If there’s a silver lining in the pandemic postponing B.A.S.S. events, it’s that the Elite anglers weren’t in harm’s way when a tornado hit the Lake Eufaula area Tuesday.
On what would have been the final day of practice for the 88 pros, an F1 tornado hit the town of Eufaula, host city for the event that was to be held April 2-5.
“We’re hanging tough,” Eufaula Mayor Jack Tibbs said as he walked through his neighborhood where about 20 homes were damaged. “Luckily no one was hurt badly. There was quite a bit of damage to homes. Some of them destroyed. People were in every one because of the coronavirus, so it’s somewhat of a miracle nobody was hurt.”
Tibbs, owner of StrikeZone Lure Company, is a tournament angler who helped bring the Elite event to the resurgent lake. While disappointed the tournament couldn’t be held now with the spawn occurring, he said it was fortunate the hundreds of people needed to put on an Elite event were not there.
“It definitely could have been worse with the anglers on the water,” he said. “That’s no place to be in a major storm. If they had been in the path of the storm, they would have been in a lot of trouble.”
Elite pro Matt Herren is a friend of Tibbs and contacted him shortly after hearing of the tornado, which now seems less significant as the number of people infected by COVID-19 is approaching 1 million worldwide with nearly 50,000 dead. Yet Herren said he can see a silver lining in that there wasn’t an on-the-water tragedy.
“It’s a bad deal. Things happened for a reason,” Herren said. “I’m very thankful that our anglers were not on that lake that morning.”
Most the Elites are very weather conscious and take great safety precautions — as does Elite tournament director Trip Weldon — yet many anglers camp, which can put them in precarious situations.