What does a girl who is a service manager for a marine dealership, who spends all her time fussing over boats and motors, do to unwind after a hard day at work? She goes fishing on a paddleboard.
Look behind the service desk or out in the boat yard at Palmetto Boat Center in Greenville, and you’ll find Amy Gentry holding court. She loves talking engine parts and repairs and does her share of turning wrenches on power boats, but given a choice, the 5-foot-2 1/2 blonde will pick her 9-foot-6 Invert paddle board when it comes time to fish.
“I grew up surfing, which is obviously where I got started with the whole board thing, and I grew up fishing. It just evolved from there,” she said. “I put two and two together. Sight-fishing is so cool when you’re standing up and everything’s quiet, so I was like ‘There’s not any reason why I can’t fish when I paddle.’”
Unlike fishing from the deck of a bass boat, which she does frequently, or even casting from her kayak, footwork and balance play a big part in whether she gets a good hookset when a fish hits or whether she goes swimming.
“You have to make what I call a ‘deliberate’ hookset from a paddleboard,” said Gentry. “That means you have to have your feet in the right spot so you can maintain balance when hauling back on the rod. I have missed bites because a fish hit when I wasn’t in position to set the hook, and more than once I have gone in the water setting the hook or having a good fish pull me off balance.”
Actually catching fish is not the only hazard of standing up on a paddleboard. Fishing during the summer means more boat traffic. Wind, weather and current will push a paddleboard in a number of unintended directions. Just like fishing from a kayak, standing up is a bonus, but not always a necessity.
“If there’s a strong headwind when I’m paddling, I will either hunch over or get to my knees,” said Gentry. “As for fishing, there are plenty of times I’ve been pulled off the board, I guess that’s just part of the challenge. When I’m trying to land a fish, I’ll always get down on the board to maintain balance.”
Gentry said on a nice, calm afternoon, she has as much or more range on her paddleboard as any paddler has in a canoe or kayak. She regularly paddles a 5- to 6-mile round trip whenever she’s on the water. That goes hand-in-hand with her particular style of fishing, which is topwater action for surface feeding or schooling fish.
“I do a lot of topwater fishing,” she said. “It just makes sense. It’s easier to fish topwater with no depth finder. I can kind of keep up with several spots that are good for my style of fishing. I’ll paddle around and check out those spots and look for bait. I don’t have the range of a big bass boat, so I kind of have to fish a big lake like it’s a small lake, because I can’t cover a lot of area.”
Another reason she likes topwater fishing from her paddleboard is because space is limited; there’s no room to carry many rods to fish a bunch of patterns. Lake Hartwell is her home lake; she said it’s as good a topwater lake as any in South Carolina. A couple of rods with topwater baits already tied on, a small bag or fanny pack for a few spare plugs, a life jacket and she’s good to go.
“I can only carry a limited amount of gear,” she said. “Standard for me is a small bag and one or two rods and that’s it. But on the positive side, because I work in the boat business and spend all day talking with bass anglers, I get a lot of fishing information from customers.”
Gentry fishes from her paddleboard about eight to 10 months a year. Her cut-off is when water temperatures are in the 60-degree range; even then, she’s extremely picky about the days she goes out, looking for the right wind and weather conditions. She’s not much into the wet-suit scene.
Often, she will add a bonus week or two to her paddleboard fishing by making a trip to south Florida during December just before boat-show season gets cranked up. She loves to fish for bass in freshwater but admits she has saltwater in her veins and loves to paddle or pole the flats around the Florida Keys, sight-fishing for nearly anything that swims.
“When it’s 80 degrees and the water is only a foot or two deep, I love to go sight-fishing for snook or reds, and I catch a lot of sheepshead, too,” she said. “I can just step off without going in head first.”
“The paddleboard is a great workout. It builds up a lot of core strength, so I get my exercise while I fish in a style that few people ever try,” she said. “I can throw my board in the truck, and whenever I feel the need to hit the water, she gone.”