September 23, 2013
Bass Boat Driving Tips: Because You Can't Fish If You're Dead
By Dave Wolak
To kick this off, I'd like everyone to take look at the video below. It is a great example of how a fun outdoor outing can quickly turn into an indoor hospital visit. About the only things the driver of this bass boat did right were wear a life jacket and keep the kill switch connected to himself. Otherwise, he made one of the biggest mistakes possible...jumping a wake at high speed. I thought this video was a sobering jumping off point to talk about proper bass boat handling. Granted, it's not a super "fishy" topic, but you can't catch bass if you're dead.
Bass boats are fast, and bass fishermen like to get to the next spot fast. But you have to know the capabilities of your vessel. Start off slow and only work in the higher ranges of speeds when the conditions are ideal. Over the years, I've met too many bass boaters that know no speeds between full throttle and idle. They pose a danger to themselves, their passengers, and other boaters. Part of being a good driver at high speed is simply knowing when you can open up, and calculating the best route to your next spot. Yes, the shortest distance is a straight line, but not if the water between point A and B is rough. Wind or boat traffic can easily make the shortest route hazardous. So you have to either find a safer, albeit more circuitous route to your spot if you insist on going full-throttle, or you have to learn to limit your speed.
Stay clear of other boats whenever possible, not only because you want to avoid launching boat wakes like the guy in the video, but because you don't know if the people on the other boats are safer drivers or morons, and you don't want to get hurt or damage your boat because of their mistakes. It's just like driving a car cautiously on high-traffic roads.
This may seem minor, but remember to wear adequate eye protection. I always wear sunglasses when driving, but if I'm fishing a tourney where I know I'll be moving fast to cover water, I'll actually wear a snowmobile helmet with sunglasses underneath. The helmet is not protection for possible impact, but to reduce wind resistance as much as possible, because the less wind hitting your face, the better you can see. If you're going to run at 70+mph, you need clear vision in order to react properly.
Finally, wear your kill switch. This is not a preemptive measure because a crash is inevitable. This is for the absolute worst-case scenario. The kill switch does not save your life; driving the boat safely does.