Jim Sammons Says, No PFD, No Publicity

Sammons says: Wear your PFD, or stay out of the spotlight. The host of The Kayak Fishing Show takes it seriously, so seriously, he wears his PFD in the sweltering 100+ degree heat of the East Cape.

Sammons says: Wear your PFD, or stay out of the spotlight. The host of The Kayak Fishing Show takes it seriously, so seriously, he wears his PFD in the sweltering 100+ degree heat of the East Cape where he stuck this dorado. Photo: Will Richardson

Last week, Jim Sammons sent me a sad text. “Let the debate begin. Another death of a kayak angler without a PFD,” the host of The Kayak Fishing Show wrote. Later, we’d learn the victim was Leonard Kevin Jones, 57. Jones was not only not wearing a PFD, he was fishing solo, in foul weather, suffered from a heart ailment, and may have been an inexperienced paddler. These are all too typical risk factors in kayak fishing fatalities.

No one knows what killed Jones. A medical emergency, the stormy weather, the inability to self rescue, or maybe even drowning. “A PFD could have helped him survive. That is all I am saying,” he added. Then he said that he was calling Kayak Fish out, as well as every other media source that publishes photos of kayak anglers going without PFDs. In turn, I challenged Sammons to state his case. Here’s his response. – Paul Lebowitz, Editor, Kayak Fish

No PFD, No Publicity
By Jim Sammons

I have been in the kayak fishing game a long time, and have really enjoyed watching this sport that I love grow all over the world.

In the early days of kayak fishing there were no publications dedicated to the sport. For publicity the only options were fishing or paddling magazines. I will never forget submitting some spectacular images to Paddler Magazine and being turned down because I was not wearing a PFD. “Are you kidding me, I am 25 years old, have spent my life in the ocean surfing and diving. I am bullet proof, I don’t need a stinking PFD,” I thought to myself.

Fast-forward many years and my attitude has done a 180. Perhaps with age and experience I am feeling my own mortality. I did almost drown while kayak fishing on the Ottawa River, and I was wearing a PFD at the time. I am certain the outcome would not have been so good if I had gone out without one. Last year I was destroyed in the rocks San Clemente Island. Without a PFD it could have been much worse. I have also had to rescue more people than I can count that have fallen out of their kayaks without the skills to get back in.

Watch Sammons nearly drown.

This sport is growing and with more participants around the world we are hearing about more deaths. The common theme is something like: inexperienced, going out in adverse conditions, not wearing the proper clothing and not wearing a PFD. People are not immortal. Without a PFD we tend to sink. Things can go wrong quickly, as in this video of a kayak angler hit by a boat.

The latest cover of Kayak Fish shows a kayak angler hooked up to a marlin. The angler is not wearing a PFD. I think this sets a bad example.

The Kayak Fish Spring 2014 cover: Bill Collector Matt Reed duels a massive blue marlin.

The Kayak Fish Spring 2014 cover: Bill Collector Matt Reed duels a massive blue marlin. Photo: Black-Schmidt Photography

I am not questioning any person’s skills in a kayak or on the water and I certainly don’t think it is our government’s job to mandate the use of PFDs. We certainly cannot insert common sense into every kayaker’s brain. I do feel that people trying to make a name for themselves in kayak fishing have an obligation to set an example to those that are looking up to them or just entering the sport. I know of kayak fishing guides that don’t wear a PFD and I find this utterly irresponsible.

I put it out there to every person that is submitting images, to every guide and every person that is trying to make it in the kayak fishing world to please wear a PFD at all times and for every media source to only show anglers who are wearing one. Let us all try to set an example to the people that look up to us for advice and guidance in this sport we all love.

You may feel immortal or bulletproof, that you can swim for miles in freezing shark infested waters and have no need of a PFD. So don’t do it for yourself, do it for the family and friends that will miss you and mourn your loss. If you have no friends and family, then do it for me. Your drowning is bad for my business.

Kayak Fish responds: So far as we know, no one has ever died from wearing a PFD. Some have no doubt died from going without. If you want to crack our pages, it won’t hurt to wear one. We recommend it, but don’t look for us to censor photographs or print disclaimers. Kayak Fish reflects the reality of the sport. The reality is some people choose to go without. We hope that choice is an informed decision. What do you think? Tell us. -PL

Jim Sammons on the Ottawa River. Glug, glug, glug. He nearly drowned.

Jim Sammons on the Ottawa River. Glug, glug, glug. He nearly drowned. YouTube frame capture, Kayak Fishing Tales.

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Santiago Rivera
March 16, 2014 6:56 pm

I thank you for this post on PFD’s. Just yesterday I had decided to take mine off when all of a sudden I had a miscue and almost went over in some bushes right near shore. But the thing was if I would had gone over i would had gotten hung up with in the branches and weeds. I quickly counted my blessings and reach back over and put my PHD’s back on. Now I read this. Thank you and your right we all have tendency’s to do as others do just because. I choose now to do as you say I will always ware mine and if I am with another I will insist they also wear theirs. If something were to happen to them my life would also be at risk trying to save or help them. Once again thank you for speaking up..

March 16, 2014 2:30 pm

I wear a PFD and its a habit. I have my wallet, car keys, and cell phone in the front pockets always accessible. I also have a scissors hanging on the front. It wouldn’t be as convenient for me to not wear it. Plus it gives me and my wife at home that extra peace of mind. 🙂

Peter Alandt
March 12, 2014 10:32 am

It’s nice to see Jim change his mindset. I was a whitewater paddler before getting into fishing and kayak fishing. Learning to fish, I was fortunate to have Scott Null and Dean Thomas as mentors. I tried to return the favor by teaching them a little about paddling technique. At the time, they weren’t that interested. It wasn’t until Scott wrote “Kayak Fishing” with Joel McBride and was exposed to other paddlers that he changed his tune.

Fishermen and women who don’t wear PFDs are stupid. I admit to doing it. The Devil’s River in West Texas is August is a scorcher. I still don’t recommend it and if I’m on the water alone, regardless of the heat, I’ve got my PFD on. If I step out of the boat and wade, I might take it off to cool off, but in the boat, paddling, having the PFD on is a must.

Sean White
March 12, 2014 8:02 am

I have to agree. Car and Driver would never publish a pic of someone driving without a seat belt. I see my PFD as I see my seat belt. I’m a perfectly good driver but accidents happen that are outside your control. It doesn’t matter how good of a swimmer you are if you get hit by a boat, line wrapped by a tuna, or a even a crabpot. Better safe than sorry.

big tool
March 11, 2014 5:55 pm

that guy on the cover looks like he is sitting on his PDF

Roger Hammer
March 11, 2014 5:18 am

Florida state and U.S. Coast Guard law says a PFD must be accessible, meaning in your crate, tank well, or strapped to the deck, but not inside a hatch. If you are using an inflatable PFD, however, the law requires that you wear it at all times while on the water. As long as kayak fishermen (and fisherwomen) in the photographs have a conventional PFD on board, and it is accessible, then they are within the law. Therefore, no censoring should be necessary.

Karl Pereira
March 11, 2014 12:38 am

As part (and President) of a kayak fishing club in New Zealand, it annoys me when we return to the beach after an early morning session out on the water only to find both adults and children out in kayaks with no PFD’s on. Recently there was a situation here involving father and daughter who both drowned after falling out of the kayak, yes you guessed it-no PFD’s on. Jim that is a great point about no publicity, but the general public needs to be educated more, but how the hell do you do this when they do nothing even after hearing about such sad and avoidable situations?

Bryan Tucker
March 10, 2014 2:49 pm

I agree w/ Sammons. BY the way, I believe your comment about censoring photos & issuing disclaimers is a load of manure. You select and reject photos for publication every time you produce a new issue. Just be honest about not being interested in taking a leadership role in promoting safety through your publication. I’ll be just as honest about not being interested in purchasing a publication with so little interested in promoting safe practices in the sport.

March 10, 2014 2:18 pm

Wear your PFD, set a good example and live to catch another big one!! Just like a seat belt might not save you but sometimes it DOES save you, safety is no accident my friends. Big ups to you Jim Sammons for speaking out about this, as the sport is more widely experienced nowadays.

Miriam Campbell
March 10, 2014 1:24 pm

Amen. I love watching Jim’s shows and watched the Ottawa river footage with my heart in my throat. My children and grand children (grown) don’t get on my kayaks with out a PFD. One that is suited for them…..At least they will find the body.

Sean Curley
March 10, 2014 1:08 pm

There are just to many good choices of good life vests. Even an inflatable is better than nothing.

Lee Dwayne Sudduth
March 10, 2014 1:00 pm

Add to this–the right gear for the right water conditions. I’ve seen far to many anglers going out in jeans and cotton (or worse) jackets in the winter. Or worse–they get a really warm day in the spring; the water hasn’t had time to warm up above 40 degrees or so and they’re in flip-flops, shorts and t-shirts because it’s warm enough for that.

I’m not on the prostaff for any company; yet I’ve seen photos from other prostaffers exhibit exactly this behavior–and not wearing PFD’s either. I’ve only been paddling the last two seasons–but I have no interest in losing my life to cold water. I don’t have the right gear, so when the water goes below 65 degrees, my kayak is put up for the year. Yes, it limits me to about mid-May through about Mid-October..but I’d rather be alive for my family.

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