FORT WORTH, Texas — Recent injuries were obvious as the anglers assembled for registration Tuesday. Buddy Gross rolled through the Omni Hotel lobby with his right leg kneeled on a two-wheeled scooter while he pushed it with his left leg. Bryan New sported a soft cast/brace on his left hand and forearm.
However, it’s going to take more than a severely sprained ankle for Gross and a fractured hand for New to keep them from competing in their first Bassmaster Classic. When the Academy + Sports Bassmaster Classic presented by Huk begins Friday, both anglers vowed to be ready.
Gross initially feared his Classic was over before it started. The day before he planned to leave for Fort Worth, Gross decided to startle his daughter at her barrel racing lesson. “I was gonna sneak out there on her horse and surprise her real quick,” he said. “It turned ugly at the last minute. My foot slipped out of the stirrup. I knew I was going to fall, so I tried to catch myself.
“All my weight was on my right ankle. It sounded like a gun going off. When I hit the ground, I thought I was going to be sick, thought I was going to pass out. It was hurting bad.”
A hospital visit indicated no broken bones, just a severe sprain. Gross hadn’t loaded his gear for the Classic yet. He had to call friends to do it for him. And his wife, LeAnn, to do the driving from Chickamauga, Ga., because he couldn’t put any pressure on the ankle. By the second day of practice on Lake Ray Roberts, Gross was able to stand on his boat deck with the aid of a butt seat.
“I was able to fish, and I fished pretty hard,” he said. “The third day, it wore on me. My whole left side was hurting – my left hip, left knee, left foot, everything – from trying to keep all my weight off my right ankle.”
The extended schedule of a Bassmaster Classic is giving Gross much-needed time. Wednesday is the official practice day, followed by media day Thursday before the three-day tournament begins Friday.
“It’s giving me time to heal,” he said. “I’m going to be okay. I really do think I’ll be able to stand on it all day by then. I’ve just got to be careful. It’s really weak.”
New slipped on some loose gravel last week and caught himself with his left hand. He didn’t think he was injured until he woke up in the middle of the night in pain. An x-ray the next day revealed he had a fracture between his thumb and index finger.