With warmer temperatures on the horizon, most outdoorsmen seriously begin hitting the bays and bayous with the arrival of spring.
But in Louisiana, these temperatures will quickly increase to uncomfortable levels unless you can find some shade.
Let’s face it, fishing is supposed to be a relaxing pastime, and fishing in the shade is always more relaxing than wetting a line in the hot sun.
Aboard the boat there are several ways to create shade, but I think the umbrella remains the most cost-efficient and practical solution.
Of course, quality fishing often slows down by mid-morning, but why head back to the launch with one species of fish or half your limit? Other types of fishing can be done throughout mid-day, and if you make it till the evening, the fishing frenzy usually heats up again.
To set up the umbrella in your boat, all you need is a strong bungee cord. I put the umbrella in any of the rod holders along the center console, then strap the umbrella’s pole to the center console hold bar for added support.
In my Boston Whaler, which doesn’t have a center console to strap the umbrella pole to, I use the normal weighted umbrella holder found in stores on the floor of the boat. Then I just strap the umbrella pole to one of the boat seat railings.
Plus, the umbrella is a relatively inexpensive solution, ranging in price from $40 to $200. For durability, I suggest avoiding the cheapest ones or wooden models.
Metal will usually last longer: I bought my aluminum-framed umbrella from Lowes for $70.
For portability, the umbrella simply can’t be beat. It can be taken down in two pieces and stored practically anywhere. Most will fit in the rod holdercompartment of a boat completely out of the way. A T-top also will be out of the way, but the folded down bimini always seems to create a hurdle when moving around the boat.
And when the bimini is in the upright position, casting becomes extremely limited with all the poles and straps set up along the gunnel. The straps and poles of the bimini also are a hassle when fighting a monster fish that circles around the boat, while the T-top or umbrella allows you to move anywhere in the boat unimpeded during the battle.
As for traveling, the T-top and bimini will allow you to travel on step while set up, but this slows down the boat (the T-top from the weight, the bimini from the wind resistance).
With an umbrella, it has to be cranked down when riding, but it can be left upright in the rod holder.
And while you might not have shade when riding with an umbrella, I’ve never heard of a person complain about the heat while the boat is moving and a breeze is blowing in your face.
When it comes to getting out of the rain, the umbrella is the best bet. Usually the rain is coming from an angle with the wind, which means anyone standing under a T-top or bimini will still get wet.
But the umbrella can be taken down to the shortest level and half-cranked to provide a small teepee-style tent to huddle under until the rain passes.
Shade in the boat can be usually found at only one spot with a T-top or bimini. And while a large bimini provides a larger area of shade, an umbrella can be moved to practically any rod holder on the boat to create shade anywhere in the vessel.
For a large shaded section try a 9-foot umbrella. And some models even have an adjustable angling feature to position the umbrella to face the sun.
Set-up time is quick with any bimini, but the umbrella is a tad quicker: with a few simple cranks, you’re in the shade cooling off.
Boat clearance is not an issue with a bimini or umbrella, but with a T-top it’s a huge deal. Many low bridges and train tracks will limit fishing areas and boat launches with a tall stationary T-top. Further, storing the boat in a garage is not an option with the T-top unless you have one seriously tall garage.
As for boat-to boat portability, the umbrella can be switched from boat to boat in an instant, while separate T-tops or biminis must be purchased for each boat.
I can bring my umbrella when joining a friend in his boat, or I can switch my umbrella from my bay boat to my 13-foot Whaler in a flash.
And another option is to create a rod holder on the back of a fishing chair to strap a smaller umbrella there for more comfort.
Getting out of the sun is very important to avoid sunburns and skin cancer, so please find any source of shade you can because continually slathering on sunscreen every couple hours gets tedious and expensive.
Most of the guys I told about my umbrella set-up believe they are too macho to be seen under such a contraption, but when I’m on the water from dawn until dusk, very few of these so-called ‘hardcore fishermen’ make it through the heat all day.
And even if you’re tough as nails, many times the boat is filled with women, children and dogs. It’s a shame when a fishing trip has to be cut short because one of them starts cooking in the sun.
My wife and dogs and make all-day fishing voyages with me during mid-summer without any problems. And nothing makes me happier than seeing her smiling face reeling in a big fish while sitting under that umbrella.