Don’t Kill Your Catch – Kill Your Motor

Dr Allen Tomlin’s simple kill-switch design. Photo May/June 1973 issue of Bass Master Magazine.

In 1972 Ray Scott instilled the first “Catch-and Release” mantra to bass fishing because he knew if his organization showed up to a lake and locals witnessed thousands of dead fish, he wouldn’t be in business very long. He was not only right but this choice was probably one of the smartest moves by anyone and one that has been a big part of why our fishing today is better than it was years ago.

But, even though the motto was, “Don’t kill your catch,” there was an alarming number of boaters who were getting killed by their boats. Even if the boater was wearing a PFD, without the kill switch, the boat would, many times, circle back and strike the person as they floated.

Two such lethal incidents with anglers prompted a Louisiana doctor by the name of Allen Tomlin to develop the first outboard motor kill switch. He not only designed a simple switch that could be used on any key-ignition outboard motor, he also sent in the design plans to Bass Master Magazine so others could fashion one for themselves – even though he was in the process of getting a patent.

Here are pictures of that first design – the design that all boat manufacturers use today and the one that Ray Scott made mandatory in his tournaments a year or so later.

The pictures are from the May/June 1973 issue of Bass Master Magazine. Dr. Allen Tomlin’s patent was awarded in December, 1973.

I often wonder how many boaters have been saved by this simple device and how many have been killed because they didn’t connect theirs.

This is just another invention one can attribute to bass fishermen – something to be proud of.

  • Harold Sharp

    At the first MegaBuck BASS Tournament I was riding in a boat driven by Mike Runnels, as he started the boat the wheel spun out of his hands and the boat turned up on it’s right side and I was thrown from the boat on the left side. I was wearing a life vest and remember thinking while I was under water to relax and let the vest bring me back up, I also remember thinking, where will the boat be when I surface? When I surfaced I was looking right at the front of the boat about 8 feet away. Mike had his vest on and the kill switch hooked to it, he was thrown in the floor of the boat and the kill switch killed the motor. Kill switches save lives, take my word for it.