Useful Tips for Running a Boat on the Great Lakes

The Great Lakes are rough on all boats, especially bass boats and aluminum styles.

Here are a few tips to keep you safe on the water:

  • Make sure your bilge pumps work and your boat plug is in.
  • Make sure all bolts are tightened down on your motor; running in rough conditions will loosen them from the abuse of the Great Lakes. Be sure to check boats after every trip on the water.
  • When steering your boat, be sure to not wrap your thumbs around the wheel. Instead, keep thumbs flat on top of the steering wheel. Rough conditions can spring the wheel and your thumbs can get jammed.
  • Try using a four-blade propeller. This will give you the advantage over the waves and give you more “bite” when powering over larger ones and it also gets you on plane quicker.
  • To “tame” the waves, always keep your eyes ahead of the boat and anticipate them. Be sure to glide when going down waves and not nose first into them. Use proper timing to ride with them waves and power-up waves. When traveling in rough conditions, steer your boat in a zigzag pattern so the sides of your boat take the waves and not the front bow.
  • Always keep a marine radio in a boat for access to accurate weather patterns, a means to call for help and a way to help others in need.
  • Most state regulations require you to have life jackets, new flares and rope. As basic as these are, be sure to not leave home without them as these can save your life. Self-inflatable lifejackets do not count as a life preserver if you’re not wearing one. It’s always good to have regulation life jackets and a throwable life ring with plenty of rope.
  • When a lightning storm comes through, you and your vessel are the highest points on the lake. Immediately put your fishing rods down and look for cover under bridges. If you can’t find bridges, find a lighthouse. Positioning to elevated structures will reduce your chances of getting struck by lightning.
  • Disperse your weight and keep passengers in seats toward the back. Limit the amount of tackle you have to carry to decrease bow weight.
  • A heavy-duty rain suit is a must-have, even on calm days. If you spear a wave, you’re going to get wet. The cold waters of the Great Lakes can send you into shock so keep an extra pair of warm clothing in your boat at all times.
  • Invest in a motorcycle helmet. This will eliminate the pain of the rain while you’re boating. It can also save you in a bumpy ride and gives you protected vision in rough weather conditions.

Gearing up with these items will make you a safer boater and can save your life. Always be careful while on the Great Lakes. The heavy winds and waves on these waters can make navigating impossible on some days, so don’t hesitate to postpone your boating trip and reschedule it for a day later.

Anglers don’t always get to pick the nicest days to go fishing. Braving the weather is best done with a high-quality rain suit like Bass Pro Shops’ 100 MPH Gore-Tex Rain Parka and bibs. This suit is a favorite with many because it’s windproof, waterproof and will keep you warm. It’s also breathable so you don’t overheat on the warmer days. It has plenty of pockets that will keep your valuables dry too. This suit makes fishing easier in that it’s lightweight and comfortable to fish in all season long, and it will not lose its waterproofing, even after years of fishing.

There’s nothing worse than fishing while you are wet and cold—it can end a fishing day real quick and potentially lead to hypothermia. I also recommend wearing a bright-colored rain suit. Should you fall in it will then be easier for other boaters to find you.

Bass Pro Shops also makes its 200 MPH Rain Jackets and bibs for even colder climates. This is essential for anglers who want a suit that can hold up to the rigors of the waters of the Great Lakes.