Water is pretty much an essential part of fishing, but when a lot of the water arrives above the, well, waterline, it causes concerns for those seeking what swims below the, you know, waterline. OK, we're talking about rain — showers, downpours, liquid sunshine. Call it what you like, precipitation can be very problematic, unless you're well protected.
Bassmaster Elite Series pro Gary Klein says his foul weather gear plays an integral role in his performance. Because his livelihood depends upon being able to function outdoors regardless of Mother Nature's temperament, Klein judges what he wears with great discernment.
"One of the reasons outer wear is so important is not only for the rain but for the wind chill," he said. "When you sit down in the boat and run at 70-plus miles per hour, that's when the chill really gets you."
Klein prefers bibs with high midsections, waterproof zippers and storm flaps. "When I'm sitting and driving, it's important that my bibs have a midsection that is totally dry because everything that comes across the console hits me in the chest and pools in the crotch."
Same goes for the rain jacket — especially in the hood area. Minimizing the water that sneaks in through the face area is essential to staying dry, warm and operational. Similarly, sleeves should have some type of enclosure design such as glove inserts or Velcro straps to prevent water from creeping up your arms. Slip-on all-weather boots that enclose the cuffs of a rain suit are equally important.
Utility matters too, and Toyota Tundra provides its pro team with a rugged set of Gore-Tex Pro Qualifier foul weather gear from Bass Pro Shops that balances between protection and mobility. Cuff-to-hip zippers allow anglers to loosen the legs as needed for ventilation and for stepping into and out of the gear, while zippered slash pockets and large exterior cargo pockets keep essential items within easy reach.
In warmer months, Klein said he'll wear his bibs over shorts in the morning as a windbreaker. That's why lightweight durability gets high marks from anglers. "You want to be comfortable, and freedom of movement is important," Klein said.
Also to this end, Klein wants his bib straps connected in the back, either in a crisscrossed design or a central joint. This prevents premature strap wear, which weakens the material and causes chronic slippage. Elsewhere, considering the amount of bending and kneeling anglers do during an average day, reinforced bib knees are a must.
Gloves are optional and it comes down to this: wet hands in warm weather — no big deal. Wet hands in cold weather — big, frosty deal. SealSkinz Waterproof Gloves are a popular choice for keeping hands dry while retaining mobility.
Lastly, don't forget the head gear. If you've ever taken a horsefly or bumblebee at 60-plus miles per hour, you know the feeling. Taking rain drops to the face for more than about 10 yards gets old in a hurry. You can use the console to duck and dodge, but for navigational safety, you'll need at least some eye clearance and that leaves plenty of forehead exposed for what will feel like a cheese grater raking your skin.
Motorcycle helmets are the main choice for folks who make their living on a bass boat, but you'll also see a lot of Save Phace Sports Utility Masks and ski goggles. Klein fits his SUM over a hoodie and then secures his rain jacket hood over both.
Co-anglers and Bassmaster Elite Series marshals can often get by with a hooded sweatshirt or rain gear hood pulled down tightly. Ski masks, balaclavas and buffs will suffice when there's only wind and no rain. However, when you gotta look up, you gotta shield your face.