Dressing for cold conditions

An inevitable challenge of fishing early in the year is dealing with cold conditions. This is not a light topic. The minute you start thinking about being cold, you’re not totally focused on catching bass. It can take you right out of contention when you’re competing in a tournament.

I’ve refined a system that keeps me warm in the coldest weather, even when I’m ice fishing. If you’re serious about catching bass in frigid weather, my system should work for you, as well.

Hands, feet and head

You can lose a tremendous amount of body heat through your hands, feet and head. I remember my mom stressing that to me when I was kid.

Keeping your head warm is especially important. I wear a baseball cap to block the sun and put a wooly knit cap over it. AFTCO makes one that I’ve officially approved. It has enough length to fit over a baseball cap and cover your ears.

A buff is just as important in cold weather as it is in the summertime. I wear it over my wooly cap and cover my face up to my sunglasses. It keeps everything in place and creates a seal so no cold air enters, even when I’m on plane.

The right footwear is critical. I pull wool-based, winter socks over thinner nylon socks. I wear a tall boot made by Rocky that incorporates Gore-Tex. It protects my lower legs as well as my feet. Before I put on the boots I insert full-length chemical insoles into them. They’re made by HotHands and last 10 to 12 hours.

I use one pair of AFTCO gloves for running and another for fishing. The gloves for running are insulated and have a water-resistant nylon shell. The fishing gloves are thinner and feature fingers that let me operate my touch-screen Lowrance units.

Body core

A good base layer of thermal underwear is necessary to keep you warm from your knees to your shoulders. Thermal underwear has gotten much better over the years. A lot of companies rate them for warmth, from 1.0 to 4.0. I like a 2.0 to 4.0 base layer.

When I put on my base layers I always tuck the top into the bottom and pull my wools sock over the bottom layer around my ankles. That creates a seal. I want to seal every piece of clothing I put on so no cold air can penetrate. I wear a pair of chinos and a hoodie over the base layers.

The icing on the cake is a disposable thermal heating pad. You can buy them at practically any pharmacy. It wraps around your core and is held in place with VELCRO. It radiates heat all day. I wear it over my base layer, because it gets hot enough to burn your skin with direct contact.

Outer wraps

In the late ‘90s I used to wear ski bibs and jackets when I fished in cold weather. Nobody made good outer shells for anglers back then. Many companies offer excellent outer shells today.

I don’t mean to sound like an advertisement, but AFTCO’s Hydronaut insulated bib and Hydronaut Heavy-Duty jacket are incredible. They’re loaded with technology and features that will keep you warm and comfortable regardless of wind, rain, sleet and ice.

Last but not least, I love rechargeable hand warmers. The one I use is the Powerpaw from Panther Vision. I put one in each of the little storage pouches in my Hydronaut jacket. Not only do they warm my hands, they help keep my core a little warmer.

With this system I never let the cold distract me from what I’m on the water to do, catch bass.