Cold Water Preparation – Mike Mueller

Mueller cold water cover

As a Co-angler, many things are out of your control. However, when it comes to preparing yourself to fish a cold-weather tournament and ensuring that you stay warm all day, everything is in your hands.

The obvious message of this article is layering. This is a basic that most of us are aware of, but let’s go into a little more detail of my cold-weather layering tactics. Just this past week, I spent a few days up in Michigan chasing smallmouth at Lake St. Clair. It was brutal autumn post-frontal conditions that brought bone-chilling cold and steady NW winds. In the mornings, it was in the low 30’s and never got out of the 40’s all day long, yet each day I was very comfortable and the cold never affected me.

I start out with a base layer of Under Armour-type legwear and long sleeves. I then put on a pair of thick wool socks. I used to put on multiple layers of regular socks, but that never did the job as well as the wool socks. The key to staying warm all day is to keep your feet and hands warm, so go out and invest in a pair of high-end thick wool socks. They are more expensive, but it is an investment that is well worth the return they provide.

For my next layer, I put on a pair of normal sweatpants and a long sleeve sweatshirt. After that, I put on a regular pair of cotton denim jeans. I keep a special pair of cold-weather jeans in my wardrobe. The only thing different about these jeans is that they are simply one size bigger in the waist in order to accommodate the extra layers. Denim works surprisingly well when it comes to keeping the cold and wind out. I then put on a hoodie-type sweatshirt. The hood will prove invaluable later. After that, I add a fleece pullover to complete my upper-body layering.

Now that the basics of my layering are complete, I supplement this with some additional items. Boots play an important role in keeping you warm all day. As I mentioned earlier, keeping your feet warm is critical to your comfort throughout the day. I recommend investing in a high-end pair of specialized cold weather boots. It is also important that they are light enough to fish comfortably all day long. Lugging a pair of heavy boots around all day can be exhausting.

Additional accessories are also needed to keep you warm. I wear a wool skull cap all day long to keep the heat from escaping out of my head. I also have 2 sets of gloves. The first set is what I call my running gloves, which are the gloves that I wear when taking off in the morning, or when running from spot to spot throughout the day. These are not just normal gloves; They need to be thick, high-end gloves that are specially designed for extreme cold, like ski gloves. Then I have my fishing gloves, which are thinner, fleece gloves that I use to fish with. These are important to keep the wind from making your fishing more difficult.

Another cold-weather must is a mask. Some people use motorcycle helmets, but for me these are too big, cumbersome, and take up too much space in the boat. There are plenty of lightweight masks available and they all work equally well, so find one that you are comfortable with.

As I mentioned earlier, the hoodie now comes into play. Before I go on a run, I put the hood on over my wool cap and tie it nice and tight. This will keep the wind from getting inside your clothes through your face opening. I then put my lightweight mask over everything to seal out the wind.

Now, depending on the severity of the cold, I will either throw a thick jacket on top of everything, or I will put on my Gore-Tex bibs and jacket. The BPS 100MPH gear or the Cabela’s Guidewear are the most common and both work great.

Now, all of this is great and will keep a great barrier between you and the elements, but the set-up is not complete, as it is still missing the most important element of my cold weather success…HOT HANDS! Every year, I stock up on these, as without them, I feel that I cannot be as successful as I have been in cold weather scenarios. I personally use 4 different types of Hot Hands type warmers.

  1. The first is something that you won’t find in the fishing/hunting section. You’ll have to go to the pharmaceutical section of a Walgreens or a Wal-Mart store for this special item. I buy lower back pain reliever wraps. They are made of the exact same material as the hot hands, but they come in a Velcro wrap that you wear around your waist like a belt. This keeps my core warm all day long.
  2. The second kind I use is the “Toasty-Toes” boot inserts. These are specially designed to be worn inside of boots and shoes. Some people use regular hand warmers inside their boots, but for me, these generate too much heat when they are enclosed all day long.  The “Toasty-Toes” generate less heat, but still keep me warm all day.
  3. The third kind I use is the smaller 8-hour warmers. This warmer is roughly 2”x4” in size and is small enough to keep inside my fleece gloves while I’m fishing. I position them on the back side of my hand inside the gloves, so as not to impede with my hands while I’m fishing.
  4. Finally, the fourth kind I use is the larger 12-hour warmers. This is what I place inside my “running” gloves. When we pick up and move, I take off the fleece fishing gloves (with the warmers still inside) and place them in my pockets. I then put on the heavy gloves on with the stronger warmers during the run.

Just a quick hint if you have not used these types of warmers before. They are activated by the air, so I open all of these warmers about 30 – 60 minutes before takeoff so they have ample time to get to their full strength.

If you follow this advice, you will never be cold or uncomfortable on the water again, and instead of spending your energy on trying to keep warm, you can focus on your fishing!

Thanks, and TIGHT LINES…Fishing the Back!

Bio:

Circuits fished: Central Pro Am, LBL BFL, Michigan BFL, Everstart Series

Years co: 25

Favorite technique: Flipping a jig

Hobbies aside from fishing: Watching my kids play sports

Sponsors: 5X3 FishingArdent ReelsBass Craft CrankbaitsJewel Bait CoRazr RodsRudy Project EyewearSnack Daddy Lures, Elite Rod Sleeves

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