DECATUR, Ala. — Mark Grant, 20, worked for an entire month at a tackle store to save up just enough money to buy four rod-and-reel combos that he was going to use in this week’s Carhartt Bassmaster College Series Wild Card event, only for them to get stolen when he got there.
“My partner, Andrew Warbington, and I had parked at Academy Sports + Outdoors in Decatur on Monday night, and we went in just to get some baits,” said Grant.
It wasn’t until they got back to their hotel that they noticed that all of Grant’s rods and one of Warbington’s rods had been stolen.
“We called the police, and they checked the surveillance camera,” said Grant. The thieves drove up in a gray GMC Jimmy, got up in the boat and spent nine minutes going through the University of West Alabama anglers’ stuff.
Grant’s combos were worth $1,000, and Warbington’s combo — which he had used to win the Bassmaster College Classic in February — was worth $180.
“We were really bummed,” said Grant. “Those were all the rods I had. I made a Facebook post about what happened, and several people offered to help us out.”
They did not expect what came next.
“Timmy Horton gave us six rods and reels,” said Grant. “He is really a class act.”
The Bassmaster Elite Series pro, who lives in the area, was quick to respond. And he was followed by many.
“Quantum said they were going to ship us four rods and reels,” said Grant. “And before we knew it, Shimano jumped in and said they would send us 10. Then Bass Pro Shops said they would send us a gift card.
“It was amazing that so many people would give us this much support,” Grant added. “We had no intention of any of this happening. It’s a good thing that there are good people out there to counterbalance the bad ones who would take something from us. It makes us want to be generous, too.”
Doyle Truelove, the bass fishing team adviser, helped start the UWA team just last year.
“Mark is the field goal kicker for UWA, so he’s always up against the big guys,” said Truelove, before the donations began pouring in. “He will bounce back from this real well. He doesn’t have a lot of money, but he does buy good stuff.”
Now that Grant and Warbington are stocked up, they have two days on Pickwick Lake to qualify for the 2014 Carhartt Bassmaster College Series Championship.
“It’s a big deal that we won the College Classic in our first year of competition, and now we want to keep going,” said Grant. “We’ve been catching some in practice, so maybe it will turn out well.”
Hank Weldon, College B.A.S.S. manager, was pleased with the sponsor reaction.
“I’m happy to see that there were so many people ready to jump on board and help these guys out,” said Weldon. “It shows that our sponsors really care about the competitors. This is a great group of people.”