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Save the Eyeballs

10/24/2007

Recently read a piece by Mike Bolton here on ESPNOutdoors.com on fishing-related eye injuries that made chills run down my back. One of those hair-on-the-back-of-the-neck-stand-up, chicken skin on the arms kind of chills. When it comes to eye injuries; been there, seen that (no pun intended).

No personal injuries; I'm visually impaired for other reasons. I have been too close to some near misses in the eye injury department. Close enough that it was pretty scary and made me think about how important it is to protect my own beady little eyeballs.

The first incident involved a bullet weight, some grass, and a pair of glass lenses. A bud and I were out on the Arkansas River, flipping tubes into the flooded grass along the edge of the river. Pretty common stuff for river fishing. Bud made a long flip far back into a patch of matted grass. As his tube fell through the mat a bass sucked in his tube. Bud didn't realize it until the fish spit out his tube, which is what he felt, so the hookset was a little late. Tube comes flying to the surface as Bud makes his delayed jerk and the hook hangs in the matted grass.

Now this grass on the Arkansas is some pretty thick, tough stuff. I don't know what kind of grass it is. I've heard it called peanut grass; we always call it river grass. When your bait gets hung in it, it's called a few things that can't be printed here. Such was the case with Bud. Not only was he miffed that he had missed the fish, but now his bait was hung far back in the mat. This was back in "tha' day" when we all used 20- or 25-pound mono for flipping; lots and lots of stretch going on here. So Bud gets on it and does his Stretch Armstrong impression with his 20-pound mono.

You can guess how the story goes. Unfortunately, Bud was looking toward his bait when it pulled free from the grass and the half ounce weight, aptly named a bullet, flew back toward his head. Whack!! Right on the lower corner of his glasses.

"Son of a @#$%!" Bud screamed as he fell to the deck. I quickly knelt beside him to see that the bullet had clipped the corner of his sunglasses, grazed his cheek, and shattered the lens on his glasses. Let me rephrase that; the bullet has shattered the glass lens on his shades. Fortunately for Bud, none of the glass had gotten into his eye. Bud was pretty shaken when he realized how close he had come to being seriously hurt by a small hunk of lead.

Scary stuff. Lesson number one — glass lenses in your fishing shades might not be a good idea. OK for stylin' around town, not so good for impact resistance.

Bud went the next day and bought himself a new pair of Costa del Mar's — with CR39 lenses. Proudly stated he was now bulletproof. Whatever. I'm sure he's better protected with the Costa's but I'm not sure about the bulletproof part.

My second encounter involved removing a hook from a young man's eyelid. I get chicken skin just typing about this one. Again, I was out on the Arkansas River (no, it's not really a dangerous place), this time by myself. From across the river, a boat comes racing toward me at WOT and sets down right on top of me.

Who is this moron? I ask myself as two guys jump up on the front deck and start screaming and waving their arms. Like, you're 10 yards from me guys. I couldn't help but notice you. As they pull alongside, I recognize one of the anglers about the time I realize that he has a crankbait attached to his left eye.

Now this dude is a little … different. Has some body piercings. Has some tat's. Wears some odd threads. So I wasn't surprised to see something hanging from the side of his head. The arm waving and yelling, however, gave me a clue that the Norman Middle N in #39 Couchdog was not supposed to be lodged so close to his eyeball.

As they pulled alongside, Pierce's partner yells "Dude has a crank stuck in his eye!"

"Dude, really? I hadn't noticed."

I take a look at Pierce and yep, he's got a Middle N stuck to the side of his head. Fortunately, one point of the treble is lodged in the corner of his eyelid and not his eyeball. Phew. That was close.

Pierce says "Short, you gotta pull it out."

Yeah, right. Who do I look like, Dr. McDreamy?

I sit Pierce down to assess the situation. I'm not real crazy about pulling a hook so close to someone's eyeball. I get a pair of diagonal cutters out of my toolbox and get rid of the second treble on the crankbait. Upon closer examination, I can see that the hook is really nowhere near getting to Pierce's eye.

"Lay down on the deck and let's get this thing out," I tell Pierce.

I clip the two points off the treble that is impaled in his head. A couple of feet of 20# Triple Fish Fluorocarbon, some downward pressure on the shank of the treble by Pierce's partner, and a quick jerk later the problem is solved.

"Where are your shades?" I ask Pierce.

"Man, it was still early, so I hadn't put them on yet. Guess I need to wear them all the time." Duh.

Lesson number two — if you're chunking and winding, you need to have your eyes covered, regardless of what time it is.

Shades come with many different lens colors for a variety of lighting conditions. Yeah, I know that quality sunglasses like Costa del Mar's are expensive. Go with me here; let's say you bought one pair with yellow lenses for low light, cloudy days or early morning blast-offs and one pair with amber lenses for all around light. You'll spend around $300 for both pair.

Moral to the story — how much are your eyes worth? Can you replace an eye for $300? Protect your eyes so you can see what's out there.

For more info on Kevin Short or to contact Kevin, check out his website at www.kfshort.com.