Your cart

Pro Tips: How to row a drift boat

Drift boats are synonymous with river fishing. These flat-bottom vessels have become the go-to boats for anglers, hunters and outdoor-adventurers due to their maneuverability, open-air design and ability to access water not navigable by wading. Rowing these boats, however, is not always as intuitive as it seems. We’ve broken down a few key points for you to remember the next time you grab the oars.

Pull, don’t push

Just the rowing machines you see at the gym, the best way to propel a drift boat is by the “pulling” the oars (pulling your hands towards your chest) in smooth, long strokes. Very rarely will you ever want to push the oars (pushing hands away from your chest), other than for the sake of orienting the boat. Make sure to use your legs and back to generate powerful strokes, as relying on solely your arms is the quickest way to fatigue.

Don’t get broadside

One of the easiest ways to lose control of your drift boat is to get broadside in the current. Steering is much harder when broadside, the boat will pick up speed very quickly and contact with rocks or other obstacles can be catastrophic to the boat and its passengers. When crossing from one side of the river to the other, keep the stern of your boat at a 45-degree angle to the current to prevent from getting swept sideways.

Avoid the shoreline

For any novice rower, one of the best pieces of advice is to keep your drift boat in the center of the river. The areas of rivers that typically present the most danger to drift boats – rocks, fallen trees and debris, often occur closer the shoreline than the center of the river. Furthermore, the middle of the river will have a steadier current than the shore which will help for maintaining proper speed and direction.

Take the inside tract

When navigating turns, always stay on the inside tract of the bend. Due to the physics of centrifugal force - logs, brush and debris floating downstream will almost always end up on the outside of the river bend. Staying more tight to the corner will help you avoid these snags. 

Look down before you drop anchor

A good rule of thumb is to only drop the anchor if you can see river bottom. Hidden boulders or rock piles underwater can be dangerous, as the anchor can get wedged between rocks. A stuck anchor can capsize a drift boat even in surprisingly weak current.

 Photos via Cheeky Endorsed Guide Curtis Hall.



  • Cheeky Fishing

    Hey Brady, glad you enjoyed the post and thanks for the feedback! An article about reading water and how to select the appropriate drift boat based on river types would be a great post! Stay tuned!

  • BRady O Neil.

    Good tips
    Where can I find more info on rowing and reading water. Info on selecting the proper drift boat for certain river types?

    Upper /lower Sac, Trask, Wilson, Snake, Madison, Yellowstone river last year.

    Thanks for any help or direction you can offer.

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published