Hooked on Height

Hooked on Height
View from rear casting platforms can be outstanding.

"Right there at 2 o'clock, 20 yards out; moving right to left!"

Quickly looking, I saw the orange-brown silhouette slowly swimming where I had just scanned the water and seen nothing. I made the cast but the copper spoon dropped just over the fish and when the 30-pound test Power Pro touched its back, the fish was gone.

A few minutes later, I heard it again. "There they are; 12 o'clock, 30 yards!" Again, I looked and after a quick scan, saw the pair of fish lying low. I cast past and in front of the pair. As the spoon zipped by, the two copper colors clashed as the smaller (just my luck) of the bronze backs followed and then hammered my likewise colored spoon. Landing the fish, quickly unbuttoning the hook and releasing him for another day's fight allowed me to wonder why my partner kept spotting fish before me.

I knew he had a 4' height advantage standing our boat's rear casting platform and the extra height gave him an edge in spotting fish, but I somehow thought that my "keen, well trained" eyes could out finesse his while he was atop the perch. I was wrong. My partner held an advantage explained by simple geometry where any extra height gained while fishing gives one a better chance to see fish.

Casting and poling platforms are becoming a common accessory on most flats and bay boats these days and for good reason. As more and more anglers spend their time drifting and trolling the flats, the advantage of height is a way to get a leg up in sighting and casting to their quarry. Every inch an angler gains in height, he gains a better angle to see down into the water with polarized glasses. This usually means spotting fish earlier and farther away. It can also mean the fish see you earlier, but in most cases it will work to your advantage.

Earlier this year, I spent some time with Jack Fletcher, owner of Specialty Aluminum Works in Victoria, Texas (www.specialtyalworks.com). Jack has a vast amount of experience in aluminum fabrication and I wanted his input in the design and fabrication of my casting platforms. Jack explained that there are several different types of platforms that can be designed for a boat.

One of the most common types found on smaller skiffs and lightweight hulls is a poling platform. The poling platform is usually secured to the boat with bolts and is considered permanent or not easy to remove. Normally mounted at the stern and over the motor, a poling platform allows one person to silently pole while looking for fish.

A second angler normally waits on the bow of the boat and when the "person on the pole" spots fish, he calls them out for the bow angler to cast to. The poling platform is very common on Florida boats and has quickly gained popularity in Texas. It can be used on larger boats, but in this application the poling platform is mainly for drifting, trolling and an occasional poling. Poling a 22' bay boat all day is not for the faint of heart.

Normally mounted over the motor, more and more poling platforms are being moved to the rear casting deck. The rear casting deck location puts more weight forward on the boat and the boat will draft less water while poling. Anytime you hang 200 lbs of angler off the back of a boat, it has a greater effect on draft than if he is moved forward of the motor. The trade off is the motor may be more in the way while poling off a platform located on the rear casting deck.

A second type of platform is the bow casting platform. These are usually smaller than a poling platform and placed at the bow for an angler to stand on while fishing or trolling. Normally, bow mounted platforms are 18" tall and secured to the deck with a turnbuckle and cleat or specialty eyebolts. The turnbuckle arrangement allows the bow casting platform to be removed when desired. One can use a stool or stand on a cooler, but after a few spills, you will opt for a more secure mounting.

A rocking and moving boat is precarious enough without adding in a loose platform. Most bow casting platforms are shaped to fit the bow of the boat. One important item to consider is if you fish with a trolling motor and use a casting platform, you may have to get an extension handle for the trolling motor and/or a foot switch to turn the motor on and off. Stooping frequently to adjust the trolling more can get old in a hurry.

A third kind of platform is one mounted near the center of the boat. These platforms come in a variety of shapes and can be mounted off the console or the leaning post. The advantage of a center mounted platform is that it is closer to the bow which makes it easier to spot fish when trolling. They can also be larger and taller than a bow mounted platform.

Each type of platform has advantages and disadvantages. Based on your type of fishing, decide what platform best suits your needs. If you want to pole and sight cast to fish, you most likely will want a stern mounted poling platform. If you drift and troll, you may prefer a center mounted platform that will not affect the draft as severely as a stern mounted platform and allow clear access around the boat. If fishing alone is your forte, a removable bow mount design may be more to your liking. The key to being happy with your decision is deciding what you want and then sitting down with someone like Jack Fletcher who can turn your idea into reality. Jack can tell you what will work best and if it can work on your boat or application.

Once you pick your design, you can also consider any extras such as rod holders, drink holders, grab rails or even oxygen bottle racks. Most anything one would want to have can be designed and added to a platform. Another item that I found that works well on a platform is a product called SeaDek (www.seadek.com). SeaDek is closed cell foam that can be stuck to the surface you stand on and really reduces foot fatigue during a long day on the water.

Working with Specialty Aluminum Works, I decided to have a platform built on the back of the leaning post. Since most of my fishing is trolling or drifting, I wanted the ability to easily walk all around the boat and didn't really need a true poling platform. In addition, I added a removable bow casting platform that gives me the option of using it or not, depending where and how I am fishing.

Now I am not going to say a casting platform will put more fish in your boat, but I will go so far to say that if you add a raised platform on your boat, you will definitely see more fish sooner and give yourself a better chance to catch more fish. Not having a platform before this year and having one now showed me the advantage of height. If you are not convinced, stop by a fabricator like Specialty Aluminum Works, check out some of the platforms and get hooked on height.