Injuries to anglers were almost unheard of just a few short years ago. Most injuries normally occurred when anglers were inadvertently hooked by a fishing lure or they took a spill getting in and out of a boat. I was once hooked by a lure while trying to remove a feisty hybrid bass and believe me, that was an injury. 

Fishing today, especially competitive fishing, has seen a large increase in fishing-related injuries to the body. The largest majority of fishing-related injuries to the body are occurring to anglers pursuing largemouth bass and who compete in tournaments. However, even recreational anglers can suffer injuries.

Injuries to crappie anglers both recreational and in competitive situations certainly occur but normally those anglers do not do repetitive casting in their pursuit of crappie. Repetitive casting causes most injuries to an angler’s body but many types of injuries can occur.  

Many of those bodily injuries do not manifest themselves until years after an angler began competitive fishing. I am not referring to injuries where the angler impales a hook somewhere in his/her body but injuries to the arms, hands, fingers, shoulders, back, legs, knees and feet.

I began serious competitive fishing for largemouth bass in my early 20s and my first related fishing injury did not occur until I was in my early 40s. That injury was diagnosed as tennis elbow and was extremely painful. My elbow was swollen the size of a large orange and the injury required me to stop fishing for a few weeks (that was tough) and required cortisone injections, fluid removal and pain medications to relieve the pain.

That injury caused by repetitive casting would be the first of several injuries that eventually caused me to stop competitive angling for slower-paced recreational angling. It took me a while to reduce my competitive nature and slow down but additional fishing-related injuries finally took their toll and I had no choice but to slow down even further.

My injuries included elbow surgery, arm surgery, multiple hand surgeries, multiple back surgeries, knee surgery, plantar fasciitis and foot surgery. All of those surgeries may not be directly the result of fishing but I know fishing was a major contributing factor. 

I never gave much thought that fishing might have caused a recent left thumb problem that resulted in a visit to an orthopedic doctor and eventual surgery. He explained that I had an injury to the thumb and asked what type of repetitive things had I done with my left thumb that completely wore out the thumb joint. I immediately thought BINGO.

I had for years held my rod and reel in my left hand and thumbed the spool and put pressure on that joint. Pressure was being applied to that joint whether holding the reel, casting, thumbing the line or pulling in a fish. 

That surgery required removing a bone from my thumb, taking a ligament from my arm and putting it in the place of the bone that was removed. I had to wear a cast for six weeks and once the cast was removed, I had to take physical therapy and was off the water for a while.   

Many anglers do not realize until too late that they need to take care of their fishing bodies through exercising and understanding the physics of repetitive casting and other related fishing activities. While repetitive casting accounts for most hand, arm, elbow and shoulder injuries, standing up in the front of a bass boat for several hours can cause many back, leg, knee and foot problems. 

A boat ride in even mild wave turbulence can put pressure on your back. I recently tried to determine how many miles I had driven my boats over the years but finally gave up. It is safe to say it is hundreds if not thousands of miles over 40s years of fishing. Riding in a boat can definitely contribute to back problems. 

Most anglers give little thought about personal injury to their body until an injury has occurred. Even then most anglers just shrug off the pain until it gets to the point that they have to visit a doctor’s office. Ice, heat and over-the-counter inflammatory creams and pills may help for a while and you may never suffer an injury that requires surgery. If you are an angler and that is your situation count yourself lucky.

The number one thing that can be done to help avoid injury for an angler is exercise and most anglers do not participate in any type of personal exercise. Exercise can strengthen leg, back, hand and arm muscles that are so important in fishing. Few anglers in our busy day-to-day world take time to exercise. If an angler is not working, they are usually fishing.

Now I know the younger anglers who might read this column are saying to themselves that this information does not apply to me. They say to themselves that I am healthy and have no problems. I said the same thing when I was in my 20s, 30s and 40s but now my body suffers from all those years of fishing. I still want to tell myself that it was worth it. I have the scars to prove it! 

Good fishing and see you next week.

— Outdoors columnist Bobby Peoples can be reached at

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