Updated: Aug 15
Crossing a coastal bar, and especially one with breaking waves, can be a tad daunting for the new jetski fisho.
My advice is if you are not a surfer and understand wave behaviour -and their power - do not attempt to learn how to cross a bar when the swell is bigger than 1M (about 3 feet) . I'd also suggest that you only try in between the 2hrs either side of the high tide, as around low tide you are at an increased risk.
Here's my top tips to get out there safely
Tip #1 - Know your limits- and the jetskis too!
Watching the weather conditions and knowing the size of the swell is very important. Sooner or later you might encounter a big swell on that perfect fishing day, so ensure you know what the weather is doing so that you do not take undue risks.
Remember that you are likely carrying a load of fishing gear, fuel, and accessories, all which change the performance characteristics of the craft, and all which could be lost if you do something silly!
Don't attempt a crossing unless your ski is very reliable and performing at full specifications. Take your ski out of "ECO mode" as you will need the full engine power to get you out safely in the swirling and fast-moving whitewater found on the shallow bars.
Tip #2 - Carry the mandatory safety equipment at all times
The local regulations vary country to country and state to state, so follow the rules. They are there to keep you alive in the case of a mishap. And bar crossings are one of the most dangerous places to be on any watercraft.
In addition, log on to the local marine rescue services. In Australia, this can be done by VHF radio, or in mobile phone apps. The service is there to safeguard your life in case you come off the ski and need assistance, so make the radio call before (and after) the crossing or log in on the authorised mobile app for your location.
Carry a Personal Locator Beacon (PLB) at all times if fishing offshore. If you come off your watercraft and can't swim back to it to re-board, this device will save your life.
Tip #3 - Approach the bar and watch the waves
Watch the wave intervals and determine if it is possible to get through a lull between the sets. Move slowly out to the impact zone, leaning back and powering the ski over the whitewater as required.
Do not attempt to take on a whitewater that is higher than your shoulder height when standing on the ski. There is a huge amount of force in the whitewater in some waves- enough to damage equipment on your ski- so turn back and wait for your chance to take a smaller wave.
Tip #4 - Go for it in the lulls!
Don't much around when you see a break. Just go as fast as possible, being careful when going over any swells not to hit them too fast as you maybe launched very high of the back of the wave and land very hard! I've had some friends decide to hit a swell at top speed and end up going so high they bail out and have been slightly hurt. Your best bet is to power up to the swell to ensure the wave won't break on you, but back the throttle right off as you hit the swell and drop over the other side.
Tip #5 - If you get caught in a bad spot, simply turn around, go back, and try again when it's safer
Your ski is a very fast and maneuverable craft. You are better off turning around and trying again than risking it all.
Sometimes turning and running sideways to the waves might see you find a safe place to cross. I often do this anyway so that I do not risk being anywhere near the impact zone!
Tip #6 - When coming back in to shore over a bar, stay between waves!
As you ride in and a wave rears in front, do not go up the back of the swell and over the front. Typically the back of the wave can be around 1/3 of the height of the front. You could find yourself nosediving down the face, the worse possible outcome you could hope for.
Get behind the wave and stay close up to the back of the wave and follow it all the way in until it loses power and you can safely ride in front of it. I'd also suggest that you watch over your shoulder as you ride in to ensure the next wave is not going to catch up and overrun the front wave! That can be a big concern but more likely as the font wave has lost a lt of power and size, so you might get the chance to push out and over the front wave to get away from the rear wave. As you do so, lean as far back as possible to keep the nose up as high as possible to avoid a nosedive!
In summary, safe bar crossing on a fishing jetski can be dangerous or as safe as you make them. Follow the tips, and if a newbie, practice in small swell until you feel confident to take on the bigger waves!
Bar Crossings also increase the risk of water penetration to fishing reels and your electronics. Make sure you cover your reels and Sounders! We sell covers that have been proven to safeguard your equipment with many bar crossing and bad weather days as proof of value! Go to the shop to get yours!