Choosing the right length is another factor when buying a push pole. Variables such as the height of poling platforms or towers, along with the normal depth and bottom composition of the water fished, should be considered. If a boat is equipped with a platform, 18 to 20 feet is the minimum recommended length for depths less than five feet. Soft mud and deeper water necessitate longer poles. The longer the pole, the more the poler can "walk" the pole down without repositioning. In other words, more hand-over-hand movement with a single plant means more propulsion with less effort. Less effort means less fatigue and noise, which equals more fish.
"Generally I tell customers to take the boat length, add 3 feet and then tweak for specific fishing conditions," says Joe Welbourn, owner of Carbon Marine. The company builds carbon- fiber push poles using sections and ferrules that are factory-assembled for customers in Florida. Clients in other states are shipped the pieces and epoxy adhesive to reduce the high freight costs of shipping a one-piece pole.
"In the past, sectional poles often leaked or broke at the joints because the end-user didn't know how or failed to properly put the pole together," Welbourn explains. "We build our components to very tight tolerances and include detailed assembly instructions if the pole isn't assembled by the factory. Assembly takes about 15 minutes, and all the epoxy is pre-measured to make everything simple."
Because high-modulus graphite is more brittle and less forgiving than fiberglass or composite, both Shaw and Welbourn recommend not staking off with carbon-fiber poles. Staking off involves sticking the pole point into the bottom and then tying the boat to the pole to hold the craft in place. Sommerlatte also cautions that muddy bottoms with broken shell can chip or crack graphite poles, which can lead to breaks. "Most push poles break because of accidents or abuse," Welbourn says.
Push-pole tips are usually nylon, although some are available with stainless-steel spikes to keep from slipping on hard bottom or coral. Pole feet are mostly nylon as well. Sommerlatte believes the simple Y-fork provides the quietest entry into the water. Triangle-shaped feet or those with a broader base don't sink in soft mud as much.