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October 12, 2021 11 min read

SUP Fishing: A How-To Guide

Fishing from a paddle board isn’t as difficult as it may seem. If you’ve been itching to combine two hobbies into one - then SUP fishing might just be for you!

If you’ve never fished from a paddle board, then you’re missing out on another level of adventure. Fishing from a SUP allows you to sneak into hidden coves quietly, enjoy the outdoors, relax, and give you the height advantage to spot ideal habitat.

We’ll review the basics of SUP fishing and review the necessary gear, the ideal fishing paddle boards, and more tips to make paddle board fishing your new favorite sport.

Man fishing using a gili sup board

Why Fish From a Paddle Board?

Why fish from a paddle board when I have a boat with a motor or a fishing kayak? There are advantages and disadvantages of fishing on a paddle board vs. a kayak and reasons why you’ll want to ditch the motor.

Advantages of Paddle Board Fishing

A paddle board is lightweight and easier to transport than a boat, and there are not many boats you can store easily as it hangs on your garage wall.

When fishing from a paddle board, you have a height advantage for a better view of the water and fish habitat. With polarized sunglasses, you’ll spot the fish before they take your bait.

A paddle board gives you wide open freedom and space to cast your line and store your gear. You are not confined by the cockpit of a kayak and can stretch your legs. You get great exercise and fresh air, and you’re able to quietly slip into your favorite fishing hole unnoticed without a noisy motor alerting the fish to your presence.

The bottom line is that fishing from a paddle board is much more fun!

Disadvantages of Paddle Board Fishing

There a few disadvantages to SUP fishing, but most of them can be avoided with appropriate planning. Fishing from a stand up paddle board does require some skill, but if you’re a beginner to SUP, master your skills before you grab a fishing rod.

Fishing requires you to remain stable on your stand up paddle board while you cast, reel, and handle fish. SUP fishing requires an intermediate or advanced paddler, but there’s plenty of time for practice.

SUP fishing requires a stable board that is not overloaded to make you off balance. Choose only the necessary gear and center it on your paddle board.

Essential Gear For SUP Fishing

SUP board with complete essential gear

Certain gear will be essential for SUP fishing, and other gear is nice to have. We’ll review the best paddle board fishing accessories, and explain why each will improve your day on the water.

Paddle Board

It’s obvious that to enjoy SUP fishing, you’ll need a paddle board. The best paddle boards for fishing will have ample storage space, attachment points, and action mounts to rig up your fishing gear. Fishing rod holders are essential to stow your rod while you paddle into optimal position.

A solid paddle board will perform better with smoother glide and tracking, but an inflatable paddle board offers more overall advantages to fishermen. An inflatable SUP is lightweight and easy to transport to remote fishing locations, you can carry it  in a SUP backpack.

Whichever type of paddle board you choose, ensure that it has a wide deck to increase your stability with the added fishing gear. Ensure that the board’s weight capacity not only manages you, but also can keep all of your fishing gear afloat.

Fishing Pole

You won’t catch many fish without a fishing pole. Many paddle boards can be set up to allow you to carry numerous fishing poles at once. Whether you have multiple rod holders mounted on action mounts, a milk crate with vertical rod holders, or a tackle rack, it’s nice to have multiple poles as an option so you can choose your favorite weapon based on the fishing conditions.

Rod Holder

A fishing rod holder allows you to park your pole while you paddle. You can easily slip the rod’s handle into the holder when you need to paddle a few strokes and then grab it again to cast your line.

A vertical rod holder makes it easy to grab your pole quickly when a fish jumps nearby, but also allows you to stow it easily if the wind picks up and you need to paddle.

Tackle

Tackle box on a gili SUP board with rod holder

Choosing how much tackle to take is the first big decision. Be minimalist! Depending on what other gear you’re packing, you might not be able to bring your suitcase-sized tackle box on board your SUP. There’s no use bringing your muskie lures when you’re fishing for panfish.

Your SUP board should have bungee storage space to secure your tackle box and make it easy to access your gear when you need to change your rig or grab pliers.

PFD

A personal flotation device (PFD) is not only necessary for safety in any water sport, but it might be mandatory depending on your local laws.

Consider a life jacket for SUP fishing that doubles as storage space. There are fishing flotation vests with multiple pockets to store extra jig heads, and some even have D-rings or clips to attach your pliers.

Look for a life jacket that has plenty of arm room for freedom when casting, reeling, and paddling. An inflatable life vest offers reliable flotation if tossed overboard, but it’s less likely to make you overheat on a hot day.

Anchor

An anchor is a must-have item for SUP fishing. Clip your anchor to your paddle board’s D-ring and launch it overboard. If the wind kicks up, your SUP will stay put in your fishing hole, and you won’t have to grab the paddle to reposition your board.

The best paddle board anchors will store easily in a bag so it won’t scratch your board and can secure under SUP bungees when not in use. Attach the anchor to a D-ring when launched and tie off the extra line with your favorite knot.

A grapnel anchor has four-pronged flukes to grasp almost any environment, including weeds, sand, or rock. It is the preferred anchor for SUP fishing, but if you know you’ll remain in the shallows, you can also consider a stake out pole or sand anchor.

Cooler

White gili soft cooler bag on a sup board

Fishing can be hard work as the sun beats down while you wait for a bite. Make sure you’ve packed your paddle board cooler with cold beverages.

A paddle board cooler can secure to the D-rings of your board with bungees so your drink does not end up in the water.

Bucket

If you’re using live bait, don’t forget your bait bucket. A minnow bucket could easily attach to your D-rings and trail behind your SUP as you fish. If using a cast net to catch live bait, you’ll need a bucket to keep it fresh.

Net

There are two types of net that might come in handy when paddle board fishing. The first is a dip net with an extended handle to scoop up your catch when it reaches the edge of the paddle board. When needing to maintain your balance while catching a fish, a net prevents you from overextending and risking a fall.

A casting net is another option on a paddle board. After ensuring that casting nets are legal in your area, launch it off your SUP to capture live bait. Throw them in a bucket and get ready to fish.

Ankle Leash

Gili teal coiled ankle leash

Another safety feature is to wear your ankle leash. If the big catch of the day throws you off balance and into the water, you don’t want to be far from your board.

An ankle leash wraps securely around your ankle and snaps into place on your board’s D-ring.

Optional SUP Fishing Gear

There’s gear you need for SUP fishing, and there are other accessories that are simply nice to have. The better you plan and organize your board space, the more fun accessories you can add to spruce up your fishing setup.

Seat

Want to sit while you fish? No problem! With a SUP to kayak conversion kit, you can attach a central seat to your SUP and kick up your feet. Your paddle board converts to a kayak while giving you the same freedom of movement as well as the ability to stand when desired.

You can also get inventive when it comes to seating. If you attach a hard sided cooler or use a milk crate, you’ve created a seat. There are no hard and fast rules, and it’s okay to get creative to save space.

Stabilizers

If you’re uncertain if your balancing skills are ready for SUP fishing, then consider the addition of stabilizers. Stabilizers attach to your paddle board to add additional flotation pontoons on each side of your SUP and work similarly to training wheels. Because of the added width, you increase your stability.

Paddle Holder

Man on a yellow SUP board with paddle holder

While it’s not necessary, a paddle holder sure makes fishing easier. When you find a good area to fish and want to grab your fishing rod, you can’t risk your paddle falling overboard.

A paddle holder allows you to store your paddle, use both hands to catch a fish, and then grab your paddle when ready to move to another location. If your SUP does not have a built-in paddle holder, consider a paddle leash that affixes to a D-ring or other attachment point.

Tackle Rack

A tackle rack is an optional accessory to add gear for fishing. It consists of vertical, lightweight aluminum racks that affix to your board to attach additional fishing rods, a tackle tray to grab your gear quickly, a bucket, and your net.

Light

If you’re planning on fishing before or after the sunrise, pack a light so you’re visible in the dark by other vessels. Some lights can affix to action mounts, and others can suction cup to your SUP’s deck.

Dry Bag

Man fixing gili dry bag on a SUP

If you’ve got additional gear such as a jacket, hat, or camera, consider a dry bag to secure your stuff and keep it dry. A dry bag cinches shut to seal your valuables inside. It can hold snacks or keep your cell phone protected.

Sun Protection

When you’re out in the open with the sun beating down and also have reflected light bouncing up, you need sun protection. Pack your suntan lotion in your dry bag, and wear a hat, swim shirt, and sunglasses to offer more UV protection.

Fanny Pack

A fanny pack is a simple way to keep your favorite lure or backup hooks within reach. A fanny pack can store your pliers to retrieve a swallowed hook or keep your cell phone close, so you don’t miss a picture of your amazing catch.

The Perfect SUP Fishing Setup

Man fishing on a lake using SUP with complete setup

The perfect SUP fishing setup depends on how much tackle and gear you need as well as the size of your paddle board. The key is to spread the overall weight out over the entire board, so one end is sunk while the board’s nose is jutting up in the air.

Before you launch your SUP, attach the fishing rod holders, cup holder, and possibly your GoPro camera to the action mounts by screwing them into position.

Launch your SUP into the water and load your heaviest items, such as the tackle box and cooler. Position them in the middle of the board and distribute the weight on each end. Place your fishing poles in their rod holders and store your anchor in the cargo space.

Make sure your paddle is affixed in its holder and step aboard. It’s best to start on your knees to find your center and ensure balance before standing up. Grab your paddle and go find the fish!

Many setup options combine tackle racks, milk crates, coolers, or seats in any combination. There are no rules. The key is to pack only what you need and center it on your board.

SUP Fishing Tips and Safety

Practice

If there’s any doubt about how your paddle board will respond when loaded with gear or if you’ll be able to manage while hauling a cooler full of drinks - then practice.

Start in the shallows to find your balance on your knees before heading for deep waters. Rearrange your gear to find a comfortable balance, and once you’re standing with confidence, you’re ready to go fishing.

Secure Your Gear

Accidents happen, and everyone falls off at times. To prevent losing your gear at the bottom of the lake, ensure it is secured to your SUP before you launch. Check your riggings, mounts, and bungees to ensure all is tightly affixed to your board.

Weather

Weather can be a paddle boarder’s nightmare. Consider downloading a weather app on your phone to keep track of incoming storms or changing conditions. Wind is the enemy when paddle boarding, and you won’t get much fishing done if your SUP is blown toward shore. Monitor weather conditions for a more enjoyable day of SUP fishing.

Appropriate Stance

Man standing up on a SUP

When you plan to stand most of the trip while SUP fishing, make sure you are comfortable and won’t end up with a backache the next day. Stand with your feet shoulder width apart in the middle of the board.

Do not stand in a surfer’s stance with one foot in front of the other, or you'll be less balanced, and you’ll feel sore muscles the next day that you didn’t know existed.

Pack Drinks and Snacks

Paddle boarding involves a little work. When you’re paddling, fishing and the sun is beating down, don’t forget the drinks. Keep a water bottle within reach and throw some snacks in your dry bag.

When the fishing is good, the last thing you want to do is paddle to shore when your stomach growls.

FAQ’S

🏆 What is the best paddle board for fishing?

The ideal paddle board for fishing will be a wide, all around board that is stable with decent weight capacity so you can load it with gear. It will have action mounts to attach your fishing rod holders and a cup holder. Multiple D-rings provide bungee attachment points for storage space, anchor attachments, and even possible seat attachments, and more D-rings offer more potential gear.

Our top pick for our favorite fishing SUP is the GILI Meno 11’6 inflatable paddle board. The Meno is a wide inflatable paddle board that deflates to the size of a sleeping bag to hike to the most remote fishing spots.

The Meno has three Scotty mounts and 18 D-rings with large front and rear bungee cargo areas. You can attach your rod holder and cup holder to your board, bungee your tackle box and anchor, and fish all day on the large soft EVA deck pad to cushion your feet.

What’s even more perfect than the GILI Meno allowing for a great fishing setup is that it’s also a fantastic all around recreational paddle board. After you’re done fishing, grab your child or your dog and go for a float.


👍 What are the advantages of SUP fishing over a kayak?

Freedom is the biggest advantage of SUP fishing over a kayak. You can stand in a wide open space without being tucked inside the cockpit of a kayak, and you have plenty of room to cast, reel, and paddle. 

There’s a much better vantage point when fishing from a SUP because you stand high over the water to spot the best fishing habitat and underwater obstacles. Fishing from a stand up paddle board adds an extra layer of adventure that every fisherman should experience.


🏝️ Is an inflatable or hard paddle board better for SUP fishing?

Inflatable paddle boards have many advantages for SUP fishing compared to a hard board. The biggest perk is portability to any fishing location because it deflates to fit inside a backpack, Giving you the freedom to hike to a mountain stream or remote lake.

An inflatable paddle board also stores in a tiny space and transports in the trunk of your car without the need for storage sheds or roof racks. An inflatable paddle board is an excellent option for a stable all around board that can be rigged for fishing.


❓ How much you expect to pay for a fishing paddle board?

There is significant variability in the cost of paddle boards, but they can range anywhere from $500-1200. Inflatable paddle boards are less expensive than hard paddle boards.

Prices vary depending on the quality of the board’s construction, and the old adage holds true that you get what you pay for. When researching fishing paddle boards, look for a durable build that will last for years of use and not puncture on its first voyage.

Pat McCaw
Pat McCaw

Author, physician, mom and lover of all things outdoors. If there’s water or a hiking trail nearby, that's her happy place. Throw in family and a couple of dogs and it's paradise!


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