Bass Boat

No Boat, No Problem!

Fishing Techniques
Bass boat

Those bass anglers who regularly find themselves fishing from the back of a friend's boat or from the back platform of a boaters' rig they drew in a tournament situation know all too well the difficulties associated with this arrangement. As a non-boater, I can sympathize and offer some advice on making the situation a little more bearable and, hopefully, productive too.

The most crucial step to being a successful back-seater is approaching the situation with the right mental attitude. Sad to say, many anglers, myself included, tend to approach the fact that they are non-boater with the attitude of initial frustration or self-pity. On more occasions than I care to mention, I have obliterated any chances of making a decent showing at the weigh stand well before I set foot on the back of anyone's boat by approaching with a poor mental game. I find that this affects the attitude and perception of your boating partner and transmits down the line into the lure. An angler with no confidence in their presentation stands a snowball's chance in Hades of convincing a top predatory fish to accept a plastic imitation of its prey.

The attitude I usually carry onto the back of the boat now, especially in a tournament situation, is that assuming the partner's boat is 20 feet long, the most I can be is 20 feet away from the same fish that he is catching. This means that barring any significant circumstances, there's no reason I can't catch the same fish he is on.

With the mental game addressed, I would like to cover some of the physical things you can do to increase your productivity as a back-seat angler.

Think different. This phrase is precisely my attitude towards bait selection. Rarely will I throw the same bait as the guy upfront unless the bait he is throwing is an established winner for that weekend. For example, say the fish are holding at 15 feet, and the boater upfront is throwing a crankbait. I might pick a different bait that is fishable at that depth. In that situation, I would most likely pick a spinnerbait I could get down there. "Why," you ask. Simple laws of mathematics. Having two different baits down there significantly increases your chances of finding out what the fish prefer than if you have two of the same thing in front of them. And if one bait is showing promise, I may throw the same bait but will most likely vary the color or size, to test the water and see if I can expand the pattern discovered. Once again, let me say I will do this provided that there is no definite money bait that weekend. If there is, then I will, by all means, be slinging that right alongside the boater and hope for the best!

Another thing I hear non-boaters complaining about, again, myself included, is the perceived lack of space in the back of the boat. I say I perceived because that's precisely what it is, perceived. The same design on a bass boat alone makes it extremely fisherman friendly, with minimal obstructions to get in the way of casting and landing fish. One of the first things I do when I get on a partner's boat is to note the layout of that particular boat. As we all know, bass boats are, for all intents and purposes are, laid out pretty much the same, but a Ranger is not precisely the same as a Triton, and so on. I make a note of railings, consoles, and other things that can get in the way of a cast and look for places where I can position myself to make the most of the amount of space I have on the back deck.

If you look at the layout of the average bass boat, you realize that the casting space is divided about 50/50, with outward-facing 180 degree "casting range arcs" to the front and back, respectively. Many back-seaters I meet assume the guy upfront can cast wherever they want. I say not true. I have yet to meet a boater that can cast directly off the back of the boat and not catch significant flack from his draw partner about having several unwanted piercings.

Non-boaters remember, just as you can not cast to certain places, the guy up front can't cast to certain places! I make the most of this fact. I try to figure out where the guy up front can't get his bait and try to get mine there as much as I can. I like to think of this as "untouched" or "fresh" water. I have often caught fish out of little areas where the guy up front can't or is uncomfortable casting, which has garnered stares of disbelief and remarks such as "Where'd he come from? I just cast there." Attention to detail like that makes life on the back platform a little more bearable.

Another thing I would like to talk about, which I also think is extremely important to being a non-boater, is the respect and care for the boaters' boat and property. I have seen on several occasions where there is a total lack of respect and care for the boat, where there is either a fish attractant or a drink spilled on a carpet, or where there are discarded soft plastics strewn about the deck. I like to think of it as you are a guest on the boat, and all common guest manners apply.

Another way to exercise manners is in the amount of tackle you bring as a non-boater draw. I limit myself to one bag and no more than 5 or 6 rods and a tiny cooler when I am set up in a random partner draw tournament. Nothing can spell disaster for the boater, co-angler relationship than a partner strolling down the dock with four gigantic tackle bags, a giant igloo cooler, and 15 rods. I have often suggested to friends of mine, who are also non-boaters, to put themselves in the position of the boater and imagine you watching yourself come down the dock. What would your first impression be? I find it amusing to watch some of their reactions. By simply exercising common courtesy, you will gain the boaters' respect, which in many cases can earn you a few extra favors and a few extra fish.

One final note, a great way to make fast friends in the world of the boater is to by no means assume that once you weigh in, it's your cue to grab your gear and make a beeline to your truck. Stick around and see if your partner needs help taking the boat out, wiping his rig down, or any other task that a bit of help might make life easier. Word travels fast, especially on the tournament trails as to which non-boaters are "good guys" and who are the ones to avoid. Besides, ninety percent of the non-boaters out there will eventually be boaters themselves, which brings about, once again, the golden rule. The life lesson, not the measuring stick!

With that said, I can only hope that I have helped to make a few co-and-angler's a little more productive and a little more enjoyable and shed a bit of light on a subject that is often taken for granted. Now then, good luck to all the co-anglers reading this article, and I'll see you at the weigh-in!

Catch you on the water...