WON Landing Page OCT 2022

Retro WON: How to Wear Sunscreen Like a Pro Angler

Ever wonder what kind of sunscreen professional anglers wear for a day on the water? Anietra Hamper shares their secrets, here!


It takes a lot of time on the water to earn several national fishing titles, win 6 Angler-of-the-Year awards and become the only woman to qualify and fish the final day of the Bassmaster Classic (2010). To be exact, in just 1 year’s time, competitive angler Pam Martin-Wells spends about 10 weeks on the water at tournaments, 5 weeks in practice on the lakes and rivers and another 60 days in the elements with her own guide business.

When you consider these are 8- to 14-hour days, that’s a lot of time on the water, and in the sun. Each outing increases her risk of skin cancer, which is why Pam thinks about her sun protection strategy almost as much as her fishing strategy.

“I grew up in the age where a tan was the in thing, so I grew up lying in the sun with baby oil trying to get a tan,” said Pam. “That, combined with 26 years of fishing, has brought on more issues.”

Pam is referring to the many precancerous spots she’s had removed as a result of skin cell damage before education about sun protection became widely available.


Pam Martin Wells

Pam Martin Wells

Skin cancer is the most common kind of cancer, and the rate of melanoma diagnosis has been on the rise for the last 30 years. This year alone (2014) the American Cancer Society estimates almost 140,000 new cases of melanoma and 9,700 deaths. Non-melanoma skin cancers will account for another 3.5 million cases this year. With early detection, basal-cell and squamous-cell carcinomas (the 2 most common skin cancers) are easily treated. Caught early enough, even the most severe skin cancer, melanoma, can be treated before spreading to lymph nodes with a 5-year survival rate of 98%, according to the American Cancer Society.

No matter how you look at the numbers, skin cancer is scary. That is why the fishing pros who endure sun exposure most days of the year take serious precautions.

Pam has a diligent regimen that she uses everyday, and especially on fishing days.

  • Neutrogena sunscreen (SPF 50-85)
  • Using a higher SPF on face and ears/lower SPF on arms and legs
  • Application 30 minutes before sun exposure, with frequent reapplication throughout the day
  • Wearing protective gear, including a visor most days, wide brim hat in hotter months and a long-sleeved, lightweight white shirt
  • Sunglasses to protect harmful rays to her eyes


Lady Bass Anglers Association co-founder Cheryl Bowden, who competes in 25 tournaments a year, starts her day with BullFrog Quick Gel sunscreen (SPF 36-50) and reapplies 3 times a day. She also wears a hat that covers her neck, polarized sunglasses, SPF clothing and uses the BullFrog brand paste stick to keep her face and lips protected.

“You can never be too careful when you are out in the sun,” said Cheryl. “Your skin is a protective barrier and needs to be treated with the utmost care. Prevention is always better than the alternatives.”

To help make sun protection a part of the everyday routine, both Pam and Cheryl keep sunscreen in the restroom, or near other items for the day, so it’s easy to remember to use it.


cheryl bowden

Cheryl Bowden

What to look for in sunscreen

The American Melanoma Foundation suggests that no matter what brand of sun protection you choose that you select a product based on the following criteria:

  • An SPF of 15 or greater. An SPF of 15 absorbs 93% of ultraviolet radiation and an SPF of 34 absorbs 97%, so SPFs of 50 or higher don’t necessarily provide that much more protection.
  • Choose a broad-spectrum sunscreen. You want a product that provides both UVA and UVB protection.
  • Waterproof and water-resistant. If you are on the water fishing — at some point you are likely in the water to cool off, so you want to make sure your sunscreen protection covers you. “Waterproof” means a product will maintain its SPF after 80 minutes of water exposure. “Water-resistant” means a product will maintain its SPF after 40 minutes of water exposure.

The sunscreen product options are endless and some are better than others. The most recent Consumer Reports study (2014) on sunscreen recommended only 7 of the 20 products they tested. They considered the product’s true SPF factor, how well it guarded against UVB rays after participants went into the water and the cost.

The recommended brands include the following:

  • Banana Boat’s Ultra Defense Max Skin Protect SPF 110 spray
  • BullFrog Water Armor Sport InstaCool SPF 50+
  • Neutrogena Ultimate Sport SPF 70+
  • Target’s Up & Up Spray Sport SPF 50
  • Walgreens’ Well Sport SPF 50 spray
  • Walmart’s Equate Ultra Protection SPF 50


Anita Hamper-sunscreen

Anietra Hamper

Keep in mind that no sunscreen, no matter how great the product, can protect you adequately if you do not use it or if you do not reapply as recommended. With so many great application methods available — like face sticks, pocket-sized application tubes, sprays etc. — sun protection is getting more convenient for the hours we spend outdoors.


We are women who love the outdoors — and we should enjoy it  — safely.

This article first appeared on Jun 11, 2014.


  • About The WON

    The Women's Outdoor News, aka The WON, features news, reviews and stories about women who are shooting, hunting, fishing and actively engaging in outdoor adventure. This publication is for women, by women.


The Conversation

  • Franck R. says: July 5, 2016 at 3:16 pm

    Great article to sensibilze people to skin damages and illnesses due to sun rays. In France the amount of UV are probably less important than in USA and particulary in the south but you also must consider UVA protection when you buy sunscreen. Not only UVB are dangerous. A very recent study from french non lucrative consumers association (published yesterday) has proven that many SPF 50+ sunscreen for kids did not protect at all against UVA.
    Take care and enjoy outdoor’s activities.
    Franck (Bordeaux-France)