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How to Do Live Bait Rescue

Entering the water to grab a swimmer, while tethered to shore by a rope attached to your quick-release rescue belt, is a very effective technique. Often it can be more effective than standing onshore to toss a throw rope. In this video, rescue instructor Jim Coffey shows how to safely set up and execute a live bait rescue. Remember, a video is a supplement to, not a substitute for, professional hands-on training classes.

The quick-release rescue belt on a rescue-specific life jacket is the key equipment that makes it possible to use this technique safely. Typically, the belt is threaded through the metal tri-glide to give the maximum friction. However, you can go directly through the quick release buckle.

After getting attached to the quick-release belt with the rope, the next consideration is the positioning of the rescuer. The rescuer should be upstream of the anchor point (the anchor point can either be another person or a tie-off point on shore). Also, ideally the rescuer should be approximately the same distance upstream of the anchor point as the swimmer is expected to be from shore.

Next, as the rescuer reaches the swimmer, they should reach with their near-shore hand to grab the stream-side shoulder strap of the swimmer’s life jacket. Then, by reaching back with their stream-side hand to grab the rope, the rescuer puts their body and the body of the swimmer in a good line that puts minimum force on the rope and the anchoring person as they pendulum into shore.

When setting up to initiate a live-bait rescue, select a spot that puts the rescuer and swimmer in a safe spot when they get to shore. Ideally it will be calmer water free from obstacles and entanglements. And as always, to avoid a foot entrapment, never stand up in moving unless it’s very calm or quite shallow.