There has been a lot of talk lately about the dangers of driving a high performance bass boat. Some say that Mike Iaconelli’s accident on the Sabine River highlights the need for a licensing or training course before getting behind the wheel of a high speed bass boat. Others say; Iaconelli’s accident illustrates the inherent dangers associated with driving boats above 50 mile per hour much less 70. Which in turn, fuels the fire of licensing or training advocates; saying that we shouldn’t just accept that accidents will happen and saying speed is not an excuse. Yet another group says that speed limits need to be introduced on our waterways, believing that there is a time and a place for speed and a time when we should slow down.
I’ve been driving bass boats for 35 years, and when I first read all the comments that were brought up, my first reaction was to jump on the band wagon of “no one is going to tell me how to drive.” After all, I’ve been driving a boat longer than most; I have the experience to know when the water is dangerous and how to handle that dangerous water. I fish a lot of river systems similar to where Iaconelli’s accident happened, and I am positive I know exactly what happened. I don’t go spouting off about what he could have done or what he should have done. I was not in the boat, much less behind the steering wheel, so to be honest I don’t know exactly what happened, and until Iaconelli or his marshal at the time come forward to let us know we are all speculating.
Bass Cat Boats put out a small statement that said Iaconelli was running in thin water with his trim and jack plate high when he hit something in the water sending his boat up on the bank. Most boats in this situation, when the back of the boat strikes something, it will throw the noise of the boat down into the water. At this moment when the noise is down, and the back of the boat is high, the attitude of the boat is such that it will perform a maneuver called a “bow hook”. Once a boat starts a bow hook there is nothing a driver can do but ride it out. Until the speed of the boat is such that the back end of the boat (to include the motor) is low enough that it can once again grab the water, the passengers are at the mercy of the boat. This usually happens about the time the boat either hits the bank, another object, or completely flips around.
I don’t want to sway anyone’s thoughts on whether or not Iaconelli was going too fast for conditions. However, I will say that Iaconelli was going the wrong speed for what happened in this situation. Notice I said wrong speed. If the boat had been travelling at 70 plus miles per hour, when it hit something in shallow water the whole boat would have leaped out of the water, and the bow hook wouldn’t have happened. Unless he completely ripped the lower unit off, which I’ve also seen happen. Had the boat been traveling at a slower rate of speed the hook obviously wouldn’t have been an issue either. This is why I believe this was just an accident and not the fault of the driver. It’s nearly impossible to know what happened here. Should have been going faster, should have been going slower? The only sure bet would have been to idle.
Anglers can argue all day long about what was right or wrong about this situation. Bottom line is that it was an accident, and thankfully no one was hurt. And more than stressing over the speed at which Iaconelli was traveling, I think the real culprit is lack of research. Being a river system, being a tidal river system, certain areas change regularly. Knowing what those areas are and taking precautions in those areas is vital to safe boating. Iaconelli is not new to this game; he’s been on the pro circuits for quite a few years now. I would be confident in his boat driving skills. I don’t know because I wasn’t there, but maybe he was going the wrong rate of speed for the current conditions. Or maybe, it was a pure uncontrollable accident that should remind us all that they do happen, and we need to be as safe as possible. Wear our lifejackets and kill switches.
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