Evers: Safe winter fishing

Last time I wrote about all the good things that happen when I go to the woods and spend some time in a deer stand. All of that is true, but I don’t want to give anyone the idea that I stop fishing once the Bassmaster Elite Series season is over. I fish right through the winter and up to the next tournament season, which for me will start with the 2016 GEICO Bassmaster Classic on Grand Lake out of Tulsa, Okla.

Fishing in cold weather, though, is a lot different than fishing in the late spring or summer … and I’m not talking about the techniques you should be using or the seasonal patterns of the bass. I’m talking about air and water temperatures and the danger of being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Last week I took a buddy fishing. As (bad) luck would have it, he fell in the water. Luckily, he wasn’t alone in the boat. I was able to help him get back in, and I had an extra set of clothes so he got warm again pretty quickly and we were able to keep fishing. But things could have been very different.

Cold water is a killer, and minutes count when it’s cold because minutes may be all you have. Being prepared is critical at this time of year, and it’s mostly about staying warm.

To make my cold weather fishing more comfortable, I dress right — and in layers — from my socks to my stocking cap. A good outer shell, like the Bass Pro Shops’ 100MPH Rain Suit keeps the warmth inside even on windy days. Be sure to adjust your clothing as the temperature changes. You don’t want to get too warm and start to sweat. That gets your clothes wet, and when you cool off again you’ll get cold in a hurry.

The right clothing makes a huge difference, and outdoors clothing has come a long way in recent years. It’s lighter, warmer and far more comfortable than ever. It’s keeping us outdoors even on the coldest days, and that’s a great thing as long as we’re careful.

The old wives’ tale about most of the heat from your body escaping from your head isn’t true, but keeping your head warm is still very important. If I’m cold, I can’t concentrate or fish as well as when I’m feeling good. I always protect my face, ears and neck.

My Nitro has a passenger-side console that weighs just 32 pounds and installs with no tools in minutes. Few things will make your fishing partner happier on a cold day.

I’m not much of a coffee drinker, but I always carry a thermos of hot coffee (maybe some hot chili or soup, too) when it’s cold out. I generally don’t drink as much when it’s cold, but a hot drink or snack can make a positive difference. I’ll usually carry some protein or granola bars — enough to get me through the night if I get stranded.

Today’s PFDs are lighter, less bulky and easier to wear than ever. When it’s cold, I’ll wear mine all day long — not just when the outboard is running.

And make sure your kill-switch is functioning properly. A kill-switch is always important, but never more so than when it’s cold. Your boat represents safety — especially in cold water — and if you get knocked out of it you don’t want it running you over or running away.

Speaking of gear, one important item to have on your boat is a GPS unit. While practicing for one of the Louisiana Delta Classics several years ago, I got stranded about 20 miles south of Venice. That’s pretty much the middle of nowhere.

It was dark and I couldn’t get back in on my own. Without GPS coordinates to pass along to a friend, there’s no telling how long I might have been stuck.

An emergency kit — with flares, first-aid items, a space blanket, etc. — should always be standard equipment on your boat, but it’s even more important in the cold.

A cell phone is a great safety item, but it won’t do any good if the battery’s dead. That’s why I carry a charger and one of those reserve power packs that holds power for several days and allows you to charge a phone or other electronic device when you’re miles away from a power source.

A can of de-icer is another good thing for winter fishing. Boat lids have a tendency to freeze shut overnight or even during the course of a day on the water. Your tackle and these safety items are no good to you if you can’t reach them.

I love fishing in the winter. The action can be fantastic, and I usually have the water to myself, but I’m very careful. Always have respect for nature. If you let your guard down at the wrong moment it can have devastating effects, but if you’re prepared you can enjoy the water all year long.

Changing gears, when I haven’t been fishing or hunting or working tackle shows lately, I’ve been out at our pecan farm and helping to get pecans shipped out for the holidays.

I’m excited about our crop for 2015. It’s been a good one, and it’s still coming in. My family and I are very proud of our farm, and we cut no corners in bringing you the best pecans you’ve ever had. We offer them in 12 different flavors — from farm shelled to jalapeno to milk or dark chocolate-covered. We even have gift tins for the holidays.

I hope you’ll check them out at EdwinEversPecans.com.

And have a great Thanksgiving!