My fishing tip this month is going to be a bit different than those of my WesternBass.com colleagues. So different, in fact, that it doesn't even involve fishing. Rather, it is about the single most important piece of equipment that you will ever own, your Personal Floatation Device (PFD) or Life Vest, as they are more commonly called. Without question your PFD is the most overlooked and taken for granted piece of equipment that you own. But I assure you from experience, no piece of equipment is more important. Were it not for my PFD, I would not be here today. Here's why:
While heading back to Wahweap Marina on the second day of practice for the November 1997 BASSMASTER Western Invitational tournament at Lake Powell, I hit a submerged reef while traveling at 67 MPH. Although I was not ejected from my boat, the force of the impact literally launched my boat high into the air. But like all good things, even my unplanned "Evel Knievel" impression had to come to an end; a very abrupt end. My boat actually submarined nose first into the water at a 45-degree angle and dove to well beyond the outboard motor. The force of the water against my body during this nosedive sucked me out of the boat. Fortunately (as always), I was wearing my PFD and had my kill switch attached to it. Unfortunately (like many other anglers frequently do), I only had my PFD secured by its zipper and had not snapped its three nylon straps.
After what seemed like an eternity, I finally broke the surface of the 51 degree water and was very happy to see my trusty Ranger Boat floating upright and level right next to me. I then realized that only my right arm was in my PFD. The force of the water against me had unzipped the zipper and had ripped my PFD off of my left arm. It wasn't until this very instant that I realized just how close to death I had actually come. I pulled myself onto my boat and immediately turned on the bilge pumps. In twenty minutes, all of the water was out of my boat.
I was extremely fortunate that several fellow competitors had witnessed the accident and came to my assistance. They provided me with dry clothing and helped to collect my tackle that had been thrown from the boat. (I actually lost very little). I then drove my boat back to Wahweap Marina.
Aside from a severely bruised ego, my only injuries were a sprained wrist and some bruised ribs. The damage to my boat was only cosmetic.
This near tragic incident is, by far, the single greatest lesson that I have ever learned in our beloved sport, and I thank God (every day) that I am here today to be able to share it with you.
- ALWAYS wear a PFD, even on practice days. A boating mishap can occur at any time. Don't let tournament rules dictate whether or not you wear a PFD. Wear it because it can save your life. Make sure that all of your passengers are wearing a PFD – ESPECIALLY CHILDREN!
- ALWAYS secure all zippers AND snaps on your PFD. I guarantee you that you'll never catch me without all of them secured again!
- ALWAYS have the kill switch attached to the boat driver's PFD. (They work!).
- ALWAYS carry a change of clothes in your boat. (At least a set of sweats, shoes, and socks). Keep them in a waterproof bag.
- ALWAYS keep your wallet and cell phone in a waterproof bag. (I use a Zip Lock bag).
Thanks for your time and always remember: "The shortest distance between two points is a reef!"