Most boating safety issues are more or less settled arguments but, with modern bass boats reaching speeds of over 70mph and bass tournaments growing more crowded every year, the debate over helmet rules is taking center stage. This article examines arguments from both sides of the helmet debate.
The idea of wearing a motorcycle helmet during a bass tournament is a topic that be argued effectively by both sides. On one hand, it is known that helmets can reduce the seriousness of an injury during certain types of accidents. On the other hand, that same helmet can greatly increase the risk of serious injury during other types of accidents. While most anglers do not wear helmets as a means of preventing injury in the event of an accident, the possibilities should be seriously considered.
As with most things in today’s hi-tech world, bass boats are faster than ever. We now have the option of strapping a hulking 250+ horsepower outboard on the back of our boats. Speeds reaching into the 70 and 80 M.P.H. range are about as common as a Senko. With the increased speeds, comes an increased opportunity for injury. Hitting a bird at wide-open throttle can cause injuries to the head and neck or even worse, death to the angler.
FLW Tour Pro John Sappington’s life was saved by a motorcycle helmet. Had he not been wearing one, when a cable spanning the entire width of the river struck him in the head, he surely would not be here today. In another case, a Co-Angler in a tournament in Florida was struck in the face by a piece of PVC pipe that shattered after being hit by the boat he was riding in. Had this angler been wearing a helmet, his injuries could have been reduced or possibly eliminated all together.
While it is true that helmets can reduce or prevent injuries, helmets can cause severe neck injuries in other cases. In a professional event a few years ago, an amateur angler was pulled from a speeding bass boat. It was not a person that had pulled him into the water, it was the helmet that he was wearing. When his Pro partner made a hard turn, the weight of the helmet caused the anglers head to drop down towards the water. After making contact with the water as it rushed past the boat, the angler was forcefully pulled out of the boat. Fortunately, for everyone this angler was not seriously injured. As you can see, it is a lot like the whole issue on seat belts. There are instances where they will help you and other instances where they can really hurt you.
Although the risk of injury is always present in everything we do, and it is slightly higher in activities such as tournament fishing, most anglers do not wear helmets as a means for protection from injury. Instead, they wear helmets for protection from the elements. Rain, hail and even cold weather can hurt very badly at speeds in excess of 70 M.P.H. Wearing a helmet can make your ride more enjoyable when Mother Nature is not being very nice. I personally wear my helmet anytime it is cold and/or raining. Rain can feel like getting a million sticks from little needles, and for lack of a better word, IT SUCKS.
Whether you are wearing a helmet for safety or comfort, they can make your time on the water more enjoyable.