It seemed like simple advice when angler and former firefighter Chad Morgenthaler stood up to address his competitors during the Tuesday afternoon briefing for the GEICO Bassmaster presented by GoPro.
But it could save the life of an angler or spectator during this week’s tournament on Lake Hartwell.
It could save your life in a cold-weather situation someday.
“When you’re fishing in the kind of conditions we’re going to see this week, you should always take a complete change of clothes – socks, underwear, everything,” Morgenthaler said in one of the conference rooms of the Hyatt Regency in Greenville, S.C. “If you fall in the water, you only have about three or four minutes before hypothermia sets in. That time may even be cut shorter when you get out of the water into the wind and single-digit temperatures. You need to get dried off and get changed as fast as you can.”
This week’s event has the potential to be the coldest Classic in history. That mark currently belongs to the 2013 Classic held on Grand Lake O’ the Cherokees in Tulsa, Okla., when Day 1 temperatures hit 19 degrees.
The Weather Channel’s current forecast calls for a low Thursday night of 12 degrees, meaning Friday’s opening-round temps could break the record frigid takeoffs.
Make no mistake: The competitors are ready on the angling side of things.
“With the clothing we have, we don’t get cold,” said 2014 Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year Greg Hackney. “I never got cold a time during practice. It’s just a challenge from a fishing standpoint with the ice and everything.”
In light of all the clothing anglers will be wearing, Morgenthaler recommended that anglers fish wearing their life jackets and make sure the emergency ladders on their boats can be easily accessed.
“If you fall in wearing a lot of layers, you’re going to have a hard time pulling yourself back up – and I don’t care who you are,” Morgenthaler said. “It’s worth taking every precaution you can.”
Tournament officials will also be ready at Green Pond Landing in Anderson, S.C., launch site of the Classic, in case of emergency.
“We will have an EMT command center at Green Pond with a big, long trailer and medical personnel prepared to treat anyone with signs of hypothermia,” tournament director Trip Weldon said. “We want everyone to be safe.”