Bassmaster Pros Rescue at Guntersville


On the first day of last week’s CITGO Bassmaster Southern Open, Ken Sheets was fishing on Lake Guntersville in Alabama when he saw an emergency unfold that launched him into immediate action.

Sheets, who fished the CITGO Bassmaster Tour in 2003, looked up to see a low-flying plane coming down about 200 yards away.

“I told my partner (non-boater Todd Lee), ‘Hey, check this out. This guy’s going to land this plane on the water.’ I thought it was a (seaplane), but when I looked closer I saw it had wheels,” said the 52-year-old pro from St. Louis, Mo. “I starting thinking I hoped he wasn’t having trouble about the time its wheels touched the water and then it flipped upside down. It just crashed,” he said.

“We threw our rods down and ran over there. As I got over there, this elderly gentleman climbed out on the wing, which was upside down. I hollered and asked him if there was anybody else in the plane, which was my main concern. He said he was alone. He said he was OK, but his face was busted up a little bit and he was bleeding. But he was real coherent.”

“By this time, the four or five boats that had been fishing that area went over there. We got him up into another guy’s boat and then tied a marker buoy on the plane. I called 911 and then I called his wife. Then I called the airport. He was OK except for being shook up a little bit.”

It sounded like the unusual rescue also left Sheets a little shook.

“I’ve been doing this for a long time and I hope it’s a long time before I ever see anything like it again,” he said.

ANOTHER NEW ALABAMA PRO. Connecticut’s Lee Bailey has joined the legion of Bassmaster pros who have relocated to the state of Alabama. He joins Aaron Martens, Mark Rizk, Randy Howell and others.

“We bought a house in Boaz and my wife and I are Alabama residents now,” Bailey said. “With the costs involved in fishing the trail now, it’s important to be more centrally located.”

Bailey was able to stay in his home state to compete in last week’s Southern Open on Lake Guntersville.

“I love the lake,” he said. “I do love it here. We moved in June so I’ve got to spend some time on the lake, but not as much as I’d like to. I look forward to it being my home lake.”

SWINDLE’S SHIRT. His friends will say that Gerald Swindle will give you the shirt off of his back. And that is literally the case these days as the 2004 CITGO Bassmaster Angler of the Year’s tournament jersey recently was one of five auctioned by CITGO to benefit the Muscular Dystrophy Association, a voluntary health agency that fights against neuromuscular diseases that affect more than one million Americans

Also auctioned were the autographed jerseys of anglers Shaw Grigsby, Skeet Reese, Marty Stone and Zell Rowland. Bids for the jerseys on eBay started at $225.

”During the Classic, I had an opportunity to meet a lot of the children afflicted with this terrible disease,” Swindle said. “It really brought home to me the significance of what we are doing here.”

The auction was part of CITGO’s successful “Weigh In for MDA” event held just prior to last month’s CITGO Bassmaster Classic in Pittsburgh, Pa. That event, hosted by Swindle, raised more than $30,000.

KNOWLEDGE IS POWER. Raising your BASS IQ is more possible than ever with recent additions to BASS Insider, the Web site available as an upgrade to BASS members or anyone else who wants to join.

Coming on line soon will be a series of audio features by Bassmaster magazine senior writer Tim Tucker, who will tap into the minds of the top pros on the CITGO Bassmaster Tournament Trail. Other add-ons include video clips from Bassmaster University instructors (40 clips are now contained in the library) and a growing archive of animated “how to” movies, a BASS Insider exclusive. And each month, Insider members will have access to content tied to Bassmaster magazine, such as the audio interview in the current issue with David Hayes, who caught the world record smallmouth.

WEIRDEST CATCH. Alabama Tour pro Jimmy Mason’s weirdest catch is unlike any other caught before.

“I once caught an Indian pot, a clay pot,” he said. “I was fishing an old shell mound on Pickwick in the winter with a grub and caught the inside of the clay pot. It was probably 90 percent intact.”

Mason respectfully dropped the Indian artifact back into the spot from which it came.

DID YOU KNOW? Rick Clunn holds the record for the largest winning margin in a Classic (25 pounds, 8 ounces in 1984). The late Don Butler is second with a cushion of 13 pounds, 7 ounces in the 1972 Classic.

IF I HADN’T BECOME A BASS PRO É Angler Stephen Browning says he would likely still be working for the state of Arkansas as an inspector of wastewater treatment plants. “I don’t miss that at all,” he said.

THEY SAID IT. “I think the timing of the Elite Series is perfect. A lot of guys are complaining about (the increased entry fees), but if they would take the effort they’re putting in complaining about it into getting out there and make the phone calls (for sponsorships), they could see it happen for them.” South Carolina pro Jason Quinn, who says the built-in exposure in the new Elite Series enabled him to get a six-figure wrapped boat and vehicle deal promoting Evan Williams bourbon.

News exclusives, audio and video clips of bass fishing's biggest stars, loads of discounts and more are all part of BASS Insider, an exclusive membership, now available at

BASS is the worldwide authority on bass fishing, sanctioning more than 20,000 events through the BASS Federation annually. Guided by its mission to serve all fishing fans, BASS sets the standard for credibility, professionalism, sportsmanship and conservation, as it has for nearly 40 years.

BASS stages bass fishing tournaments for every skill level and culminates with the CITGO Bassmaster Classic. Through its clubs, youth programs, aquatic resource advocacy, magazine publishing and multimedia platforms, BASS offers the industry's widest array of services and support to its nearly 550,000 members. The organization is headquartered in Celebration, Fla.