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Walk the walk

12/14/2009

ESPN Outdoors Saltwater Christmas features the "must do" saltwater fishing excursions along the coasts of the United States. Between now and year's end, we'll present a bucket list of fishing trips any angler would love to receive.

Effective wading is more than walking in the water. For best results, mind these points:

Wader wisdom

Neoprene waders of 3- or 5-millimeter thickness work for Florida wading. Just remember you can always roll down the tops of heavy waders, but you can't make thin waders any warmer.

For West Central Florida's soft, muddy backwaters, go with stocking-foot waders slipped into wading boots, rather than boot-foot waders. When mud grips the latter, feet tend to slip and compromised balance leads to awkward moments.

Stocking foot waders are easier to roll up and store, but if rocks and sand slip inside your footwear, discomfort will impair your movement — and possibly wear holes in your waders.

Gravel guards help eliminate this vexation, as do tight laces. If boot foot waders are your only option, modify them for mud resistance by wrapping heavy-duty rubber bands, duct tape, or strips of inner tube around your ankles. Same thing works if you slip the classic white rubber deck boots over stocking foot waders.

Good form

Ease your trek by aiming for the firm sandy spots and avoid soft, muddy grass beds as much as possible. Don't go out of your way and lengthen your walk, but utilizing firm bottom along your course provides better traction.
Keep your knees slightly bent and move with a sliding motion rather than lifting your feet for each step. Lean forward to establish momentum and, with the water supporting you, skate your way to and from the fishing spot.

Water level

Maintain a good six inches from the waterline to the top edge of your waders. You won't get a lot of wave action in the wading zones, but it may be tempting to pursue fish by crossing a deep cut or wading to the edge of a channel.

Filling your waders with water could be doubly disastrous, with chilly water cause hypothermia and added weight anchoring you in a very bad spot. This is why experienced waders always keep a knife handy so they can quickly cut themselves free of the neoprene if the unthinkable happens.

Travel light

Commit to a handful of lures and limit your tackle to one small tray or Ziploc bag held in a chest pack or stuffed inside your waders. One rod is usually enough, but a second keeps two different baits ready.

Wading belts usually have loops along the back edge for holding a spare rod. You can fashion your own from a lumbar support belt, or just stick the spare in the back of your waders.

Creature comforts

Don't forget your sunscreen, water and a light snack (trail mix, granola bars). An insulated base layer like Under Armor and layered clothing allows you to leave external pieces on the boat as the day warms.

Keep in Touch

The buddy system promotes wading security, while extending your scouting range. Cell phones, VHF radios, or Walkie Talkies keep wading partners in touch and links you to folks on shore in the event of an emergency.

On that note, leaving the where/when details with reliable landside contacts (similar to a boater's float plan) adds another level of security.