Truth is stranger than fiction

While fishermen are known for exaggerating, sometimes the truth is so strange it needs no embellishment. Just ask Terry Baksay.
Terry is well known to Sunset Country anglers. For several years, he and O.T. Fears fished the Kenora Bass International. It was a busman’s holiday, because Terry and O.T. spend most of the year competing on the BASSMASTER and FLW tournament circuits in the United States.
I’ve had the pleasure of fishing with Terry several times. As well as being just about the nicest person you would ever want to meet, he is also a superb angler. As he was recently proving at the FLW tournament on Kentucky Lake. During the opening round of the competition, Terry held a hot stick. He coasted into the final day showdown when the field is paired down to the top 10 anglers who square off for the first place purse of $100,000.
Baksay was confident about his chances because he had found what most anglers dream about. A honey hole crawling with fish. During the opening rounds he’d weighed in 20-pound limits from the spot, and had helped his co-anglers catch smallmouth exceeding five pounds. In fact, his last day amateur partner hooked what Terry said was one of the biggest smallmouth he’d ever seen. A seven-pound plus monster. Twice he had it alongside the boat before the big fish eventually threw the hook and jumped free.
With a spot like this to run to . . . and a $100,000 first place prize . . . you can imagine how pumped he was at blast off. And how his heart must have jumped into his throat when he rounded a point on the lake and spotted two boats sitting on the spot.
Fortunately, one of the anglers recognized Baksay, put down his rod and politely said, “Hey, the spot is yours my friend.” The two old-timers in the other boat, however, weren’t as obliging. Baksay approached the anglers and explained that he was fishing for $100,000 prize. But the pair didn’t even acknowledge his presence. “They wouldn’t even speak to me,” Baksay said.
Worse still, while Terry tried to fish around the pair, he watched them catch two bass, one in the six and the other in the seven-pound category and put them on a stringer. His heart sank along with chances to win.
Pro angler Marty Stone also missed a nice paycheck recently on Lake Eufaula in Alabama. He was fishing a tiny shoreline spot shaded by a tree that drooped almost to the water’s edge. As Stone pulled up to make a cast, he noticed a giant water moccasin coiled on a branch.
Now, Stone and Indiana Jones share something in common. A phobia for snakes. Especially poisonous vipers like the one dangling over his hot spot.
At the weigh-in ceremonies Stone confessed he kept more than one eye on the snake as he pitched under the tree. Of course, you know what happened next. On his third flip, a big bass came rushing out from under the tree and grabbed Stone’s lure. But he was so worried about the snake that he almost forgot to set to the hook.
But that is only the half of it. When Stone finally realized he had on a fish, he reared back and the bass came out of the water. At which point the snake either fell or jumped off the branch and attacked the fish that it probably thought was trying to eat it.
Stone is not sure what happened next. He is certain, though, that he lost the fish, and the several thousands of dollars it would have moved him up in the standings.
But the most bizarre thing to happen involved a friend, Aaron Martens from California. He pocketed $200,000 in May when he won the Wal-Mart FLW Open on Wheeler Lake. Nothing particularly unusual about that. Only during the last day of the tournament, a game warden pulled up alongside Aaron’s boat and asked to see his Alabama fishing license.
Aaron scrounged through his wallet, glove compartment and every other part of the boat but he couldn’t find it. He was given a citation. Aaron did give the officer the information about when and where he purchased the license earlier in the season, so it wasn’t a case of not having a valid permit. It was simply that he couldn’t immediately produce it.
Touring pros like Martens routinely fish in 20, 30 or more jurisdictions over the course of a season and accumulate a thick stash of licences, permits and tags. Most keep them all together in one place and that is rarely in their back pocket or in the boat.
Fortunately for Martens, the FLW rules don’t speak to the issue and the tournament officials say that as far as they’re concerned the matter is closed. “You can see how these anglers, who travel all over the country, could make an oversight like that,” one of the officials was quoted as saying. “He was treated like any other angler (by the game warden). He was given a citation and a fine.”
For his part, Martens said, “I was issued a citation on the final day for fishing without a current Alabama license in my possession. For those who would ask what kind of a message it sends to other anglers, I say that it proves that I was treated the same as any other fisherman under similar circumstances.”
Martens went on to add, “I purchased an Alabama license earlier in the year. But, unfortunately, I did not have it in my possession at the time. I do recall the location where the license was originally purchased, and I am working with the Alabama Department of Natural Resources to verify my record of the purchase.”
Martens concluded by saying, “I deserve the citation that was issued to me because I did not have proof of a valid licence in my possession. And I deserve to be treated like any other angler who made an honest mistake. Hopefully in a few weeks a record of the licence will be located in the state’s archives.”
I am sure Aaron feels a little sheepish, but I suspect the $200,000 cheque will soothe any embarrassment.

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