By John Johnson
BassFan Senior Editor
Skeet Reese was in line for a first-in-a-lifetime experience on day 1 of the 2015 Bassmaster Classic.
"I've never been in single-digit temperatures in my life – on the water, off the water or anywhere else," the Californian said. "Maybe flying in an airplane at high altitude, but that's it.
"I avoid the cold. I go south (to Mexico) for the winter."
B.A.S.S. announced on Thursday that it will delay the opening-day launch of the 45th Classic at South Carolina's Lake Hartwell by approximately 90 minutes, which will likely prevent Reese and the other 55 anglers from having to fish during the most frigid portion of the coldest Feb. 20 in the area's recorded history. It'll still be plenty chilly, though, and most of the competitors will take exceptional measures to maximize their efficiency under such extraordinary circumstances.
Equipment Tweaks will Help
Any angler skilled enough to qualify for the Classic has fished in a variety of weather conditions and all are familiar with the proper procedures – such as dressing in layers – for retaining body heat. Some will take additional steps on day 1, like using disposable hand- and foot-warmers or heated therapeutic braces normally used to treat pain in specific bodily areas.
Their biggest concerns revolve around equipment. They'll have to keep their rod guides free of ice and their reels from freezing solid.
How they'll go about those tasks will vary with the individual. Silicon-based sprays are one option that some will try, but Reese will go the old-school route and stick with Vaseline.
"I've tried the silicon stuff and it's only good for a few casts," he said. "I've used Vaseline (while) fishing for steelhead and it seems to last a lot longer."
Jason Christie doesn't foresee using any chemical applicants, as he believes they make little difference in weather colder than the mid-20s. He has, however, made an adjustment to his repertoire that he thinks will help.
"The reel on every rod in my boat will be a Team Lew's Lite," he said. "The reason for that is because they're really small and my hand fits all the around them when I palm them and they'll stay warmer. I'm also using rods with oversize guides."
Jacob Wheeler, a member of the Rapala pro staff, said he picked up some cold-fighting tips from employees of the Minnesota-based company that he opted not to divulge at this point for fear they'll be picked up by other competitors. In addition, he received an overnight shipment of Sufix braided line that's manufactured specifically for ice fishing.
"It's seven times harder to freeze it than it is regular braid," he said.
The Best Protection is Upstairs
Of course, the best way for competitors to combat the cold will be maintaining a positive attitude – however difficult that may be. After all, it'll be the same for everybody.
"You can't get negative," said Jared Lintner. "In practice I found myself getting angry or frustrated because everything takes so much longer. You can't do anything quickly – even tying a bait on because your hands don't work."
Added Christie: "Physically, it's not going to be as bad as people think. When you combine your layers of clothing, body warmers, (propane) heaters and gloves with the adrenalin of the Classic, it'll be okay."
It'll also help to remember that there are thousands of people who'd like to be in their position.
"It could be a lot worse," Lintner said. "I could be at home sitting on my couch or flying out here to work the Expo."