Lightning on the water

Lightning Storm

Summer pop up storms bring a very dangerous element to bass fishing. Lightning and bass boats or bass fishing equipment don’t mix, or should I say they mix well. A boat out in the middle of a pool of water, water being a conductor of electricity, then an angler standing about 6 feet tall on the deck of that boat, people are proven to conduct electricity, and finally a fishing rod in the anglers hands, definitely a conductor of electricity. All these things add up to a very dangerous situation that an angler should not push, tease, tempt, or flirt with.

When I was younger, in my twenties, I used to think that as long as I wasn’t the tallest thing in the area I was safe. Meaning, if there were trees or hillsides nearby I was safe from a possible lightning strike. The fact of the matter is, lightning strikes to the best of our knowledge are random, without extreme controlled conditions we cannot predict how and where lightning will strike.

There is one safe way to deal with lightning; that is to get off the water. A life is not worth a bass, some might disagree at this moment while reading this in the safety of your home, but on the water that next bass just isn’t worth it.

My last close encounter with lightning was about 13 years ago. I was fishing a club tournament on a local cypress tree lake here in Louisiana. Since I had cypress trees standing all around me, I felt safe that I wouldn’t be in jeopardy of being struck. As a storm blew through the area I, simply nestled up next to a group of cypress trees and kept fishing. Lightning was getting closer, and the wind was picking up. In a split second, the rain was falling so hard that I couldn’t see the chartreuse spinnerbait hanging at the end of my rod.

In a flash, literally, I was blinded. The hair on my arms was tingling, and I couldn’t hear. As I was coming out of this tingling disorientation, my partner asked “are you okay.” Not knowing what to say, I simply stated, “Well, the batteries should be fully charged now.”

We weren’t struck by lightning although, for a second, I thought we had been. A tree right next to us took a direct hit. As I was coming back into reality, I noticed that there were ripples coming from the boat like a bobber that had just been bounced in the water. The thunder clap was so loud that the boat transferred that noise vibration into the water.

That storm blew out of the area as fast as it moved in. However, it was the last storm I didn’t treat with respect. I have probably missed out on a fish or two, and I know I’ve missed out on a complete day on the water because of the threat; however, you won’t find me without cover during a thunderstorm again.

I retired from the Air Force. Throughout my career, we had a safe distance rule on the flightline, when lightning was within five nautical miles, everyone had to clear the line. There are stories out there that people and anglers have been struck by lightning out of a blue sky, but the fact is that when a lightning producing storm is within 5 miles of your position you better find some form of shelter. To the angler that means that if you can see the storm, you should already be under shelter.

My number one option for when storms come up, and I’m on the water, is to spend the time and gas to get back to the truck. Once at the truck, I’ve been known to wait the storm out and go back out. I always put the boat on the trailer though; you don’t want to have it beat against the dock in a bad storm. If getting back to the truck is not an option, I’ll borrow a covered boat dock. Most dock owners understand. If you have to ditch into a covered boat dock, please be courteous and don’t get out of the boat. An owner will probably see you in their dock, and if you remain in your boat, they’ll be a lot more comfortable that you’re not there to steal something. Staying in your boat also allows you to maintain control of your boat so that it doesn’t tear up their dock or your boat. Last but not least, and I had to do this once, is to beach your boat and head for shelter up on the bank somewhere. Not the best option, but it’s safer than trying to ride the storm out on the water.

Just some thoughts as the summer storm season approaches. Be careful and respect Mother Nature.

Photo’s for this blog were provided by Tabby Grant. Screen Name “Crash” on Ultimate Bass.

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Mike Cork
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