Making sure all of my boating and outdoor gear is in top notch condition is not an alternative for me; it’s a requirement.
Having the proper safety gear on board my boat is a priority as well. This includes fire extinguishers, a whistle or horn, tools, an anchor, batteries and throwable cushions. Checking these items on a regular basis insures that in the event an accident does occur, I am prepared. They are called accidents for a reason and they are much easier to deal with if you plan for them versus being surprised when one occurs.
I care for a life jacket in the same way. In our area we have some tournament organizations that are lax with the life jacket rule and any many lakes do not have enforcement in place to make sure that rule is followed. Children under the age of 13 must have a life jacket on whenever they are in the boat. Having anglers only wear them during the blast off or maybe not having it being a requirement at all is unacceptable.
One accident can turn a great day into a very bad one. Wearing a life jacket can improve the odds. In my opinion, they must be worn properly and zipped and buttoned up anytime the big motor is running, in particular when unloading and loading the boat. More accidents occur at the ramp than any other location.
Today’s technology in life vests are light years ahead of some of the early models with automatic inflatables, 100 mph foam jackets and even foam filled coats. Wearing a bad or worn out life jacket is like not wearing one at all.
When buying a life jacket it is important to size it to the person who wears it. Reputable companies, like Mustang Survival, provide life jackets sized by chest size and weight. Small children have the same option and most often a foam filled jacket with buckled straps between the legs is a good option to keep the jacket in place. As they grow, several foam filled jackets and some inflatables are good options, too. Jackets should be sized by trying them on; too big or too small does not work.
When trying them on, zip and buckle them up. They should be snug but not uncomfortable. Breathable sides in some jackets keep them a bit cooler and less unwieldy.
Life jackets should be dried after use and kept in a location where some air can get to them. Keeping them out of the sun when not worn is also important. Even though fabrics are much better, harmful UV rays can break them down. Soap and water is best for cleaning life jackets. Do not use chemical cleaners as this too can shorten the life of the jacket.
Inflatable jackets are a great option for adults and should be checked often to make sure they will operate when needed. Hunters who use boats can get camouflage jackets and they should get the same priority as a bow, gun or hunting clothing. Automatic inflatable jackets are best and they range in price from $100-$300. Kids’ vests are less expensive but a general rule is cheaper is not better. Remember it is a life you are talking about when purchasing.
I use a Mustang HIT auto-hydrostatic life jacket in my boat. It is a low maintenance suspender style jacket that automatically inflates when submerged in 4 or more inches of water. It will not prematurely inflate due to rain, spray, or humidity. They are very comfortable and do not require maintenance for five years. They inflate to 35-pound buoyancy and will allow the boater to float head up on most adults.
Never cut corners when buying life jackets. Get the best one you can afford and wear it anytime you are in the boat. The life saved could be yours.
Joe Snyder won the last regular season event of the Bloomington Normal Bass Club at Banner Marsh this past weekend with 6.87 pounds. Second place was Scott Bree with 6.7 pounds. Tommy Kaufman had big bass of 5.95 pounds.
Bow season began Tuesday and it’s important to check over and use all safety gear whether on the ground in a blind or in a tree stand. Make sure someone knows where you are heading when you venture out and always carry you cell phone with you for emergencies. The archery season runs through Jan. 19.
Terry Brown is the President of Wired2Fish.com, an industry leading, daily website and social media fishing-centered community that provides the information on products, industry newsmakers and fishing techniques. You can read more by going to www.Wired2Fish.com