It's a rarity to see more than a couple of fish killed in the course of an Elite Series event, but anglers have had to play marine paramedics constantly on Lake Erie.
BASS officials took no chances Friday, canceling the second day of the tournament amid forecasts of high winds.
Lee Bailey, one of the first to weigh fish, told the crowd quite sincerely that "everybody needs to say a private prayer for the guys who are still out there."
High winds and rolling waves on Day One of the Empire Chase cracked boat hulls, overcame engines and swamped boats.
"The best thing about today," Niggemeyer said, "is that I've still got tomorrow."
The tournament will continue Saturday, July 21 and conclude Sunday, July 22 as scheduled.
After the first day of competition, co-angler Robert Suhr was a quick learner, bagging big fish and making it back to the weigh-in in one piece.
While most anglers never fish using deck seats, rough conditions on Lake Erie prompted them to install the seats for the first day of the Empire Chase.
The winds blew, the waves crested and the Bassmaster Elite Series pros dragged scads of smallmouth bass across the scales.
"I'm really hoping I don't have to throw mine out," angler Gary Klein said, "but depending on the wind it could be one, two or even three."