Wondering How to Fish from a Boat? Key Tips for Success

By Debbie Hanson

Mar 17, 2023

Summary of tips on how to fish from a boat successfully in a lake. Factors that contribute to boosting catch rates, proper boat positioning, boat etiquette

Are you a new boat owner who is wondering how to fish from a boat? If so, there are some tips to keep in mind when it comes to finding the best spots in a lake, controlling the boat, positioning the boat, and etiquette on the water.

How to Fish from a Boat in a Lake

Learn about the skills that contribute to learning how to fish from a boat successfully in a lake, which will maximize the time you spend on the water.

Use Your Sonar to Find the Best Spots

Finding spots that have a high likelihood of holding fish is an important skill to develop when learning how to catch fish from a boat. Many game fish (such as bass and walleye) are ambush predators that gravitate toward structure such as rocks, wood, vegetation, changes in depth or bottom topography, or boat docks. Look for these types of areas in a lake using the sonar or fish finder on your boat. If you don’t have electronics on your boat, you can also use online satellite maps to pinpoint spots that are likely to hold fish, such as ledges or creeks.


Approach a Spot with Stealth and Consideration

When approaching a fishing spot, reduce your speed or come off plane at a reasonable distance and use a trolling motor to quietly position your boat (this is particularly important in shallow water). These days, there are many shallow water anchors and trolling motor “spot lock” technologies that allow you to hold position near a fishing spot while keeping a low sound profile with little noise. Avoid slamming boat hatches or the livewell lid when approaching or while at your fishing spot.

Avoid Crowding Other Boats or Anglers

Whether you’re wondering how to bass fish from a boat or how to walleye fish from a boat, one primary rule of etiquette is universal -- keep your distance by leaving ample room between you and other boats. Give other fishing boats a wide berth when passing and avoid passing on the side of the boat where anglers have lines in the water. Two hundred to three hundred feet is a fair amount of distance, one hundred feet at minimum. In addition, come up with a plan for the day that includes several fishing spots. If you find a spot already occupied, move on to a different spot. When you find another boat in a spot first, common courtesy dictates that you allow them to fish there without interfering.


How to Position Your Boat When Lake Fishing

You might be wondering how far you should position your boat from any structure? When learning how to fish for bass from a boat in shallow Florida lakes, for example, stay at least 10 to 20 yards from the structure. You should also pay attention to wind speed and direction to make the best decision about where to set up before you or your anglers make a cast. Position the boat so that the wind is at your back when casting since having the wind in your face will make casting much more challenging. This can be of particular importance if you have anglers on board who are learning how to fly fish from a boat because of the casting techniques that are often required.


Do you have other questions about boating or how to fish from a boat? You can find additional information about how to get started boating.

Debbie Hanson
Debbie Hanson
Debbie Hanson is an award-winning outdoor writer, women’s sport fishing advocate, IGFA world record holder, and freshwater guide living in Southwest Florida. Hanson’s written work has appeared in publications such as Florida Game & Fish Magazine, BoatUS Magazine, and USA Today Hunt & Fish. To learn more about her work, visit shefishes2.com or follow her on Instagram @shefishes2.