ORANGE, Texas — Texas angler Alton Jones and his Marshal were involved in a boating accident during Saturday’s semifinal round of the Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Elite at Sabine River presented by Econo Lodge.
The accident occurred when Jones lost control of his boat due to a damaged skeg — the lowest portion of the outboard motor that provides steering control for the driver. The boat went into the woods and had to be pulled out by officials from the Orange County Sheriff’s Department, who were already on the water when the incident took place.
Neither man was injured.
“I was running way up to the north end of the river, and it’s a pretty hairy run anytime,” Jones said. “I hit stuff going up there every day. But today, the water had gone down, and I hit something extra hard.”
Jones didn’t realize the damage the accident had done to his outboard.
“I didn’t think anything about it,” he said. “I was coming back for check-in during a thunderstorm, passing a redfish boat. When I hit his wake, my nose dipped and the boat spun 90 degrees and went into the woods.”
“I had knocked my skeg off when I hit that submerged log — and without that skeg, you have no control. You can turn that wheel all you want, and the boat’s going where the boat’s going.”
A couple of local fishermen came quickly to Jones’ aid, but the ropes they had weren’t strong enough to pull him back into the water. When Sheriff’s Department officials arrived, they had a large rope that allowed them to get into deeper water and apply more force.
"First responders were there in 20 minutes and had me off the bank in 30 minutes,” Jones said.
Jones, who is open about his Christian faith, said he and his Marshal actually paused for a moment of prayer before making the 50-mile run back to the weigh-in. Jones said their prayer was answered when his boat landed softly on the mud bank.
“We threaded the needle right through two cypress trees with about 6 inches of clearance on each side,” he said. “That wasn’t anything I did. That was God watching over us.”
Remarkably, other than the damage to his skeg, Jones’ boat was unscathed.
He said the incident should serve as a warning to other boaters who might be riding around in boats with skegs that are damaged.
“I’ve been doing this for 28 years, and I’ve never had anything like this happen,” he said. “But I can’t tell you how many bass boats I’ve owned that had a big chunk out of the skeg, and I never thought anything about it. I won’t do that anymore — and no one else should either.
“It’s like trying to drive a car with a flat tire.”