Just 7 miles from his destination, Elite pro Brad Whatley was uninjured after being hit by another motorist and wrecking his rig in Detroit. Whatley said he “didn’t have a scratch” but is starting to feel a little physical soreness — he’s more mentally sore over Michigan’s insurance laws.
Contacted on the eve of practice for the YETI Bassmaster Elite at Lake St. Clair, Whatley was busy getting set to practice Sunday in his own boat, which was being repaired. Whatley had driven more than 1,000 miles from his home in Bivins, Texas, and about to reach his destination when the incident happened.
“Seven miles from the hotel, at 9 Mile Road, a girl went to sleep and she either clipped the bumper of my truck or the boat,” he said. “I just heard tires screeching real loud … it’s 2:30 in the morning.
“She had got up under the wheel and caused it to come off the ground, and I think it jumped into another lane beside me. When that happened, the boat starting driving the truck. I’m on the brakes this whole time, but it ran me up a tall, steep embankment. I’m running over signs and everything. When I come back down, I probably wasn’t doing 6 mph, but it flipped and landed on the highway.”
Whatley’s Toyota Tundra landed on the driver’s side, its curtain air bags saving him from potential serious injury.
“The air bags saved me from having some major road rash,” he said. “My windows busted out and I would have been on the road. The curtains flew up and stopped all of that. My back hurts. You never know the aftereffects. But literally, I don’t have a scratch.
“The boat didn’t flip over, but the skeg is gone off the motor, it busted the top cap fiberglass and the trailer is shot.”
Fellow Elite and Texan Frank Talley came to his assistance in the wee hours, and they needed a jack to lift the damaged trailer to latch it on his truck and haul it to their hotel, but Whatley’s since been told there’s axle damage and it won’t make it much farther. Talley also took Whatley to retrieve more gear at the wrecker yard, where he learned his Toyota Tundra is most likely totaled.
At 6 a.m. Saturday, Whatley said he received a call from Teresa Johnson, the COO of Phoenix Boats, with offers to send up whatever he needed. (Phoenix Boats President Gary Clouse is an Elite Series angler.) Whatley took the offer of a tow truck and trailer, and it was on its way from the Phoenix Boats headquarters in Winchester, Tenn., with the driver set to fly back home.
“Phoenix is bringing me a tow vehicle and a trailer to put this boat on,” Whatley said, “and Mercury is going to replace the lower unit so that I can fish the event.
“Any fisherman has got to understand this, if I can fish out of my boat, I want my boat, even if it’s ugly. It’s not pretty, but it’s fishable. I appreciate Phoenix, they’ve always been great people to me.”
What Whatley is most upset over is that Michigan is a no-fault state, meaning each parties’ insurance company covers the insured person’s losses, but not the other party, no matter who’s to blame.
“Put aside that I’m physically OK, the thing I’m upset about is it’s a no-fault state,” he said. “She’s not responsible for any damage to me. My truck and boat are insured, but all the accessories on my truck are not -- truck cap, lift, wheels. All that stuff I’m going to have to eat. It will cost me a bare minimum of $15,000, probably $20,000.”
Late Saturday afternoon, Whatley had yet to sleep since waking for his drive at 5:30 a.m. Friday. He’s running on adrenaline but has the Elite spirit.
“I do want to fish,” Whatley said.
Whatley, who stands inside the Classic cut at 35th in the Angler of the Year point standings, had a great start to the northern swing with a ninth-place finish at the St. Lawrence River, and he made the top 40 cut in the season’s first two events.
After three and a half days of practice, the Lake St. Clair event gets under way on Thursday, and Whatley vows he’ll be ready.