March 18, 2014 by David A. Brown
Numb fingers or the glazed look of a mental checkout - hard to say which is worse, but both can doom a fishing trip.
Thus far, the 2014 fishing season has tested anglers' cold-weather tolerance more than any season of recent memory. It has included snow days in Texas (day two of the Rayovac FLW Series Texas Division season-opener at Sam Rayburn Reservoir), tournament cancellations throughout the Walmart Bass Fishing League circuit and a two-day opening round at the Walmart FLW Tour event at Lake Hartwell in which pros dealt with temperatures in the 30s, rain (and possibly sleet), winds in excess of 20 mph and even fog.
If you're fishing for fun, you always have the option of staying home during bad-weather days. Tournament anglers don't have that luxury. They must deal with the elements or risk missing a payday or dropping in the angler-of-the-year standings.
"Everybody has to deal with the same conditions, so you just prepare for it and do the best you can," adds 2012 Tour Rookie of the Year Clent Davis.
We asked Davis and other Walmart FLW Tour pros for advice on how they maintain their performance during inclement conditions.
Andy Morgan - Stay ahead of the elements
Morgan's best advice is to cut off the cold and rain before it hits, rather than trying to fight it off once the shivers have set in. He keeps his rain hood up even between showers for warmth. He also wears a stocking cap and keeps several dry, warm backups handy. For gloves, Morgan likes Under Armour ColdGear gloves because they fit tight and lock in heat. They're not waterproof, so an occasional change-out is needed. Morgan packs multiple pairs of gloves, along with a dry towel for wet trips.
"Once you get cold, you start to lose your desire to do well," adds Morgan. "You have to keep yourself in the game because once you get cold, you just go down the tube."
Clent Davis - Helmet up
To facilitate vision, while also preventing the heat-sapping vexation of a wet head, Davis wears a high-quality motorcycle helmet when driving the boat. He also keeps a full change of clothes packed in a dry bag. In case of an accidental dunking or complete submersion, dry clothes can offer much more than comfort - they can literally spell the difference between recovery and tragedy.
"When I'm home during the off-season, I make sure I go out fishing on some cold, wet days to stay conditioned to it," Davis says. "During a tournament, it really doesn't bother me. I'm there to pay my bills, and I just worry about catching fish. If you start worrying about the cold, you're done. Just keep your eyes on the prize - that next fish."
Cody Meyer - Add latex gloves
Meyer's focal point for warmth is his hands. Under his all-weather gloves, he'll use latex medical gloves, which adhere to his hands like a wet suit to lock in heat. Beyond that, he says a little perspective helps him keep his head in the game.
"I just fish hard and envision myself catching five fish," says Meyer, who recently caught his 50th consecutive Walmart FLW Tour limit, a record. "You just have to remember that, despite the miserable weather, you're still doing something you love."
Rich Dalbey - Add layers
The Texas pro Dalbey grew up in Northern latitudes and is accustomed to the cold so much so that he doesn't wear gloves unless temperatures fall below freezing, because even thin gloves limit his ability to detect subtle strikes and increase the chances that he'll snag the gloves on a treble hook.
He protects his core with Under Armour base layer garments, which lock in heat and keep him warm without needing to pile on so many layers that he can't move. His feet stay toasty inside waterproof insulated boots. Keeping feet dry is just as important as keeping them warm, because once they're wet, they're bound to get cold.
Randall Tharp - Invest in outer layers
For the defending Forrest Wood Cup champ, nothing beats a well-made rain suit for repelling what Mother Nature throws at anglers on tournament day. High-end performance gear can be pricy, Tharp notes, but when you're running wide-open through damp, biting cold, you'll be thankful you invested in durable rainwear with elastic cuffs to block those bone-chilling drips.
Tharp says the inexpensive brown cotton "jersey" style gloves (usually sold in bundles) offer the optimal blend of hand protection and strike sensitivity. For running, though, he'll pull on a pair of Gore-Tex waterproof gloves to protect his hands from wind chills.
Dave Lefebre - Choose rods, reels, line carefully
The Kellogg's Frosted Flakes pro values proper apparel, but he also notes important tackle concerns. First, to minimize icing in line guides, Lefebre avoids micro guides. The Pennsylvania pro further avoids icing by applying Blakemore Real Magic to his baitcaster's line level-wind feature so the lubricant can coat exiting line. Dunking rods, he says, might temporarily clear ice, but it actually compounds the long-term frustration by leaving more water on the rod.
Lastly, Lefebre suggests downsizing fluorocarbon line to decrease memory coiling. Limpness increases as size decreases, so when fish are biting light, smaller fluoro might help you feel another opportunity.