Thanks to a mild winter, the weather during the Bassmaster Elite at Cherokee Lake, the first of 2017, will not be as frigid as it normally is in early February. But it will hardly be balmy, either.
While there may be daytime highs in the low 60s during the week, some mornings could dip well below freezing. There is also a possibility of cold rain.
Such conditions mean that what the Elite Series pros wear at Cherokee is as important as which lures they tie on. It’s hard to focus on fishing when you’re shivering and you can’t feel your hands and feet. And, if you don so much clothing that you look like the Pillsbury Doughboy, all that apparel hinders your movements and wears you out.
Because Kevin VanDam has fished in cold weather countless times in his home state of Michigan, he has learned how to stay comfortable under the most adverse conditions. He claims this isn’t hard to do thanks to today’s high-tech threads.
Dressing for cold weather success gave him a distinct advantage when he won the 2010 Bassmaster Classic on Alabama’s Lay Lake. At daybreak on the first practice day, the ramp area was crowded with his competitors. When he returned at dark after fishing all day through snow and rain, his boat trailer was the only one left in the parking lot.
“I was shocked,” VanDam said. “A lot of the other guys came in early because they couldn’t cope with the weather. I never felt uncomfortable at any time that day.”
The most important priority is to keep your extremities warm, VanDam stresses. That means your head, hands and feet. Terry Scroggins agrees. He hails from Florida and had to learn how to dress for cold weather when he embarked on the Elite Series tour.
To keep his feet toasty, Scroggins wears Muck Arctic Sport Mid boots that are rated for -40 to 40 degrees. VanDam warms his lightweight boots by inserting ThermaCell remote-controlled heated insoles into them that are powered by rechargeable lithium-ion batteries.
Scroggins cuts the fingertips out of light synthetic gloves to maintain sensitivity while protecting his hands. VanDam prefers a thin liner glove made from “performance material” and leaves the fingers intact. The liners don’t block all the wind, but they dry out fast when wet. He slips heavier Gore-Tex gloves on over the liners when driving his boat.
“Hand warmers that you expose to the air and shake up can be absolute game changers,” he said. “I keep them in my front pockets. You can also put them in your boots to warm your toes.”