No Reason To Not Wear A Life JacketNo Reason To Not Wear A Life Jacket How many times have you been out fishing alone and not had your Inflatable Life Jacket on?
By Mike Gnatkowski/gnatoutdoors.com
My friend Dave Mull and three of his fishing buddies survived a harrowing experience a couple years ago on Lake Michigan. I’m sure it was a wake-up call for everyone involved and many people who know Dave. I know it caught my attention.
The party of four were fishing approximately five miles offshore and had a tangle at the back of the boat. Everyone moved to the stern to help which left little freeboard. A rogue wave washed over the stern and instantly filled the boat. You would think the boat would have flotation incorporated into the hull and this would be the end of the story. This boat was not equipped to handle such a wave and it went bow up almost instantly and sunk within seconds. Everyone was in the water before they knew what happened. Fortunately, one of the adults grabbed a life jacket and got it on the youngster who was on board. Everyone else was left to fend for themselves.
The group was quickly separated. Mull grabbed a cooler that floated by and clung to it for nearly four hours before a passing boat saw him. Fortunately, the lake temperatures were moderate. Once rescued, Mull explained that others were in the water and by the grace of God his friends were eventually rescued. It was a situation that almost had dire consequences. And, it could have been avoided.
Mull later admitted that he had an inflatable life jacket, but he was not wearing it. That was my wake-up call. How many times had I been out fishing or waterfowling alone and not had my Onyx Inflatable Life Jacket on? That was stupid! Especially since the inflatable life jackets are so comfortable and easy to wear. I vowed right then and there that I wasn’t going to let myself be put in a situation like my friend Dave because chances are good the consequences would turn out differently.
70% of the boating accidents in the country are fatal drownings. In 87% of those cases, the person didn’t have a life jacket on. Most people don’t wear life jackets because they are cumbersome and awkward. That’s true with conventional life jackets. However, inflatable life jackets are extremely lightweight and thin. You hardly know you have one on. There have been many occasions when I pulled the boat out, tied it down, stored the gear, jumped in the truck and realized I still had my inflatable life jacket on. They really are that comfortable! When I hand an inflatable life jacket to someone who hasn’t worn one before, and we get it properly adjusted, the one thing they immediately say is, “I have got to get me one of these!”
If you think about it, bass fishermen might be more at risk for ending up in the water than any other category of angler. They’re almost always standing up while fishing, moving around the boat and leaning over the gunwale to lip and net fish. Bass boats are not known for having the most freeboard either. You can see that it would be easy to trip over a rod, cleat or tackle box, get tossed overboard by an unseen wave from another boater, fall while reaching for those pliers or have your partner whack you across the forehead with an over exuberant hook set. Bass anglers also use boats that travel at high rates of speed. It is not unheard of to suddenly hit a wave wrong or run over a floating log and end up in the water. These are scenarios where an inflatable with automatic operation can save your life.
There are plenty of options when it comes to inflatable life jackets depending on your personal needs. For example, Onyx Outdoors has a complete line of inflatable life jackets, belt packs and flotation jackets for everyone from bass tournament anglers to paddle boarders to waterfowlers.
Onyx’s premier inflatable is the A-33 In-Sight Deluxe Tournament Automatic Inflatable Life Jacket. The A-33 automatically inflates upon immersion in water or when the wearer pulls the inflate handle. The jacket is also equipped with back-up oral inflation. The In-Sight window on the jacket tells if the product is armed and ready for use. The soft extended neoprene neckline and padded air mesh back provide for all day comfort. The durable material resists tearing and punctures, and the reflective material on the jacket allows for greater visibility.
The A-24 inflatable life jacket has models that feature the In-Sight window, automatic/manual or manual operation, reflective piping and a comfortable, lightweight, low-profile design.
Another option is Onyx’s M-24 Inflatable SUP Belt Pack Life Jacket. Like the full-sized vest-type, inflatable life jacket, the belts have the optional In-Sight window, manual inflation, exclusive hydration pouch, and zippered pocket for convenient storage, D-ring attachment and marine whistle. The comfortable, lightweight, low-profile design is perfect for stand-up paddle boarders providing safety without compromising movement.
If you’re out in the elements in early spring or fall fishing, waterfowling or pushing the limits on ice fishing excursions, you might want to go one step further. Full flotation jackets offer safety, warmth and comfort combined into one garment. Onyx Flotation Jackets have the comfort, fit and warmth of a jacket while providing the safety of a life jacket. An insulated jacket provides better protection against hypothermia than a traditional, vest-style jacket, which is essential in cold water. The jackets are lined with fleece, have a high collar that protects against chilly winds and include a fleece-lined chin guard. Models are available with optional hoods. A heavy-duty, full front zipper with a dual storm flap repels wind and water. Raglan sleeves offer a full range of movement and a watertight neoprene inner cuff and adjustable elastic outer cuff keeps water from running down to your elbow.
It a good idea to inspect your life jackets at the beginning of the fishing season if not several times throughout the year. Check the life jacket for fit, aging, fading, and tears. Pay special attention to the straps for signs of wear or fatigue. Make sure the buckle is functioning properly. If the jacket is dirty, wash it with mild detergent and allow it to dry away from direct sunlight. Check the charge indicator if it has one and make note of the status. Make sure the indicator is “green” otherwise replace the cylinder. Remove the cylinder and check for signs of corrosion. Check expiration dates. Use the oral tube to manually inflate the life jacket and leave it for a minimum of 12 hours or immerse the jacket under water and check for signs of leaks. Replace the bobbin/pill on automatic models if necessary.
The great thing about inflatable life jackets is one size fits all so you don’t have to carry a bunch of different sized jackets, but you do need to adjust the straps to make sure the jacket fits each individual. When in doubt, read the instructions or contact the manufacturer.
Consider Dave’s story your wake-up call. Do not go on the water this year without a proper flotation device. The options are lightweight and comfortable so there’s no excuse. It doesn’t take a life threatening incident, like my friend Dave Mull experienced, to convince us that it is better to be safe than sorry.
Grow your fishing skills and improve your angling effectiveness.
Subscribe to the free weekly BassResource newsletter.