Boat Shoes: Good Casting Starts with Firm Footing

Legendary bass pro Gary Klein once told me that fish tend to be a lot dumber than the angler at the other end of a long cast. That is no doubt true whether you’re zinging a drop-shot rig off a bass boat, or hoofing streamer flies from the front of a skiff.

But what a lot of anglers fail to understand is that good fishing (and good casting) are literally built on solid footing. The shoes you wear in a boat can make a dramatic difference, not only in terms of performance, but also in terms of safety.

Having spent years in different shoes on many boats, I’ve realized there are some things an angler definitely wants to avoid.

For starters, if you wear shoes with black soles on most fishing boats (especially those with nice, clean white decks) you run a serious risk of drawing the ire of the skipper. Don’t wear shoes that will mark up a boat deck. Common sense will tell you what works and what doesn’t at a glance. You want shoes that have a nice tread pattern that is designed for boat decks, like these pictured here.

If you are a fly fisherman, you don’t want deck shoes with laces. The loose coils of your fly line will get caught in the laces as you cast. In other words, at the moment when you’re targeting a fish, you don’t want to get tangled in your laces.

If you plan on fishing in very warm weather, you don’t want shoes that are too heavy, or made of leather. The best boat shoes I have found are made of light, flexible, quick-drying fabrics that also block out the sun.

Some of the biggest sunburn mistakes I have made involve wearing flip-flops on a boat deck. Or those ported rubber slip-ons. They work great in terms of firm footing on a slippery deck, but there’s something particularly embarrassing about having sunburn polka-dots on the tops of your feet.

The thing is, you don’t have to spend an arm and a leg for good deck shoes. And sometimes the best boat shoes aren’t really designed as boat shoes at all. A pair of throwback Chuck Taylors have traveled near and far with me, and I’ve always felt firmly planted to the decks of the boats I’m on.

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Kirk Deeter

Kirk Deeter

Kirk Deeter is an editor-at-large with Field & Stream, and he co-wrote The Little Red Book of Fly Fishing with the late Charlie Meyers.