October 9 2020 – This review about Stiffy Push Poles has been updated throughout my career as a Key West flats fishing guide. I still use this push pole for my flats fishing charters. Works perfect on my Beavertail 17 ft Flats fishing boat.
It’s hard to write anything about a product with the name “Stiffy” without the reader’s mind going off on a tangent about some obscene gesture of the male human anatomy. Well, to those who want to have a bit of fun here, enjoy, but I want to tell you about a push pole that I have been using in the field professionally for 10 months now.
Updated 8/22/04 I have had this push pole since the fall of 02′ Fishing an average of 200 trips per year with my flats boat and using my Stiffy push pole every day. I have done NOTHING to it, it has not broken, cracked or peeled. Lately I am noticing a bit of fiberglass in my arm after a long day of poling. As far as I am concerned this push pole owes me no favors. Before my Stiffy I was in the market for push poles every 6 months.
I found out about Stiffy through a good guide friend of mine, Vaughn Cochran of Black Fly Outfitters. He told me that there was nothing better. Now, I got to tell ya, in push poles that leaves a ton of conquered area. First, I am pushing a larger skiff than most and I am twice the size of most guides on the water, so I can be very demanding of a stick. I decided to take Vaughn’s recommendation and try one out myself to see how long it would last.
My flats fishing and guiding requires that I pole for 6 hours on an 8 hour day. Permit is my specialty and we all know that poling is required to catch these critters. So, comfort, weight, power, bend, and staking are all things that I have to consider in my selection of a push pole.
My comparisons are with G-Loomis, Scott, Hybrid technologies, and Biscayne, none of which lasted longer than 6 months without failure of some sort. No need to go into details as these are fine push poles and may fair well on smaller, less demanding flats applications; but in my “real world” of flats fishing, day in and day out, rain or shine blowing 25 or flat calm and silent they just did not cut the mustard. Below is a list of things that have gone wrong with these others.
Delaminating- just plain coming unraveled. Breakage- well, it happens. Splinters- I hate that, gets all in your arms and makes you miserable. Happens from staking out and the sand wearing through outer layers of glass or graphite. Feral failure- Leakage or worse yet coming apart. Foot failure- pushing for a fish and foot just breaks.
The Stiffy handles my boat great. I have the hybrid 24 ft, really long by most standards, but I like to have the push behind me, not below me. Keep in mind I am also in a 20 ft boat, so the length is easy to stow.
High points of the Stiffy 24 Hybrid are many.
Ribbed design- the wraps that make the pole so strong are the same thing that (after I got accustomed to it) I love about my stick. There is no slippage. I do wear gloves to keep my hands in one piece. I have found that these ribs allow me to use whatever force I need to make an adjustment to my boat’s attitude without concern of my hands slipping. I recommend that new poles are lightly sanded at the last 4 ft to give better traction. It’s hard enough to keep a grip on a tough bottom without worrying about your hands slipping. I also find the ribs help me stake out and hold the bottom better with less depth of pole in the ground.
Stiffness- I just chuckle here. It is stiff till it needs to flex to prevent breakage. I have been in some indescribable poling conditions and just stuffed this stick in the ground to stake out. Damn near got pulled off the platform. Poling, this stick (once you get used to it) will take all your energy and put it to maneuvering, not into an energy sapping flex. I poled a 20 ft Lake and Bay Flats boat for years with the Stiffy Push Pole.
Price- Very competitive with other manufacturers for what I feel is a better product.
Because it is very stiff I have had a hard time keeping pole holders from bending to the push pole while stored. I have replaced three sets so far. Not even close to being a consideration; just thought I would mention it as I had to say something in this section of the review.
In closing, I have found the Stiffy push pole to be a vital part of my success on the flats. It out performs the best names in the industry with strength and reliability at a great value. It’s not cheap, but neither is quality.