Use these cold weather fishing gear picks so you can spend more time catching fish, and less time trying to stay warm.
If you're like me, your fishing season never stops, it only changes. I have gotten weird looks from people at the gas station after I pulled up towing a bass boat when the temperature was below freezing. They may think I'm crazy, but fishing in the winter is one of my favorite things to do.
I have learned how to stay warm during the coldest months of the year through trial and error; I have flat frozen my tail off. With correct layering and insulation, you can make your body heat work for you, and you could fish in a snow storm and not have to worry about the freezing temperature.
Check out the slideshow of cold weather fishing gear and see how you can use them to stay warm during your next fishing trip.
1. Base Layer
Your base layer is your first level of clothing (after your underwear of course). The base layer serves two purposes- the first is to insulate your body's natural heat and keep it from escaping, the second is to wick moisture away from your skin to the outside of the fabric so it can evaporate. The moisture wicking process is very important because if you begin to sweat and it dries on your skin or saturates your clothing, your ability to stay warm will be severely hindered.
There are many options out there for base layers, I prefer the Under Armour base layer, which comes in varying thickness's from 2.0-4.0.
2. Insulated Socks
A good pair of insulated socks is really just an extension of the base layer. When fishing, your feet do not move much, so it is very easy for them to get cold. As with the base layer, the moisture wicking capability of your socks is essential to staying warm, as sweaty and wet feet equal cold feet. A good option is to have a thin liner sock that wicks moisture away and then a thicker sock to insulate your feet.
3. Mid Layer
The mid layer is meant to keep your natural body warmth in, while keeping the cold out. For me, the mid layer is usually a hooded sweatshirt and jeans. I prefer polyester sweatshirts rather than cotton because polyester has much better water resistance than cotton. Under Armour makes many good options for more water resistant sweatshirts. Jeans are effective for keeping warm, but have little to no water resistance, so if fishing in wet conditions they would not be the best option.
4. Shell Jacket
The Outer Layer's main purpose is to keep the wind and cold out. They are usually less thick than the base and mid layers, but made of a more weather resistant soft shell material. Most of them also have a Gore Tex lining in them which is a water proof membrane meant to keep you dry while still allowing for evaporation of your body's perspiration. If you're fishing in wet conditions, Gore Tex is a necessity. The two most popular types of outer wear for anglers are the Cabelas Guide Wear and the Bass Pro Shops 100 MPH gear.
The Bib's have the exact same purpose as the jacket- to keep out the wind and cold. They will be made of the same material as the jacket, and in most cases will be an exact match to the jacket. I prefer the bibs as opposed to pants because the bibs come higher up on your chest, which keeps your core warmer than if they were just soft shell pants. As with the jacket, the most popular types are the Cabelas Guide Wear and the Bass Pro Shops 100 MPH gear.
6. Insulated Boots
The obvious reason for good, insulated boots is to keep your feet warm and dry. Many boots have the same Gore Tex membrane as the jacket and bibs, which keeps moisture out, while allowing for evaporation of sweat. Most boots have "Thinsulate" insulation, ranging from 100- 1000+ grams. The higher the number, the warmer the boots should be. It is important to pick the right amount of insulation to keep your feet warm, without making them sweat too much. Obviously your boot choice for winter in Texas, will be different than your choice for winter fishing in Michigan.
I have been in a long search for the perfect fishing gloves, but have yet to find them. The key word here as with other gear picks, is Gore Tex. Gore Tex is going to do the best job of keeping your hands dry, although in a pro longed day of fishing, eventually your hands will inevitably get wet. For cold days on the water I take no less than three pairs of gloves- A thick pair for making long boat runs, and two or more thin pairs which I swap out periodically, so that no pair gets too wet. When the other pairs aren't in use, I keep them inside my bibs or sweatshirt so that my body heat keeps them warm.
8. Head Warmer
Although the myth of losing 80% of body heat through our head has been proven false, it is still important to keep your head warm. An ordinary old stocking cap will do just fine, but I prefer this version from Under Armour because it also keeps my face and neck warm on really cold days.
9. Face Mask
The face mask is not always a necessity, but if you are fishing out of a boat I would highly recommend it. A 65 mph wind in your face is brutal when the air temperature is 35 degrees. Versions like the one pictured are made from neoprene and have a vent so that your breath does not fog up your sunglasses.
10. Hand and Foot Warmers
Hand and foot warmers can make the difference between a pleasant day on the water and a cold day. They are activated by heat, so get them out when you're about 15 minutes from the lake and let them warm up. Then they can be stuck in your boots and gloves to keep your extremities warm. They are supposed to last for 8 hours, but I've found that after about 4 hours they start to lose their warmth, so having extras is always a good idea.
11. Spare Clothes
Having a spare set of clothes is up to your own preference, but if fishing out of a boat I would highly recommend it. In the off chance you fall into the frigid water, you will be freezing cold until you are able to get into some dry clothes. Some fisherman have a full set of clothes in their boat, including outer wear so that if they fall in they can change clothes and keep on fishing, others just have enough dry clothes to get them back to the boat ramp and on the way home. How much or how little you have is completely up to you.
While probably not what you would expect on this list, having a full belly is more important than you might think during a cold day on the water. Your body produces more heat when digesting food, especially foods that are high in proteins, fats, or complex carbohydrates. Obviously, if your body is producing more heat, you are warmer, it's as simple as that. Also, hot coffee never hurts either!