Buddy Gross has been dreaming of fishing the Bassmaster Classic since he was 5 years old. But none of those dreams included any of the hardships the 48-year-old professional will have to deal with next week when the Academy Sports + Outdoors Bassmaster Classic presented by Huk gets underway.
Gross, a full-time professional angler and part-time equestrian, fell from a horse Tuesday and severely sprained his ankle.
“I’m pretty tore up about it,’’ Gross said, leaning against his truck from his Chickamauga, Georgia home as his friends loaded his boat and truck to get him ready for the trip to Fort Worth and Lake Ray Roberts.
This is Gross’ first trip to the Classic, the milestone of professional angling, and one where he was considered to be a favorite, especially if the fish were in a decided post-spawn to summer-pattern mode. In a world where tragedy normally comes to lost fish and missed opportunities, Gross’ tragedy comes in the form of nearly broken bones and a miss-step while riding a horse.
“I know it was stupid. I’ve been doing so good, staying away from everything that might hurt,” he said. “Then I blink and it happened.”
Gross wasn’t forthcoming on the particulars of the fall. But he was forthcoming on how he planned to deal with it.
Currently he isn’t able to stand, which is almost a prerequisite for most bass anglers.
“I’ve got one of those wheely things that I’ll use to get around,’’ he said. “And I’ll likely miss a lot of practice. But I’ll be there.”
Fellow professional, Gerald Swindle has ordered him a special seat for the bow of his boat that will allow him to straddle the cushion keeping the pressure off his lower legs. And Minn Kota is giving him a run down on how to utilize the remote-control features of his trolling motor.
“I think it will get better every day,’’ Gross said. “I may not get to fish much in practice but hopefully by the time the tournament starts I’ll be able to go. I just know it will be awkward.”
He’s spent the last day and a half looking at fishing reports from Lake Ray Roberts and that doesn’t give him any comfort added to his pain.
“If it was going to be strictly an off-shore thing, I think I’d be alright,’’ Gross said. “But all reports are that it doesn’t look like it will play out that way.
“Regardless, I think I’ll be okay. The Lord’s got this. I’ll be good.”