Sunshine and bass fishing go hand in hand, yet the sun can also be a serious problem for anglers. Beyond the obvious threat of sunburn, the lasting affects from exposure to the sun can prove to be dangerous and even fatal. Bassmaster Elite Series angler Mark Menendez is no stranger to fishing in the sun, having fished professionally for nearly twenty years. He learned the hard way that protecting your skin is not just a good idea; it could also save your life. Several years ago, Mark went to the dermatologist to check out several sunspots on his skin and learned he had a type of skin cancer called basal cell carcinoma. Since that point he has been dedicated to both protecting himself as well as sharing tips with other anglers in the hopes of helping them save their skin. He has become an ambassador on the subject and wants to make sure everyone knows that the danger is real.
Skin Cancer Background
There are numerous forms of skin cancer; with melanoma being the most serious and basal cell carcinoma being among the least serious. Even though the types of skin cancer vary in severity, all of them are cause for alarm. One thing about skin cancer is that all types can be prevented with proper care and a few extra safeguards. “I was very fortunate to be diagnosed with basal cells; while they are still not good, they are easier to treat and remove. It was still a big wake up call for me,” said Menendez
The application of sunscreen can seem like a chore to fishermen and the belief is that it has a negative effect on fish prevents many from doing their part to save their skin. Although Menendez feels that fish may be able to detect the scent, the risk is worth it to protect himself. “I like to put sunscreen on first thing in the morning and also make sure I use a good quality product so I don’t have to reapply it often during the day. I also make sure that I shave each morning so the sunscreen can get into the skin and be more effective,” said Menendez. With numerous brands, SPF ratings and types of sunscreen, the selection can seem confusing. Mark Menendez prefers Blue Lizard sunscreen. “My doctor was selling it and it was what he recommended. I like it because it doesn’t come off easily and it contains zinc oxide which is something you really need to have to protect your skin,” added Menendez.
Shirts: The technology in clothing has literally been a lifesaver for anglers as many shirts are now being made specifically to protect from the sun. Mark Menendez has long been an advocate for wearing long sleeved shirts while fishing, even before his life-changing trip to the dermatologist. He stated that, “I started wearing long sleeves in the 80’s. When I told that to my doctor, he said that without me doing that I could really be in a world of trouble.” Modern shirts designed to be worn in the sun have made it more comfortable for anglers and many now have built in SPF ratings. The price ranges vary for these high-tech sun shirts, yet Menendez advocates that, “Anything is better than nothing.”
Hats: Most fisherman are on the water with a hat of some type, often with their favorite boat or lure brand logo, but this piece of clothing, aside form being fashionable is crucial for protection from the sun. “I like to wear a wide-brim or long billed hat to get as much protection as I can,” stated Menendez. The protection it provides to your face and top of your head is vital as this is one of the most exposed areas on your body.
The Buff Phenomenon: The multi-functional headwear made popular by companies like Buff have increased in popularity over the past few years. The lightweight moisture wicking material wraps and protects the face, neck and ears from the sun. Many believe that they are too hot to wear during the summer, but Menendez disagrees. “After about twenty minutes of wearing it, you forget it is on. I won’t go fishing without one now.” Beyond the benefit of immediate sun protection, Mark added that, “Some of my original sunspots and basal cells are actually healing over time and it’s because I have been so diligent in wearing my Buff.”
Gloves: While it may seem like gloves would be counterproductive to keeping cool, that is not true. Much like shirts and hats, the materials used and overall technology of the design has allowed for specialty sun gloves to be developed. “I have used many of the brands out there and there are some good ones. I like the ones that are lightweight, breathable and have cut off fingers so I can still fish properly,” added Menendez. The specialty gloves are cool and are designed to be worn in wet and dry conditions, meaning they will not become slippery or unwieldy when handling a rod and reel.
In addition to protecting your skin from the sun, anglers must also remember to stay hydrated. Being properly hydrated helps your skin as well as keeping you comfortable while fishing in the sun. The best advice is simple: always to drink as much water as possible. Menendez suggested, “Limit your sports drinks as well. If you are going to drink them make sure to dilute them with water because too much sugar and too many electrolytes are bad when you are fishing during the summer heat.”
Advice to Others
When asked to give advice to others on the subject, Mark said “If you take one trip to the dermatologist and hear them start to mention things like life expectancy, you will take it serious in a hurry.”
The dangers of the sun are real and as anglers we are more at risk. Taking skin protection seriously can ensure that you will be able to enjoy the rest of a long life filled with fishing fun in the sun.