Kayak fishing has rapidly exploded over the past several years. Along with kayak fishing has come a wide variety of small watercraft that can assist an angler to easily and cheaply (cheap in comparison to a boat at least) get out on the water. One form of self-propelled transportation that has really shined the past several years is the stand up paddleboard (SUP).
SUP fishing has been around for a while now, but has gained significant popularity over the past 3-5 years. Before I ventured into the world of SUP fishing I really wasn’t sure what to expect. I researched SUP fishing a lot, but I didn’t know if I would be able to utilize a SUP on the rugged Texas rivers that I paddle and fish. I go through a lot of shallow areas, hit rocks and have to portage quite a bit depending on the particular river. I certainly found out the answers to these questions!
In this article, I hope I can help you to gain more knowledge about SUP fishing and if it would be a good fit for you.
FIRST IMPRESSIONS OF SUP
There are some immediate differences in a SUP and kayak. What are they?
Standing vs. Sitting
The first and most prominent difference that everyone is already aware of is how you paddle. On a SUP, you of course stand up to paddle whereas in a kayak you sit down to paddle. Although I do stand and paddle my kayak as well as sit and paddle my SUP, in general you stand to paddle a SUP and sit to paddle a kayak.
There are some pros and cons to standing and sitting. Standing in a SUP gives you these advantages in my opinion:
Standing gives you such a good view of what is ahead of you in the water. You can spot fish easier too.
Although sitting is comfortable, it is nice to stand every once and a while. I have found SUP to be less impactful on my back than kayaking.
It is pretty fun to stand and paddle, you really get a whole different experience than sitting in a kayak.
As with anything in life, there are some cons too. Here are my cons to standing and paddling a SUP:
Standing up on a SUP essentially makes your body a giant sail. This can make it pretty difficult to paddle into the wind.
Just as wind can cause resistance, wind can also push you. While this can be a good thing, wind at your back can make it extremely difficult to fish from a paddleboard.
More Athleticism Required
Standing on a SUP does require more athleticism than sitting in a kayak…quite a bit more. For some, this may not be an issue, but others may never be able to stand and paddle.
More Strength Required
Along the same lines of athleticism, SUP requires a little more strength to paddle and maneuver. This is a good thing if you are wanting a workout, but a bad thing if you aren’t very strong or have good endurance.
SUP is a lot less forgiving than kayaking. You have to be more aware of your surroundings and maintain good balance at all time. SUP requires more skill than traditional kayaking.
As you can see, SUP has a fair bit of advantages and disadvantages just in regard to you standing on a SUP versus sitting in a kayak.
The Rear Fin
One of the double bladed aspects of a SUP is the rear fin. Kayaks don’t have a rear fin, but a keel to keep straight when you are paddling. The rear fin sticks into the water much deeper than the keel on a kayak. So what does this do?
For one, the rear fin can hit objects in the water and cause quite a few problems. If there is a log or rock underwater that you don’t see and the rear fin happens to hit it, there is a good chance you are going to be falling on your SUP or into the water. You will have an abrupt stop and it will be very difficult to stay standing.
Next, the rear fin can cause some unusual handing characteristics in current. For example, when you paddle a SUP down a river and approach a bend, be cautious as the rear fin can sometimes cause the rear of the SUP to quickly “kick out” and sometimes put you in a vulnerable position. In consideration of current, I would not recommend taking a SUP down rapids, as the rear fin can really cause some issues if it doesn’t get damaged in the rapids first. You will therefor need to portage around most rapids with a traditional SUP.
The rear fin also presents an issue when you want to set your SUP down. You don’t want to set it down on it’s fin, so you have to prop it up against something or position the board so the fin isn’t getting bent and or crushed.
As much as this might seem like some major negatives to the rear fin, it is crucial for a SUP to paddle efficiently and straight. The fin really keeps you going straight and allows you to paddle on one side of the SUP for several strokes (with proper technique) before having to switch to the other side. Try paddling on one side of a kayak continuously and see what happens…you will be going in circles. A SUP stays much truer to its course.
SUPs don’t offer much storage, if any. Yes, you can configure a SUP to carry quite a bit of gear, as I do this on my Pau Hana Endurance sometimes, but overall you shouldn’t expect to carry as much gear on a SUP as you might with a kayak. Typically, a SUP has a pretty flat deck with limited options for storage. The great aspect about the Pau Hana Endurance is that there are multiple threaded inserts on the board that allow you to attach accessories such as a cargo net, paddle holder, fishing rod holder, cup holder, etc. The Endurance has the best versatility out of any SUP I’ve ever seen. You can also add a cooler or dry box to sit on that can provide additional storage capabilities.
NOW TO THE ADVANTAGES
After reading through all of this, you might think a kayak beats a SUP in every way…but this is not true. Let’s jump into the advantages that a SUP offers.
One of the biggest, if not the biggest advantages to a SUP is the lightweight design. Depending on what SUP you are interested in, it can nearly be half the weight of a kayak. For example, my Jackson Kayak Liska is about 12’ long and weighs 84 pounds. My Pau Hana Endurance is 12’ long and weighs 31.5 pounds! This is over 2x as light! What does this weight savings do for you?
For one, I can transport my Pau Hana Endurance from the garage, to the top of my 4Runner and to the water’s edge all by myself. I can’t do this with my Jackson Kayak Liska. This is a huge advantage in simply moving the SUP from place to place.
The lightweight design also makes the Endurance fast, really fast. I can really cruise through the water due to the streamline design, but also the small amount of weight that the board is composed of.
Last, the lightweight design of the SUP allows you to make quicker inputs than you would on a kayak. This doesn’t necessarily mean it’s more maneuverable, just that it can change direction with less force.
I really like simplistic designs. SUPs are pretty simple. Although kayaks are great and offer a lot of versatility, sometimes I just want a “grab and go” option that can get me out on the water quickly. A SUP definitely provides this. There really isn’t a whole lot of components to a SUP. Not that a kayak has a lot of components, but typically you have a detachable seat, lots of protruding deck features, and these types of features can get in the way at times. A SUP is simple and sleek.
I’ve paddled a kayak a lot and I’ve paddled a SUP a lot…a SUP is much more exciting to me. This is a personal preference, but for some reason SUP is a much more exciting experience than kayaking. Although I like kayaking, I think the simplicity of a SUP really shines and helps you to better connect to the board. In a kayak, you can really let the kayak do a lot of the work. A SUP requires a little more input, skill, and experience.
Although SUP is quite popular, it isn’t quite on the level of kayaks. SUPs have a little bit of a “unique-factor”, authenticity, or stand out vibe that really draws people to trying a SUP. If you are wanting something a little less traditional than a kayak, a SUP might be the perfect option for you.
WHAT TO CONSIDER IF YOU PLAN ON FISHING FROM A SUP
There are a few things to consider if you plan to fish from a SUP.
Kayaks Typically Have Less Draft
Due to the large fin on the back of almost all SUPs, you can’t go in as shallow of water as you could with a kayak. One of the main reasons I wanted a SUP for fishing was because I thought it could go in areas a kayak couldn’t go. Really, the opposite is true - a kayak can go in more areas than a SUP. The rear fin limits the shallow areas you can paddle and fish. As previously mentioned, you really can’t go in rapids with a SUP (in general), so a kayak will be better suited for true, flowing rivers.
Less is More
Although you can really deck out a SUP, I would recommend bringing minimal gear with you…especially if you are fishing a Texas river. A lot of the rivers I fish require portaging, and you will have to portage your SUP and all the gear you bring. Do yourself a favor and only bring a minimum amount of gear. I published an article about “Why You Really Only Need Two Fishing Rod and Reel Setups”, and I think this article applies even more to SUP fishing than kayak fishing. You really need to minimize the gear you bring with you.
Landing and Releasing Fish is Incredibly Easy
SUPs don’t really have gunnels like kayaks. Therefore, you have really easy access to land and release a fish back into the water. Although this is a small thing to consider, a SUP really makes landing and releasing fish easy.
There is a Learning Curve
Don’t expect to hop on a SUP and be able to fish as efficiently as out of a kayak right a way, because you won’t be able to. There is a lot to learn in managing the SUP on the water, paddling between casts, seeing how wind effects the SUP and simply navigating a river. It is all a little different than a kayak. Take your time and enjoy the new experience. Practice is the best way to get better fishing from a SUP, so simply paddle and fish more!
SUP Fishing is an Art
Some people might disagree, but to me SUP fishing is more of an art than a logical decision. A kayak really is better suited for fishing, but SUP fishing provides a different avenue, a road less traveled and an exciting way to fish. For example, I think most people would agree that conventional tactics (spinning and baitcasting) are better for bass fishing than fly fishing for bass. Why do people fly fish for bass then? Because fly fishing is an art, just like SUP fishing. Yes, you can catch a ton of fish from a SUP, just as you can fly fishing for bass…but neither of these methods are probably ideal. They are exciting, fun and different.
MY OVERALL OPINION, WHERE I USE A SUP, AND HOW MUCH DO I SUP
Even though there are some clear disadvantages to SUP fishing in comparison to kayak fishing, I love it! I really enjoy the simplistic approach and having a lightweight watercraft to move across the water.
I use my Pau Hana Endurance at many different locations, including the Devils River, Brazos River and South Llano River. You do have to portage some depending on flow conditions and the particular river. You do have to be cautious around rocks, as a SUP isn’t quite as durable as a rotomolded polyethylene kayak, like my Jackson Kayak Liska; however, my Pau Hana Endurance holds up pretty good from scraping and bumping into rocks due to its ricochet technology.
Recently, I’ve been getting on my Endurance more and more. In fact, I use my Endurance more than my kayak now. I think the way you paddle a SUP, the overall experience, and the slightly bigger challenge in comparison to using a kayak draw me to SUP fishing.
One last thing I want to mention is the times I am not fishing but out on the water. You can almost guarantee I will be on my Pau Hana Endurance. It is such a fun experience to paddle and is much easier to transport than my Jackson Kayak Liska. For an all around paddleboard, the Pau Hana Endurance really suits me well - out on the water fishing, or just out on the water paddling.
SUP fishing is an exciting form of fishing, but it isn’t for everyone. It probably isn’t the most ideal setup to fish from, but it is a great option and suits me well on a lot of different rivers that I fish. It does require more athleticism and strength than kayaking, but the reward of gliding across the water and catching fish on a SUP is awesome! If you haven’t had the opportunity to try out a SUP, I’d recommend giving it a shot. They are great pieces of equipment for days you just want to paddle and they are even better when you learn to catch some fish on them.
My SUP of choice is the Pau Hana Endurance. To find out more about the Pau Hana Endurance, please click here.