Don’t Take Chances by Allen Shepard
Making the right decision can save your life. I have always been a safety-first kind of guy, but all the things you do right with regards to safety related equipment is not enough unless you make the right decision about being on the water in the first place.
I have been in a lot of tight situations, but let me tell you about one on Wheeler Lake in Tennessee.
I joined my fishing buddy, Marty Highnote, and some other friends for a week of tournament preparation and fishing. The prefishing went great, then the weather changed on tournament day.
We had beautiful weather all week. We found great fish and we were pumped. I even caught my personal best 81-pound blue cat. On Friday night there were discussions at the captains meeting about the changing weather, but many anglers including myself didn’t seem to worried.
On tournament morning we joined the other anglers at the ramp for the boat check and launch. I was excited. At 5:30 am we checked in, launched, and began the three-mile ride to our spot. Shortly into our departure, the 10-15 mph west to east wind turned to a reported 30-40 mph wind.
The wind/waves in one direction met heavy currents from the other direction and it literally created the perfect storm. The situation got dangerous very quickly.
In my 50 plus years of fishing I’ve never seen or experienced anything like it. Making the call to proceed that morning was poor judgment. It was a call that could have taken our lives.”
Fortunately, we reached a safe creek to gain our thoughts and composure. I phoned in to report that we were safe and arranged for friends to bring the truck and trailer to a close-by boat ramp to end the ordeal.
Damaged by the storm, my boat was totaled. But we made it out safely and I will never again let the hype and excitement of a tournament overshadow common sense and safety considerations!
I have had several close calls while fishing. One occurred a while back on a river I was fishing near home. It was during the early March striper run. We had high water with all the flood gates open.
A friend and I took my stick steering 15-foot boat up to the tailrace and anchored in a current seam. The bow anchor held well on the limestone rocks but our transom was swinging and it was tough to fish.
I knew better but my fishing partner suggested that we anchor the back. I agreed, but only if we both kept our knives close at hand to cut the anchor ropes if needed. All was good and we caught fish.
Then, it came time to go. We knew that we needed to get the back anchor first but when my partner pulled on it the front anchor gave way and the bow switched ends quickly as his anchor hung on bottom. It was a dangerous situation.
Water was coming over the transom and we were sinking quickly. Thank goodness he was able to cut the anchor rope relatively quick. I had the motor running already and in a matter of seconds, I gained boat control to avoid the unthinkable.
Incidences like this that I have experienced myself and other incidents I’ve heard from fellow anglers have etched memories in my mind that will not be erased. I’ve always considered myself a safe boater but when common sense is overtaken by the hype of the game, we need to slow down and consider what’s really important.
We made it out safely and I will never again let the hype and excitement of fishing or the adrenalin of a tournament overshadow common sense and safety considerations!