Ok, so I admitted it on stage at the BASS Open in Muskogee, OK and I’ve certainly gotten plenty of questions about it, so I’ll go ahead and tell the whole story. It’s embarrassing to admit, although it’s probably pretty obvious, I’m not the most graceful guy around. I don’t plan on auditioning for Dancing With the Stars, trying to walk a tightrope or even getting on the roof to repaint the eaves. But the one thing I thought I could manage to do was to stay in the boat throughout an entire fishing day. Well on Day 2 at Muskogee, I was proven wrong on that point.
Now this was not my first unexpected excursion from a bass boat. If you spend enough time standing on one foot, while bumping through stump fields, a sudden stop and swim is almost inevitable. There’s even some video on my YouTube Channel of my son-in-law having a similar problem fishing with me last November. But for me, it had been long enough that I really wasn’t prepared for how fast it happened.
It all started innocently enough with an errant cast that didn’t quite get under the limb where I was aiming, yet another unusual occurrence for me. After all it had only happened about 20 times already that morning. Now normally, I’d just break off the bait, since it was just a Texas rigged worm and I’d have to retie anyway after the line rubbed against the tree. Another added bonus to breaking it off in Oklahoma, is that you don’t have to get close to the trees which seem to contain an excessive amount of my mortal enemy, snakes. Better to break off $1.30 worth of tackle than to come eye to eye with those evil creatures and have a heart attack.
Against my better judgment, I manned up and decided to venture into serpent land and retrieve my bait. I got the boat close, knelt down and reached out with my right hand toward the tree to break off the limb. Not being as limber as I was 20 years ago, I prudently braced my left hand on the side of the boat to help balance myself and that’s where I made my mistake.
Two things were instantly apparent. First off, wet fiberglass is slick. Yeah, I know. I should have already known that but for some reason, it slipped (no pun intended) my mind. Secondly, once your bracing hand slips and your center of gravity gets instantly thrown past the side of the boat, you’re going swimming. As an added bonus, I discovered that once you get this much body mass (after all I’m not a little fellow) moving, there’s no stopping it. So off I went, head first, into the tree, into the 74 degree water and into the 8mph current, breaking limbs as I went.
Now I won’t (and can’t here) repeat what my first thought was, but I can tell you that my second thought was that I shouldn’t have taken that deep breath as I went under. It took a few seconds to right myself under water, disentangle myself from the tree and figure out where the boat was. Once I did, I was able to grab the side of the boat, spend several minutes coughing up water and use the motor to haul my fat self back up into the boat.
Now this isn’t my first time to have an unexpected exit, so I carry a change of clothes in the boat on tournament days. In this case, I happened to be by a fairly busy highway, but I got naked and changed anyway. The water was so cold so that wasn’t a big deal and it wasn’t the first time I’d stripped down in a populated area for this exact reason, so it wasn’t much of a decision.
It ended up that, other than a bruised knee and an equally bruised ego, this ended up being an amusing story with a happy ending. But I have to admit that it shook me up at the time. It didn’t affect the fishing that day. I managed to mess that up entirely on my own. What it did do was to remind me of how quickly things can go wrong in the boat. Just a little more water swallowed, the boat moving off a little more or a harder impact with the tree and I might not have been here to tell the story. Fortunately for me, we can all laugh about it now. I’ll continue to be on the water every available moment and yes, I’m sure it’ll happen again. And when it does, I’ll be sure to tell you all about it. Hopefully, next time, the cameras will still be running and you’ll get to see it in full HD glory!