Anglers use winnings to memorialize fishing buddy

Courtesy of Alabama Bass Trail
Jerry Wright and Brandon Staggs won the inaugural Alabama Bass Trail tournament on Lake Guntersville.

Anglers often dream about buying boatloads of tackle and electronics or maybe even a new boat if they win a tournament with a big payout.

For the team of Brandon Staggs and Jerry Wright, they had a different dream for putting their winnings to good use if they ever won a “high-dollar” tournament.

"After Wade died, Brandon and I talked it over and decided if we ever won one of those big tournaments, we were going to buy Wade a headstone. Wade didn’t have a headstone on his grave and we wanted him to have one, a really nice one,” Wright said.  “Wade was a really, really close friend to me and Brandon.”

Wade Caperton, of Leoma, Tenn., who died in 2011, was an avid angler who competed in tournaments with both Staggs and Wright. Staggs, of Summertown, Tenn., and Wright, of Waterloo, Ala., wanted to memorialize their fishing buddy with a one-of-a-kind tombstone. Staggs credits Caperton with teaching him how to bass fish. Wright calls Caperton the kind of man everyone should strive to become.

“He was an exceptional person,” Wright said. “Everyone liked Wade. He was an honest, hard-working guy who loved the outdoors.”  

“He was a great guy,” Staggs said.

When Staggs and Wright won the inaugural Alabama Bass Tail Tournament Series event on Lake Guntersville on Feb. 1, they used the $10,000 they earned to buy a tombstone for Caperton. 

“As we were driving home from the tournament on Saturday, Brandon said ‘You remember what we talked about…,” Wright said.

“I said, ‘Yes, and we’re going to do it.’ We went the next Monday morning and picked out a headstone for Wade,”  Staggs said.

The black granite stone will have laser etchings that reflect Caperton’s love of fishing and the outdoors. “It has a fish coming out of the water on one side and a turkey on the other side with a stream coming down the middle. It’s beautiful,” Wright said. “Wade would like it.” 

Wright said other than telling a few of Caperton’s closest friends about the tombstone, he and Staggs had planned on keeping their purchase a secret. One of Caperton’s friends alerted Alabama Bass Trail Director Kay Donaldson about Staggs and Wright’s good deed.

“We didn’t do it for publicity. We did it for Wade,” Wright said. 

When the tombstone is completed and is placed on Capterton’s grave near Summertown, Staggs and Wright plan to meet at the cemetery to honor their fishing buddy and reflect on the many great days spent together on the water. 

“Wade was a great fisherman, but more importantly, he was a good man,” Wright said. “We really miss him.”

What Brandon and Jerry didn’t mention was they had only registered for one tournament originally, which didn’t guarantee their spot in the ABT. I called to let them know the field was full and I would be refunding their money. Brandon asked if we had a team back out would I please call him and he would pay for the entire north division. Over a month later, a team called with a family tragedy, and we had to fill the spot rather quickly. I called on Brandon and Jerry; just as they promised, they signed up for the entire North Division.

Despite very little practice time and extremely cold temps, these guys went on to crush 32.02 pounds of bass. So when I heard their story and felt their love for Wade, I knew immediately there was a bigger plan, and we were just the instruments. 

– Kay Donaldson

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