesses you’ll have to shoot some photos or no one will believe your fishy stories. Without proof it never really happened! Enjoy this new breed on no-nonsense shallow drafting platforms that fringe on the category of a traditional skiff and never look back!