Fishing From the Back of the Boat

by Andrew A. Cox

With the warm days beginning this month and into next month, the fishing season returns in earnest. Even though I have my own boats, I enjoy fishing with others and will often occupy the back of the boat while fishing from a friend’s vessel. Unfortunately, over the years when fishing from the rear of the boat, I notice that often my partner in the front of the boat will catch more fish. I will use the same lures, and retrieves but my front of the boat partner would still catch more fish.

After some study, I found that this phenomena is not unusual. An obvious reason is that the front angler has first shot at the prime fishing spots if throwing to or close to the bank or structure. Angles of the lure as it is retrieved will be different in the water column and impacted by the speed of the boat as it moves through the water or propelled forward via a trolling motor. The lure depth will be different from the front and back anglers’ presentations.

There are several tips for back seat anglers that I have gleaned from my study and experience:

  • Accept the fact that the front angler will catch more fish; that is the price you pay to fish with a friend or a more experienced angler. You may learn many important fishing lessons through observation of a more experienced angler.
  • Quit beating up on yourself. Those deregoratory self-remarks destroy your confidence which detracts from your fishing.
  • Usually fishing the same lure as the front seat angler is the kiss of death when fishing from the back of the vessel. Choose baits that you have confidence and continue to use them from the back of the boat.
  • From the back of the boat, fish lures deeper and slower, targeting fish that your front partner missed.
  • Set up a system where you and your partner switch fishing positions over the course of the fishing day. If you fish the back of the boat during the morning, you have the front during the afternoon. A downside of switching boat angling positions is that the front angler many times has to operate the trolling motor.

A recent angling trip to Lake West Point with a long time fishing friend illustrated some of the points made above. My long time angling friend likes to fish mostly shallow water, targeting grass, weeds or bank structure. My friend was throwing his usual assortment of buzzbaits and soft plastics to shallow water targets even though the lake’s level was down several feet. He had some success in catching some spotted bass. I was using a tight lining jig approach with a hair jig. This was a much slower approach, using light line, and fishing somewhat deeper water. I indeed caught a few spotted bass, but caught substantial numbers of hybrid and striped bass, much more than my long time fishing buddy. Sticking with the hair jig fished slowly and deeper paid off over the course of the fishing day with similar if not more positive results.

Hopefully some of these tips will pay off for you when being a back seat boat angler. Be ever observant and do not be afraid to try different techniques from your front angling friend.

Author’s Note: Dr. Andrew Cox is a contributing writer to outdoor publications and newspapers. He is a member of the Georgia Outdoor Writer’s Association. He has been fishing the waters of Georgia, Alabama, and north Florida for over forty years. Dr. Cox financially supports his fishing habits as Professor Emeritus at Troy University, Phenix City, Alabama. He may be contacted at