Practice typically sets the tone for the ensuing tournament, as it’s all about what you find — and don’t find. But Matt Robertson’s not letting what could have been a devastating event curtail his full-forward effort as the the Basspro.com Central Open on Sam Rayburn gets underway.
By now, the news of a brazen theft has circulated on social media, but for summary purposes, here’s Robertson’s account.
After dropping him off at a Rayburn boat ramp Monday morning, Robertson’s wife unhooked the trailer at their rental house and went into town to run a few errands. During one of her stops, two individuals were seen breaking into the truck topper and stealing the majority of the contents therein.
Items taken included a trolling motor, fishing line and a sizable assemblage of baits, including a collection of high-end swimbaits and glidebaits. Basically, the tools by which Robertson makes his living.
“I’m estimating a minimum of $15,000,” Robertson said. “I had everything in big totes, including all my tools — jack, tire iron, anything I might need in case of an emergency.”
The exasperation rang clear as Robertson quipped: “They unloaded everything, and they left my spare tire.”
Robertson said the response from his fellow anglers showered like a summer rain.
“I’ve had people offer to send me money through Venmo, PayPal but I don’t take a free hand-out from anybody,” Robertson said. “I’m a regular, hard-working guy just like the next, and I know how hard everybody works for their money. My conscience won’t let me take anything from anybody.”
The one thing Robertson accepted was a most unexpected act of kindness that clearly reflected the compassionately supportive nature found throughout the fishing industry. Ivan Bach, a Kountze, Texas, angler not competing in the tournament learned of Robertson’s plight through social media and offered the $500 gift card he had won through Lufkin retailer Tackle Addict’s monthly customer appreciation drawing.
“He told (store management) to give me that gift card and they were adamant about me using it; they wouldn’t let me buy anything there without using it,” Robertson said. “I got what I needed for this week and told them ‘This is all I need. Just give the rest of it (gift card balance) to Ivan and tell him I appreciate it.'
“I had a hard time taking even that. He’s a hard-working guy too and $500 in tackle is a lot of tackle. I felt guilty about it, but those guys at Tackle Addict wouldn’t let me check out without it.”
Clearly, Robertson wants his property returned and he’s offering a cash reward for information leading to the arrest of those responsible. (Contact the Lufkin Police Department at 936-634-8881.) But he’s also deeply appreciative about the collective support, well wishes and generous offers he’s received from fellow competitors.
“There hasn’t been a person I’ve run into that didn’t offer ‘anything you need out of my boat — rods, reels, tackle — you just let me know, and it’s yours,’” Robertson said. “I thank every single person who’s reached out to me, helped get the word out and the countless people who have sent me pictures of tackle asking if its mine.”
As difficult as this week has been, Robertson has not allowed his loss to derail his competitive nature. He’s fishing Rayburn with the same passion and purpose he takes into every event — including late January’s TNT Fireworks B.A.S.S. Nation Southeastern Regional on Lake Okeechobee, which he won.
Suffering such a huge setback affords an angler no extra consideration on the water. Competitive fishing doesn’t work that way — and Matt Robertson wouldn’t accept anything he didn’t earn.
He still has to catch ‘em this week, but overcoming immense economic and emotional impact, regaining his composure and summoning the mental toughness to focus on the task at hand deserves a tip of the hat.