It was supposed to be a quick in-and-out deal. FLW Tour pro Jonathon Newton was meeting me and fellow scribe Jeff Samsel at the Joe Wheeler State Park Boat ramp for a few utilitarian photos before heading to work. Nothing complex; we’d bang ‘em out and Newton would be on his way.
Oh, but if were always so simple.
What we failed to consider were the freezing conditions that swept through northern Alabama—and their affects on boat compartments.
Yep, soon as Newton reached for his rod locker hatch to retrieve the baitcaster needed for our shoot, he realized he couldn’t get his finger in the latch ring because the hardware sat encased in ice.
Perplexed, but undaunted, Newton tried chipping away at the frigid rigid with blunt nose pliers. It’s amazing how such a relatively small amount of ice can lock a moving part like cement.
Newton persisted, but maintaining sufficient force, while aiming pliers into a small area is exhausting work. Fortunately, inspiration struck while warming his hands inside his jacket pockets.
Placing his Zippo hand warmer atop the latch gradually loosened the icy grip enough for Newton to wriggle it free.
But we weren’t out of the woods just yet. The rod locker lid was stuck with a similar icy bond that just wasn’t gonna yield to finger strength.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned from covering professional bass fisherman all these years it’s that challenge fosters ingenuity. Newton’s simple solution: Run a bow line rope through the latch ring, stand up and put his back into it.
The plan took a few spirited tugs, but eventually, this applied leverage overcame the ice grip and we were in business.
Lesson: Be sure to account for frozen hatches when planning your next winter trip. That means pulling out any early-need items the night before so you don’t find yourself at a standstill at the ramp.
Stuff’s gonna freeze and you can’t prevent it, but you can plan for it. Make sure you have a warming device, pliers or other chipping device and a dock rope—which you took out the night before.