Pros - The biggest advantage to wade fishing is stealth. Anglers are able to quietly cover water. And, since they can control their rate of movement, they are able blanket an area with casts. This is particularly helpful when fish are a bit tight-lipped or when repeated casts are necessary to get a fish to strike. For this same reason, waders are also more capable of targeting specific fish and/or structure. If the bite is hot, they can stay in the same place and keep casting and catching. The ability to stay stationary when necessary also makes it easier to work finesse or slow-sinking baits. One overlooked advantage to being able to stand still, is that wade fishermen can fish slowly and thoroughly even when it's windy or the water is rough.
Wade fishermen can also fish shallower than any boat is able to float. Whether this is a shallow shoreline or a deep hole behind a shallow bar, wade fishermen can access water that's off-limits to boaters. This is a big plus when fish are feeling pressured in easily accessible locales.
Cons - Probably the biggest downside to wade fishing is the inability to cover vast amounts of water. This means it is essential to pick you spot wisely. Make sure there are plenty of "fishy" signs before hopping out of the boat. Also, make sure you're not in a high traffic area. Boats may running by and ruining a productive wade happens far too often. Try to find an area away from the main boating traffic. The lack of mobility is a real drawback in that it hard to make a move if original spot doesn't work out or a boat burns it. It also makes it tough for fishermen to "give chase" to moving fish or flocks of gulls.
Another issue to overcome is the difficulty of wading over mucky or muddy bottom. Wade fishermen need to be in good physical conditioning, but this is particularly true when working over soft-bottom areas. It can also be difficult to move silently when wading soft-bottom, which somewhat negates the stealthy advantage of wade fishing. Depth is also a limiting factor for wade fishermen. A few feet of water is all that can realistically be worked well on foot.
A final limitation for wade fishermen is they can only carry small amount of tackle and gear. This means it is absolutely necessary to plan carefully and pack efficiently. Far too often an angler has traipsed off to work a flat afoot only to realize he forgot an important item on the boat after wading a half mile. Wise waders have learned the hard way to double check their stores before deploying for the day.
Recommended specialty equipment for wade fishermen: Although you'll hear plenty of old salts say they're "for sissies," I strongly recommend stingray leggings or boots, such as those manufactured by ForEverlast. Shuffling your feet does help keep stingrays away, but it's not foolproof. For one thing, it is often hard to shuffle over mucky or muddy bottom. Secondly, when a school of tailing fish is just beyond casting range, it's easy to forget to shuffle in your haste to get within range. Wearing stingray leggings provides peace of mind and allows you to focus on the fish, not what you're doing with your feet.
As mentioned above, one of the drawbacks to wade fishing is the inability to be "fully loaded" with tackle and gear. You have to pack efficiently. Certain pieces of equipment will help in that process. A well designed wade fishing tackle belt, preferably with a pouch for a small utility box, good back support and plenty of tie rings, is indispensable if you're going to spend much time out of the boat. The best models include a rod holder and two other items you'll need - a floating stringer and needle nose pliers in a belt sheath. A floating stringer is an absolute must to prevent a stringer of fish from wrapping around your body or legs. The idea is to allow the fish to trail far enough behind so that you're out of harm's way should a shark decide to dine on your catch. Hook removal is a little more difficult in the water than on a boat. A good set of needle nose pliers or forceps is a must. If using pliers make sure you have a sheath to keep them secure on your belt. Forceps can be clipped to your shirt, waders or pants.
Pros - The biggest advantage to drift fishing is the ability to cover lots of water. Anglers can also work deeper water from a boat than they can on foot. And, drift fishermen can work over mucky bottom more easily. But, regardless of the depth or bottom composition, the simple fact a drifting boat can cover lots of water quickly is a big benefit when attempting to find fish.
Mobility is the other obvious advantage from staying in the boat. This can benefit anglers in several ways. To begin with it's easy to move from spot to spot. So, if your first stop doesn't pan out, it's simple enough to go to spot 'B.' Secondly, it makes it possible keep up with fast moving schools or flocks of birds. While waders may be able to pluck a fish or two from a passing school before it gets beyond casting distance, boaters can stay on the school and continue to catch as long as the fish continue to bite.
Another big advantage to fishing out of a boat is the ability to carry lots of gear and tackle on board. Because of the vast amount of tackle that can be stowed on even the smallest skiff, it's possible to have several rods rigged and plenty of backup tackle in order to be ready for whatever situation the day presents.
Cons - The most basic drawbacks to drift fishing are you can't get too shallow and drifting is a little bit noisier than wading due to hull slap, which is the noise created by the water slapping against the hull of a drifting boat.
Beyond those two basic limitations to fishing out of a drifting boat, the majority of the drawbacks are weather related. On a dead-calm day, drifting anglers are basically stuck in place. As the wind picks up, boats drift faster. At some point, however, they begin drifting too fast. It is difficult to adequately cover are area with casts when drifting too quickly. And, you tend to pass over productive areas without getting a chance to fully take advantage of a "hot" bite. A high drift speed makes it particularly difficult to work finesse or slow moving baits. Additionally, when the bay surface gets choppy, just standing and casting in a drifting boat can be a bit of a challenge.
Recommended specialty equipment for drift fishermen - The single biggest drawback to drift fishing is moving too quickly over productive water in high wind. To combat this, boat-bound fishermen should invest in a good drift sock or sea anchor. Drift socks are essentially funnels that drag behind the boat and slow its rate of drift. Drift socks are rated for boat size (16 to 20 feet, etc). Serious drift fishermen should consider buying two socks - one that is rated for their boat size and one that is rated for the next size up. The oversized sock is handy on really wind days. In addition to slowing your drift, socks will also add some stability to the boat in choppy conditions. Another good piece of equipment to have on board when drift fishing is a long-handled landing net. Having the extra reach of the longer handle will make it easier to scoop fish when leaning over the gunnels, particularly in rough or deep water.
When stacking up and weighing the pros and cons of the two most popular forms of inshore fishing in Texas, it is evident wading and drifting are actually nice compliments to one another. The strengths of wading are the weaknesses of drifting and vice versa. Although most everyone has a preference for one style or the other, becoming proficient at both types of fishing will enable you to be more productive by being able to put yourself in the best position to be successful based on the prevailing conditions.
Among other things, the Lone Star State is known for its legions of dedicated inshore wade fishermen. However, not every Texas saltwater angler wade fishes. In fact, some never leave the boat. There are some bays in which most fishermen wade and others where virtually no one gets wet. But, every bay system along the Texas coastal curve is conducive to both wading and drift fishing. The key is knowing the pros and cons to both approaches and wisely employing the right one at the right time
Wade Fishing versus Drift Fishing