BAINBRIDGE, Ga. — The camera of James Overstreet captures moments of thrilling victory and agonizing defeat for the fans of Bassmaster.com. What he endures over countless hours of photographing anglers comes with perks.
Picturesque, stunning sunrises come to mind. Sometimes the sunrises come over rough water, blinding rain, and chill-to-the-bone boat runs.
And, moments like today.
Before the story continues it’s important to note this fact: No injuries were reported other than swollen - or deflated - egos, depending upon which end of the rescue rope the ego was on.
Lake Seminole is the site of this week’s Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Southern Open #3 presented by Allstate. It’s the season finale on a swampy lake littered with submerged stumps, many of those hidden just out of sight.
Those stumps are known to wreck havoc on outboard lower units and boat hulls coming into contact with the cypress wood. Making such contact is expected and accepted on Ole Sem, as old timers fondly call the lake.
This morning began as per usual for Overstreet and Eddie Ditto, provider and driver of the camera boat. Taking photos for a morning photo gallery was the assignment.
Overstreet finished taking photos of several boats in a shallow bayou when he decided to move on. Ditto drove at idle speed as the boat slowly rolled over and through an underwater field of stumps.
Finessing a fiberglass bass boat at slow pace keeps it moving, hopefully preventing it from hanging on stumps. The common tactic comes with inherent risk, as Ditto and Overstreet experienced.
As the boat neared the clearing it came to a stop atop a rogue stump. The location of the fuel tank at mid-ship placed most of the hull weight squarely on the stump.
Movement was impossible. Ditto tried throttling up and the boat didn’t budge.
“We were like a giant shish kabob sitting out in the middle of the lake,” Overstreet said.
“It was all jacked up.”
Being “jacked up” is a universal phrase used by Overstreet when something runs amuck. It can be anything from a flat tire to, well, a stumped up boat.
Today Overstreet redefined the benchmark use of the term.
“When a 250-horsepower outboard can’t budge a boat over a stump, something is up,” he remarked to Ditto.
The impact made the boat leak. It seeped into the rear compartment without causing imminent danger. These days, quality bass boat hulls are injected with level and upright expanding foam flotation to prevent sinking. Hulls are structurally designed to absorb and distribute impact throughout. They can take a beating.
This one came out with a scar.
Overstreet then phoned Shaye Baker, his colleague on the water also working on a photo gallery for Bassmaster.com.
Baker arrived in minutes. A towline was secured and the boat pulled free of its undesired mooring.
Overstreet returned ashore with yet another memory about the trials and tribulations of photographing tournaments, regardless of what it takes to record the moment.
Or in Baker’s case, to save the day.
Both photo galleries were completed by deadline, of course. It's all in a day's work.
Overstreet has some previous experience in stumped up boats. His first came on a nighttime fishing trip during his teenage years in the bayous of Arkansas.
“I was in my old, beat up aluminum boat and got it stuck on a stump,” he recalled.
“I had to strip down to my skivvies and rock it off.”
In typical Overstreet fashion, the end of the story is never told.
In his line of work, there certainly will be another story to pick up where that one left off.