I have sissy bars on my boat and I never considered myself a “sissy.” The word as a noun is defined as a “coward, a weakling, a cry baby” and Lord forbid “effeminate”. Well let’s see how this term has settled on us flat boat owners who have chosen to pimp our rides with these constructed devices. Do they make us look weak? I don’t think so. How about “cowardly?” Cowardly against what? Effeminate, really? Crybaby? Well maybe we have something here but not what you were expecting.
As an orthopedic surgeon and fly fisherman I have witnessed first-hand “crybabies” or maybe “crying like a baby” from the mouths of the unfortunate angler who just lost his balance and fell from the poling platform onto the razor-sharp outboard propeller blades. Make sure you visit the photos accompanying this article.
When I first started tarpon fishing, I marveled at the way my guide could stand on a poling platform with all his agility and balance even though the rolling waves bounced him up and down. How did he do that? I still don’t know.
Then my soon to become a best friend and fishing partner showed up at my office with ruptured Achilles tendons on each side, no insurance, and told me the story of him losing his balance on the polling platform and taking a nose-dive into the cockpit of his Hell’s Bay skiff. Surgery for my friend resulted in a bartering process where he presented me a brand-new Abel reel on his first post-op visit, the beginning of a great relationship.
I then got another patient who fell on the prop blades from the poling platform. You can dull a good prop blade with a muscular thigh, nasty wounds and they get infected.
My first introduction to sissy bars was a trip to Montok, NY for striper fishing. You absolutely had to have a sissy bar to stand up on the front of the Jones’ brothers’ boat with one arm and hand with a death grip around a sissy bar and the other trying to cast in 2-4’ swells. Everyone in NY has sissy bars and cages. After that I never looked back. So, when I got my Maverick Mirage II the first addition was a cage aka sissy bar for me up top with the pole and one for the guy on the front with the fishing rod. Over the years I have seen a number of grotesque injuries from the poling platform to the prop blades. Why don’t anglers get smart? I guess it’s a macho thing like having drive on posts on your trailer. It’s a no-brainer.
Anyhow, I have tweaked my sissy bars many times over the years. So now the one up top fits my butt cheek perfectly so I can pole with one leg in the cage and one leg out and sit back on the sissy bar which now has a pad on it. Much more comfortable and much safer.
The opening in the front of my cage on the poling platform is just large enough to allow me up and down access to the deck and to the platform but small enough so that I am not going to fall out of it.
I’ve had my share of close calls on the water and before I put sissy bars on my boat there was always a little bit of apprehension when I took a wave or an unexpected bump. I now have cages on both my flat boats so if you want to call me a “sissy” have at it. But I’m a safe “sissy.”
Thomas R. Dempsey
Certified Casting Instructor and founder of Gulf Coast Fly Fishing School, Mobile, Alabama