VEST ON, kill-switch attached.

VEST on, kill-switch  attached?

UPDATE–Just learned the body of Jim Schafer was found Wednesday, Aug. 19 in more than 290 feet off Middle Point, Lake Mead.

My last words on the phone to Laurence Schafer last night were: “Give your mom a hug from all of us.” It wasn’t much then–and this morning it feels even more inadequate.

You see, Laurence is the son of “the missing bass fisherman” out at Lake Mead that you may have read about on Facebook. Whatever happened, happened a week ago today in the center of the Virgin Basin out off Middle Point.

The angler was Jim Schafer, 67, a fellow, former member of my club, the Saddleback Bassmasters, from more than 40 years ago.

More than that, he is one with whom I had more recent contact the last couple of summers as we discussed lake conditions  prior to  the annual U.S. Open bass tournament.

Unlike back in the days of flashers and paper graphs, we probably know more (though maybe not enough) about what happened this time than we ever would have previously.

That’s because his boat’s “little black box” showed an extreme, radical change in course that occurred, in addition to the high rate of speed he was going with his newly re-powered rig (going from 115 to 150 horses.) The exact location was there as well on his GPS.

What we also know, he wasn’t wearing his life vest nor was his (engine) kill-switch attached. But I will interrupt your thoughts to say, at the speed he was likely ejected and contacted the water in such a way, we were not likely to have had a happy ending. But there could be some closure, as Laurence noted, “Instead of that hope of 10 percent chance of finding him alive–when there is no hope.”

I could tell in his voice, the son was actually a bit chafed with his Dad. You see, Jim was one of my generation who was not fond of wearing his life vest. Laurence recounted that he and his siblings would have to force him to put one on, even off the Washington coast where the younger Schafer lives and fishes.

As I have spoken with others who knew him, they all echoed the fact that Jim refused wear his where it wasn’t mandated. And true to that behavior, there in the drifting boat, motor still running, were his three vests, the likely result of a sudden steering system failure.

So that’s where we are right now. Maybe they will find the body, but that’s not likely on Lake Mead, according to the experts.

All I can do (or choose to now) is express the wishes of the family to encourage all of us to put on those vests, zip them, clip them. And for obvious reasons.

And then there is this lesson. If the worst happens out there, for all your selfish reasons not to play it safe, the consequence is not going to be all about you. The crisis is going to land right on top of your family and loved ones.

As it did last week.



7 Responses to “A lesson I didn’t want to hear…”

by Danny Apodaca

I was brave (possibly foolish) enough to launch on a very windy day on Diamond Valley in June of last year. At 10:20 a lake official motored up to me to declare the lake closed due to wind. On my way back I happened upon three men and a capsized rental boat in the middle of the lake. There was no one else in site and my horn was drowned out by gusts that hit 90 mph that day. A twenty minute ordeal of fighting wind and swells unlike anything I’ve encountered on a lake before ended successfully by saving them. None of them were wearing life jackets, they were cold and exhausted. It was very fortunate for them that I was crazy enough to launch that day.

by George Kramer

Great work, Danny! All we can hope is that more remember to put on those life vests, no matter what–or hope there are more Danny Apodaca’s out there to save our bacon.

by Guy Williams

Condolences to the family of Mr. Schafer. I myself need and will do a better job at wearing my life vest with the kill switch on outside of tournament days. I hope we all can take a little from this tragedy. Thanks GK for this article.

I ALWAYS wear my life jacket and kill switch even when fun fishing either in my boat or in someone else’s boat. I’ve told people I fish with while fun fishing to put on their life vests, and hook up the kill switch when fun fishing. Accidents can happen whether you’re in a tournament or not.

I will get our lifejackets out of rod lockers from now on,. I have not been wearing my lifejacket,…being a surfer for 30 plus years gives a false security that I could survive,wrong!!! Obviously there should be a moment of silence, a video, or something at the upcoming U.S. Open, for Jim Schafer ,. Wow, one of our western pioneer tournament fisherman is gone,.. Launched at 4:00 am,…solo,…doing what he loved, great fisherman!!!!

Heard on the news that another fisherman went missing at Irvine Lake yesterday. He was fishing with his friend, both went over the side, his friend grabbed the anchor rope, but the other man never resurfaced. Neither men were wearing their life jackets, and neither were good swimmers. They are still searching for the man today.

George: so sorry to read this news about Jim. I also knew him as a fellow member of the Saddleback Bassmasters. I always wore my life jacket when boating.