LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Drury University's Drew Sanford had a headache after Day Two of the 2007 Under Armor College Bass National Championship.
Hunting for their goal of a 14-pound stringer, he and partner Alex Sahliyeh fished furiously, both often using the front deck to cast to prime spots. On one such cast, Sahliyeh reared back to throw a double-trebled-hooked chartreuse crankbait.
But the lure never reached its target. Instead it found the back of Sanford's head, lodging several barbs through his Costa Del Mar sunglass holders and into his scalp.
"I felt really, really bad," Sahliyeh said at the weigh-in. "And I asked him if he wanted to go in."
"I was a bit hot but I said, 'No way,'" Sanford said, the lure still lodged in his noggin. "It was only 9:30 and I was like, 'We're going fishing.'"
And fish they did. The team arrived at the weigh-in with five fish weighing 10 pounds, 11 ounces.
Luckily for Sanford, Little Rock resident and Bassmaster Elite Series pro angler Scott Rook returned to the weigh-in on Friday to watch the action. Upon learning of the young angler's predicament, Rook sprang into action.
Rook had experience removing treble hooks from his own body over his years of professional fishing.
"I've had them in my arms, legs, fingers, ears," Rook said. "I'm sure I can get it out with the line trick."
Rook then asked the other college anglers who had assembled around Sanford if anyone had 20-pound test monofilament and a pair of wire cutters. Dr. Rook was getting ready for some surgery.
"Should I go to the doctor?" Sanford asked while Rook inspected the wound.
"I mean, sure, if you want to pay for it," Rook responded. "But I can do it for free."
The word "free" makes any college student happy. Sanford agreed to the parking lot surgery, but cringed as he knelt down to receive his treatment.
"Do you want me to hold your hand?" Sahliyeh said, half-teasing his partner.
Rook clipped the eyelets attaching the hooks to the body and the crankbait fell to the asphalt.
"Wow, that's a really big knife" Sahliyeh teased again.
Rook laughed, but was soon ready for the actual line trick. He took the fishing line, made a loop and fastened it around the hook.
"Okay, ready? One...two…" Rook said and jerked out the first hook. "Three."
Sanford was impressed. One down. One to go.
Rook applied the same technique to remove the second hook, minus the countdown.
"Thank you so much," Sanford said. "That didn't really hurt at all."
"No problem," Rook said as applause from the other anglers dissipated. "Just glad I could help."
Many college bass teams wear official jerseys with their name, school logo and sponsor logos. Finding the sponsors to claim the spots on those jerseys isn't always a simple task.
The Pittsburgh State fishing team's jerseys, for instance, features a national insurance company and a local pizzeria.
"I used to work for them as a delivery driver," Will Skucious said. "And they gave us some money to help us with our jerseys."
Skucious explained that his partner, Adam Bennett, had his grandmother help to secure the support from Farm Bureau.
The Arizona State team used flyers to attract its handful of sponsors.
"We made promotional brochures," team president Mitch Kistner said. "It had our mission statement, our pictures and what tournaments we'd be attending."
The Sun Devils sent the materials to more than 40 potential sponsors, a half-dozen of which agreed to sponsor the team.
"A dumb mistake"
The one that got away from the Iowa Hawkeyes was almost the one that got them sent home.
About 15 minutes into their Day Two, John Haynes and Tyler Mehrl watched in awe as a bass they swore went 6 pounds took Haynes' bait and breached the surface. Then they watched in horror as the potential scale-breaker broke off his line.
"It was a dumb mistake," Haynes said of losing the fish. "He turned toward the grass and he snapped my line."
He tried to tell himself what he says everyone always says, which is not to let such a calamity affect him. "Easier said than done," he said. "I honestly didn't think we were going to make it."
A couple of quick keepers soon after helped to quiet those thoughts. At day's end, Haynes and Mehrl had filled their limit — and advanced to fish the final day, in fifth place, 12 ounces ahead of sixth-place Faulkner. With the weights zeroed for Saturday, fifth is as good as first.
Also in the final five will be Mississippi State, which survived despite what could have been a minor disaster of its own when angler Sam Lawrence lost his crankbait on some rocks.
It wasn't a regular crankbait. It was his go-to bait that he had modified with a permanent marker. As his partner, Cal Clark, told the story, he emphasized how what may seem like a small tribulation could have crushed Lawrence's confidence.
"He just tied another one on and went right back to it," Clark said. He stuck his fist out to Lawrence. Lawrence dapped him. "That's just like my boy," Clark said.
The Bulldogs finished in fourth, good enough to fish Saturday.
"They didn't need to know all that. They can read it on the Internet."
— Oklahoma's Chip Porché, after tournament director Steve Bowman described in detail to the weigh-in crowd Porché's boat wreck this week
"I wish we had a more unforgettable tournament this year. This one was pretty forgettable."
— Rob Russow of Illinois (23rd, 5-14)
"Several had tails that didn't fit their bodies."
— Braden Kemmerling, of Purdue (10th, 14-1) on the difficulty of catching keepers