Tournament turns tragic after angler's death


Reporter - Beth Bradley
Photojournalist - Chad Darnall

LYON COUNTY, Ky. - Recreational boating season is almost over but hundreds of boats are still filling up our lakes with tournaments in full swing. But this morning was a sad reminder of how even the most experienced boaters can't be too cautious.

"They're all professionals," said Sgt. Gary Clark with fish and wildlife.  "They do a good job when they come in here. We usually don't see too much of this happening during a fishing tour."

Clark responds to collisions every season.  They are usually recreational boaters but this morning that wasn't the case.

"They realized they was going to hit," Clark said. "I don't know what each rider and each operator did, but when they turned they still collided."

Ejecting one man from each boat into the water just minutes after the Bass Fishing League Tournament started.

The passenger on the BFL boat was a 41-year-old man from Eupora, Mississipi. He was prounced dead at the scene. The driver of that boat is from Mayfield and was not injured.

The other man ejected was the driver taking part in the renegade tournament. He and his passenger were also not injured.

FLW Administrative Director Dave Washburn said he knows this will be tough news on everyone.

"These anglers all know each other,"  Washburn said. "They're all fiends. They're all family."

After twenty years of competition, one angler we spoke to now only fishes for fun.  But when it comes to operating a boat, he still takes it seriously.

"Most of these guys have a lot of time on the water," adding that even with that much experience, anyone can make a mistake.

Washburn said the incident, while rare, is still heartbreaking.

"We're fortunate that our anglers have a great safety record because we really stress safety so much," he said. "But accidents do happen and that appears to be the case here.  Just a tragic accident."

And a sad reminder, said Sgt. Gary Clark, that no matter how much experience you have, you can't be cautious enough.

"There's no lights, stop signs or anything and they come from all directions. You've got to be on your best guard when you operate a boat."