ISLE Sportsman Review: Fishing From a High-End Paddle Board
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Editor’s Note: The team at ISLE provided us with a Sportsman paddle board and accessories to sample. All items have since been returned. This review is our team’s independent analysis of the board. We may receive a small commission if you choose to purchase this board, but Premier Angler was not compensated for this review.
ISLE Sportsman Review: Fishing from a High-End Paddle Board
ISLE has built a reputation in recent years for producing high-level paddle boards. Recreation-lovers have enjoyed models like the Pioneer, Grom, Explorer, and Cruiser.
What we wanted to know, however, is whether you can actually fish from one of these boards…
Setting Up Your Board
Spoiler alert: You aren’t going to receive a fully inflated, 11.5-foot paddle board in the mail – and thank goodness. When fully inflated, this thing is sturdy and sizeable. The fact that it is inflatable also makes it fairly portable.
I was able to take the ISLE Sportsman out a few times and navigated a long-and-winding creek that flows into the Ohio River. While it was much easier to inflate the board from dry land and launch from shore, we also took the unit and accessories onto our 19-foot deep-v boat and, admittedly, things got a little tight once the board was inflated.
Now, here are a few considerations:
- We could have easily docked the boat and inflated from shore if the goal was to take the Sportsman to a specific location. Assuming there is a safe place to do so, there should be absolutely no impediment to bringing a deflated Sportsman and accessories onto your boat with you. Even if you are fishing from a shorter boat, there should be room to store the cargo so long as the boat is not already overly congested.
- Out of sheer curiosity, we also wanted to see how the 11.5-foot board would fit on the boat. It was a little tight, but at no point did it become too cumbersome to move around. We would not have wanted to ride around all day with the inflated paddle board, but setup was fairly easy. If you’re on a boat under 16.5-feet, though, we wouldn’t recommend inflating from the water.
ISLE provides a sturdy pump with foot pads that makes inflation fairly easy. The paddle that comes with the craft is also nice but can be a bit tricky to assemble and adjust at first. The directions were pretty clear, though, and there wasn’t much fuss to assembling the board. We would recommend assembling everything at least once before your initial launch, though, just to make sure you are familiar and comfortable with the setup.
There is a fin that attaches to the bottom of the board. When assembling from a boat (or if you are setting the Sportsman up by yourself), this can be a bit cumbersome. With two people, though, it is pretty easy as the inflated board is still quite light. Aside from this, everything else related to the setup was fairly easy.
ISLE also provided a rod holder that easily fasted to a designated slot on the board. There is actually room for three rod holders on the Sportsman. If I was going to be fishing from this unit regularly, I would definitely make the investment and fill all three slots to avoid the hassle of trying to re-rig more than necessary.
Plus, running three rods from the craft would look pretty cool…
Getting Adjusted to the Board
Having a boat spoils you. There’s no other way around it.
That said, having kayaked for years, I found myself repeatedly saying to that I preferred the Sportsman to a kayak in many ways as an overall watercraft.
Perhaps the biggest pro for me in that regard is that I could put myself where I wanted on the board with little or no hassle.
If I wanted to stand, I could stand. Likewise, if I wanted to kneel and give my feet a break, the board was sturdy enough to make this transition easy. At one point, I even sat with my legs straddling the side of the board and could still cast and paddle with no issues.
The board is also very easy to navigate. I was initially concerned that I might struggle to put (and keep) myself where I wanted on the water, but within a couple minutes, I started appreciating the maneuverability of the craft.
That said, navigating the board does require a certain degree of body control. Even with a 350 lb. capacity, this might not be the craft of choice for someone who gets fatigued easily, struggles with balance issues, or is just beginning their fishing journey.
The Sportsman does come equipped with a handy foot strap that can be worn if you are concerned about possibly falling from the craft.
One potential downside is that standing for long periods of time can be a bit taxing on the feet as you will be using your full body to maintain balance. Alternating between sitting, standing, and kneeling worked well, though.
Fishing from the ISLE Sportsman
I am a decent-sized guy, but casting and retrieving was pretty easy. Years of experience on the water definitely helped, though, and beginners might want to take a bit more time to get acclimated to the Sportsman before jumping right into fishing.
The Sportsman comes with straps on the front that could store plastic tackle boxes or even a smaller tackle bag. This feature would come in handy in the event that you need to keep tools or other tackle with you.
The length of the board was nice as I was able to remain in the center and keep the paddle, foot strap, and rod holder far enough away that nothing ever felt restrictive. In many ways, I preferred fishing from the Sportsman more than I would from, say, a 12-foot Jon boat.
Because the board is light and easy to maneuver, I was also to set myself up for some nice casting pretty much anywhere on the creek. The board is sturdy enough that I did not notice any loss in accuracy and as long as the water was fairly still, I didn’t drift too much.
Now, there are some situations and settings where I would not want to fish from the Sportsman:
- Rivers: I steered clear of the Ohio River because trying to fish in potentially heavy current would not be fun. Even as a safety precaution, I would want to stay on waters where I was less likely to run into strong environment threats.
- Recreational Lakes: I prefer to fish bodies of water with lower-HP limits anyway and that would be no different on the Sportsman. Despite its sturdiness and smooth handling, competing from space on the water with speedboats and jet skis doesn’t seem like much fun.
The ISLE Sportsman is a fun recreational watercraft. It was fairly easy to set up considering its size and, for folks who enjoy having a quality product with a handful of efficient features, it is hard to argue against making the investment in this board. This is especially true if you are wanting a change from the world of kayaks.
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