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Joslin: Don't take chances in rough waters

Last Modified: Wednesday, September 12, 2012 12:04 PM

By Joe Joslin / American Press

Hello, anglers and outdoor lovers.

Wow, did we ever have a cool front and the results are fantastic with night lows in the low 60s and highs in mid 80s. The front hit Toledo Bend Saturday morning at sunrise just as we (with tournament partner David Brown) were headed up the lake to begin a bass tournament.

We were able to get up the lake several miles and into our main fishing area before the winds got really bad. Coming back down the lake Saturday afternoon was another matter all together as the lake was rolling with 20-plus mph winds and huge swells.

Safety Issues

Here are a few hints for anglers and boaters who are just starting to learn how to operate a boat in less-than-ideal conditions.

Last Saturday we were going with the winds and waves so the best thing to do in those situations is to basically surf the swells and not get in a hurry. It is usually necessary to make frequent adjustments on the throttle in these conditions as you need more power to get on top of a swell and then you back off throttle as you come off a big wave. Too much power or speed when you come off a swell can cause you to spear a wave, which can prove scary, to say the least, and dangerous if you take on enough water.

It is not uncommon to spear a big wave and take on 50 to 100 gallons of water in a matter of seconds.

In elementary school we learned that water weighs about 8 pounds a gallon, so do the math. Having 400 to 800 pounds of extra weight in a 20-footbass boat changes a lot of things. For one, your boat loses much of its buoyancy and rides deeper in the water.

If you spear a second swell before you have time to bilge out then you could be in danger of sinking. Always make sure your boat has two bilge pumps to allow you to quickly get the water out of your boat and if one malfunctions at least you will have one working. Bilge pumps are relatively cheap and can save your life.

I have an automatic 1,500 gph plus a manual 800 gph. I do not go fishing without both of them in working order.

Enough horsepower?

Some final thoughts on safety involves what size motor do you put on your next new boat? Also, how big is big enough and why should I spend the extra money for a 150 hp when a 115 would do or why a 250 when a 175 hp will move me on up the lake? My experience, and I have owned at least 25 boats over the years, is to put the maximum rated horse power. It will perform better, and in many cases even use less fuel and also provides reserve power in case your boat takes on water and needs to climb up on top of a big wave and out of a hole between two big waves.

On this subject, I recall a sobering experience on Sam Rayburn several years ago. In my opinion, if my rig had been underpowered, I would have capsized. The scene was as follows: A late winter, fast moving storm found us in massive swells on the main lake and we had taken on a lot of water hence the boat was very heavy with several hundred pounds of water onboard. The rig felt like someone had filled the bottom of the boat with cement and we were deep in a hole(between two big waves).

The 250 Yamaha moaned and groaned but finally got the weighted-down rig back on top of the surf where I could go parallel with the waves long enough for the bilge pumps to do their work and give us some more buoyancy. I repeat, if I had been underpowered or bilge system failed, I am convinced that we would have taken on another wave and capsized. Also, it was February and the water temps were not friendly so the situation was very serious. To recap, I strongly encourage boaters to purchase rigs that are properly powered and by all means, make sure you have the best bilge pumps money can buy. Be safe out there, respect big, open lakes and stay pumped!

Lake Conditions

For the past several weeks the lake level remains stable with level at 168.4 feet and minimal generating at the dam. Water temps continue to slide (a good thing) and are running from 82 to 86 degrees. The entire lake is in great shape with slightly stained conditions on the north end, mid lake is mostly clear while south Toledo is very clear.

Bass Reports

We fished several days last week with decent results and lower water temps will improve already good fishing conditions. Bass are moving more shallow, as a general rule, with topwater, spinnerbaits, light-weighted plastics all catching bass. Also, as in every September on Toledo, there are always bass holding deep which is the case currently. Deep diving crankbaits, jigs, Carolina rigs, Texas rigs and drop shot rigs are all catching bass.

There were two major bass tournaments held on Toledo over the weekend and some really good fish caught. We will give a detailed report of both next week. We competed in one of them, Skeeter Bass Champs East Texas Championship, with decent results. The highlight of the week for me was when my tournament partner, David Brown of DeRidder, caught the Big Bass of the event weighing 10.98 pounds. The beautiful bass hit a Texas rig on a south Toledo main lake ridge in about 20’ of water. Sure glad I didn’t mess up the net job. It was Brown’s largest bass ever and to catch it in tournament conditions made it even more exciting. Great job, partner.

•••

Joe Joslin is a syndicated outdoor columnist, tournament angler and pro guide on Toledo Bend and Sam Rayburn. His column appears Thursdays. Contact him at 463-3848 or joejoslinoutdoors@yahoo.com or visit www.joejoslinoutdoors.com

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