Boatcasting is a fairly new method, but one that has had an enormous impact on shallow water boat fishing since its development in the 1970s.
As its name suggests, boatcasting (also called uptiding) involves casting the baits away from the boat. It is most effective in less than 30m (100ft) of water, though it does still have its uses in deeper water.
The best time to boatcast is in a tide run when you’re after bigger species. Smaller fish such as pouting can usually be taken more efficiently on conventional downtide tackle.
A couple of purpose- made boatcasting rods. The reels are powerful without being cumbersome and are capable of smooth casting.
All you need for this kind of fishing are swivels and link swivels (1), a selection of hooks (2) appropriate to the bait and species you’re after, some beads (3), and a variety of breakaway (4) and fixed- grip (5) leads.
Many fish move out of the scare area which tends to concentrate them just out of range of noise from the boat.
Asmall thornback taken on peeler crab while boatcasting. Many sea species can be taken with this method as long as conditions are right.
This fine 64lb (29kg) tope was taken off the coast of Essex. The water is quite shallow in that area, and so it is an ideal place for boatcasting tactics.
In shallow water, the disturbance caused by the boat’s hull and anchor rope tends to scare cautious fish away from the boat. The size of the scare area depends on both the depth of water and the size and type of boat. For an average size charter boat in 12m (40ft) of water, the scare area seems to stretch to some 15m (50ft) on either side of the boat.
As fish move out of the scare area, they tend to concentrate around the edges of the zone. Anglers who find this concentration of fish catch more.
Conventional downtide tactics usually leave the baits in a line downtide of the boat. Fish passing 20m (65ft) or so on either side of the boat may therefore miss the scent trail put out by the baits. Casting the baits away from the boat ensures they are fanned out, so creating a wider scent trail.
Casting into the tide usually requires the use of a wired lead to hold bottom. This means that you can keep your bait on the sea bed with a 5-6oz (140-170g) wired lead where you might need more than l 1/2 lb (0.7kg) of plain lead fishing downtide. A lighter weight is more sporting – allowing both the fish and the angler more freedom -which would make it an attractive technique even if catches were no better than with conventional tactics.
Bait presentation is also different with a wired lead – the bait remains stationary rather than bumping around in the tide as it does when fishing downtide. This point is not yet fully understood, but it is one of the reasons why this technique is successful.
Tackle is perhaps more like beachcasting or pier fishing equipment than conventional boat tackle.
The ideal rod is about 10ft (4.5m) long with a flexible tip and moderately powerful middle and lower sections. Early boatcast- ers had to use cut-down beachcasting rods but these days there are plenty of purpose-built boatcasting rods on the market. One designed to cast 5-8oz (140-225g) is the best all-round choice.
A multiplier is best for boatcasting but it needn’t be hugely powerful. However, it must have a good rate of retrieve and a capacity of around 300yd (275m) of 15-20lb (6.8kg-9.1kg) line. Make sure it has a light alloy spool as heavier metal spools make casting difficult and plastic spools can break under extreme pressure. With 15-20lb (6.8-9.1kg) line you should use a shock leader of at least 30lb. It makes casting safer and used with a heavy hook-length it gives you a bit of confidence when a big fish is close to the boat – you don’t have to worry so much about losing it. End gear usually consists of a single hook rig, with either a fixed or a running trace of 1.2-1.8m (4-6ft). You need a selection of both breakaway and fixed-grip leads of 5-8oz (140-225g) to cope with variations in the tidal flow.
The direction you should cast out from the boat depends on the strength of the tide. As the tide increases you need to cast farther uptide and closer to the line of the anchor rope.
To start with, cast about 50m (55yd) uptide at an angle of 45° to the anchor rope.
Let the line run off the spool even after the lead has hit the bottom. In this way the line forms a bow which tightens in the tide, pulling the grip wires of the lead firmly into the sea bed. The boat’s anchor chain and rope works on a similar principle.
The amount of line you need to let out depends on the strength of the tide. Initially you should let the line out until it enters the water downtide at about 15° to the side of the boat. If the lead doesn’t hold, use a heavier grip lead, or cast farther uptide and let out a little more line.
Once the lead is fixed in the bottom and the tide has pulled the line taut, put the rod down. The semi-flexible rod tip absorbs the movement of the boat without pulling the wires out of the sea bed. When a fish picks up the bait and moves away, it pricks itself with the hookpoint. The fish then bolts pulling the lead out of the sea bed. This helps to set the hook.
Up on the boat, a typical bite is a two stage event. The rod tip pulls round, and then the line slackens as the lead comes out and the fish drops back downtide. As soon as the line begins to slacken, pick up the rod and reel in as fast as you can.
The fish is usually only lightly hooked at this stage, and is shaking its head in an effort to dislodge the hook. The sooner you tighten the line, the less time it has to get free. Rays are an exception to this – give them plenty of time to get the bait in their mouth – they rarely drop a bait once they are interested.
Do not stop reeling once you have started. It may be tempting to strike when you start to feel the weight of the fish, but resist the temptation! An early strike allows the bow of line to slacken, giving the fish another chance to shed the hook. Keep winding into the fish until you can feel its full weight downtide of you. Only then should you lean into the fish.
It is very important that you remember to wind the hook home and don’t try to strike it there. Set the clutch fairly tight so that you can really wind down into a fish without giving it any line. Once the hook is properly set, you can slacken off the drag a little if the fish is very heavy and likely to take a lot of line.