A sinking boat on Lake St. Clair required quick action from Elite angler Brian Snowden, who rescued the anglers and towed their floundering bass boat back to a ramp.
The two anglers were rather upset they lost some gear and fish as they were also competing in their end-of-the-year event, but they’ll sure have a story to tell once they cool down.
“That’s what I told them,” said Snowden, out Friday for the final practice of the Toyota Angler of the Year Championship. “The one guy felt so bad he lost his rods, but I told them 20 years from now you’ll think about this and laugh -- the day the Snowman saved you.”
Snowden was fishing a hump at around 11 a.m. about 300 yards from the boaters, who hail from north of Indianapolis. He was on a drift and had just worked a 4 ½-pound smallmouth to the boat.
“I looked up and the guys started hollering,” Snowden said. “I waved at them thinking they were just saying good job on the fish. Next thing I knew, they were waving pretty frantically. I could barely hear them yell, ‘Help! Help!’
“I got the fish off, grabbed my life jacket, pulled up the Power-Poles. By the time I got there, the whole motor was under water. I grabbed them, got them both in the boat. I had a strap and hooked it to the back cleat, and then we got back close enough and he hooked it on the front and we starting pulling it. When I starting pulling, it got most of the water out.”
The angler who lost most his rods along with his tackle bag displayed his disgust as Snowden slowly towed the boat to the closest ramp in around 5-foot waves as 20-mph winds made the huge lake angry. Snowden then took one angler back to his truck at St. Clair Metropark, headquarters for the AOY Championship that kicks off Saturday with Fan Appreciation Day.
Competition days are Sunday through Tuesday, with the AOY title, berths to the Bassmaster Classic and $25,000 to the event weight winner on the line.
The anglers were competing in one of the two championship events being held Friday and Saturday, one from Indiana and the other from Ohio. Snowden said things could have been way worse.
“There were kind of upset about the whole situation,” he said, “but I told them, ‘You got your wallet, your phone and you weren’t bobbing around there with no one around.”
“That would have been the worst situation. They were probably 3 miles from shore. It would have bene a long swim.”
The anglers had contacted the Coast Guard when they began taking on water, which Snowden surmised was due to a power failure, but he was close and there was not much time.
"They would have been underwater in another minute or two. I’m not 100 percent sure, but nothing was bilging and nothing was working,” he said. “It happened quick out here in that rough water. Everybody kind of takes it lightly; it doesn’t take much for it to happen.”
Snowden and most of the other Elites have experienced their boats spearing through waves -- some this week in practices -- and he said there are precautions when taking on big water. Rough water is expected for the AOY competition. Snowden said lowest wind speed predicted on tournament days is around 14 miles an hour, so anglers will have difficulties running most anywhere.
“To avoid this, just make sure you always check your battery, your connections,” he said. “I always have a manual bilge pump when I come up to these places. The Great Lakes are great to be on when it’s nice, but we’ve had terrible conditions all of practice and it doesn’t look like it’s going to get much better.”
At 37th place with 561 points, Snowden is inside the Classic cut of 42nd by 25 points -- “You’ve never in there good enough. I think I can just catch some and be OK. If it’d lay down, I’d be happy. I think I can catch them pretty good.”
Coming to their aid, even with something as important at qualifying for his seventh Classic, was a given.
“They would have done the same thing. You don’t even think about that. It’s just what you do,” he said. “It only took about an hour and half. And the way with the waves were, I wasn’t running back over there.”