When I first joined a bass club I had no idea bass would bite during the winter. But a January, 1975 tournament at Jackson taught me they would. Six bass weighing more than six pounds each were weighed in.
I thought I would freeze that cloudy, windy day with sleet all day long. I had worn my winter hunting clothes that were fine for deer hunting in the fall or walking winter fields and woods looking for squirrels, rabbits and quail, but they were not fine for sitting in a boat in 32-degree wind and sleet!
A catalog at home from a new mail order company, Bass Pro Shops, offered snowmobile suits and boots. I ordered both the next week. The thick insulated jumpsuit was water resistant and repelled sleet and snow, but I had to get a good rainsuit to go over it.
The boots were very heavy, with inch thick felt liners inside. I knew if I ever fell out of the boat they would take me to the bottom, so I never tightened up the string at the top, leaving them where they would easily slip off. Of course, with everything else I wore, getting out of the boots probably would not make much difference. This was way before the small auto inflatable life jackets I now wear at all times.
I had some of the old hand warmers, the ones you filled with lighter fluid, lit and put in a case in your pocket. When they came out I got the ones that used a charcoal stick and put it in a cloth lined case to put in a pocket to keep you warm. Both kinds were messy and hard to use, and inconsistent staying lit, but they helped.
A few years later I saw a product called “Hot Hands” at Berry’s Sporting Goods that did not make sense. It was a small cloth pouch with grit in it that, when taken out of a plastic bag, shook up and put in your pocket, it warmed up. Since I taught science at the time I was able to figure out the iron dust inside rusted really fast when exposed to air, producing heat.
Hot Hands make a huge difference when fishing this time of year. They are not messy or bulky and are easy to use. I can put them in my boots before leaving home and they are still warming my toes up nine hours later. One in each jacket pocket lets me put hands in them one at a time when driving the boat or even fishing a slow-moving bait to warm them up. A few scattered inside my heavy suit keep my body toasty.
I was a press observer at the 2015 Bassmasters Classic on Like Hartwell. On practice day I rode with David Kilgore, watching him figure out patterns for eight hours. I could not fish, just sit and talk and watch.
The air temperature was eight degrees that morning, but it warmed all the way up to 20 degrees during the day. And the wind blew. I was comfortable all day though, since I had hot hands in the toes of each boot, in each outside coat pocket for my hands, and four in inside pockets against my body. I even put one under my cap before putting on a stocking cap and pulling my hood over it.
Two-packs of both hand or toe warmers are about $1.75 at Berrys and bulk packs are cheaper. They really help and I don‘t leave home without them this time of year.