BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — They won't face the brutal cold they faced in practice, nor will they see the snowflakes that fell at this week's beginning. Nevertheless, none of the 51 anglers fishing the 40th Bassmaster Classic will have to worry about heat stroke on Lay Lake.
Three days of sunshine will improve conditions, with daytime highs in the mid 50s to low 60s, but mornings will still be chilly. Day one will start out in the mid 30s, with low 40s and low 50s projected for the next two days. That's not arctic, but add in the wind-chill factor created by the rocket sleds also known as "bass boats" and keeping warm is a high priority.
"If you're not comfortable physically, you're not going to be able to perform," said Pam Martin-Wells, the only female angler in the Classic field. "I've actually been sore from wearing so many clothes and trying to stay warm, but that's a lot better than freezing to death and not being able to do what I need to do.
For Florida pro Terry Scroggins, being cold is a mental distraction that does interferes with an angler's concentration.
"When you're out there shivering, you're not mentally focused — you're thinking about things you shouldn't be thinking about," he said. "But when you're warm and comfortable, you're focused on what you need to do."
Layering is the common strategy — starting with a base layer of thermal underwear and adding long-sleeve shirts, sweaters sweatshirts. As the day warms, shedding one piece at a time allows for incremental adjustments. Even during dry times, anglers commonly wear their rain gear to stonewall the stabbing effect of icy winds.
Head protection is important, so hooded sweatshirts, skull caps and various face masks or balaclavas are used throughout the colder periods, while motorcycle helmets and ski goggles block the wind — and bugs — when running.
Several pros have identified particular items and strategies for keeping warm.
Martin Wells: "I use a gaiter around my neck because I've found that the warmer you keep your neck, the warmer you stay. That's the most important piece— something around your neck."
"Also, I wear wool socks — not cotton socks. I found out a long time ago that cotton socks make your feet a lot colder. Wool helps wick the moisture away.
Scroggins: A big fan of the cold-shielding properties of Polartec clothing, Scroggins also uses a pair of Polartec gloves overfitted with mittens that roll back for better dexterity when fishing.
"I also have Polartec socks and shoes. You keep your hands and your feet warm and you're good to go."
Randy Howell: Favoring Columbia's Omni-Tech outerwear, Howell achieves an optimal balance of warmth and mobility with Seal Skins gloves. Stretching to the elbow, the thin design is similar to a diver's wetsuit.
"When you're moving your hands, making a lot of casts and winding, your hands sweat and they heat up inside the gloves and stay warm," he said. "When I'm driving, I'll pull these off and put on some heavy snowmobile gloves, place a hand-warmer in there and I stay warm while I'm driving."
Mike Iaconelli: Noting how the weight of overdoing it with the layers and the strain of rainsuit bibs can cause great stress and strain, particular on the lower back, Ike lightens his load by relying on a thermal back pad under his shirt.
"That warms your core," he said. "I use that and I use heating insoles in my shoes. Between the back pad and the heating insoles, that keeps me warm no matter how cold it gets."