Pure Fishing helps college angler recoup fire losses


Pure Fishing sent a care package of Abu Garcia rods and reels and Berkley line and lures to Southeast Missouri State University angler Tyler Smith who lost all of his fishing gear in a house fire last December.

St. Peters, Mo. — When Tyler Smith’s fishing tackle went up in flames, Pure Fishing came to the rescue.

The Southeast Missouri State University (SEMO) senior was living off-campus at his grandparents’ weekend house in Gordonville when disaster struck on Dec. 9, 2017. “I was in the house making lunch and I smelled something burning,” said Smith, a member of the SEMO bass team. “I opened the door to the garage and my car was in flames.”

Smith made an emergency call to the rural fire department, but it took 30 minutes for the firefighters to arrive. When they reached the house it was burning to the ground and was a total loss. The college angler lost many of his possessions including his car, fishing tackle and his friend’s bass boat to the fire. Smith estimated he lost about $10,000 in fishing gear that day, and his partner’s bass boat was probably worth about $25,000. “I had probably 10 to 12 rod and reel combos about $300 apiece and tackle that I have been saving my whole life,” he said.

SEMO anglers Jake Harris and Smith fished out of Harris’ boat when they finished third in the Carhartt Bassmaster College Series Midwest Conference Regional in March 2017 at Lake of the Ozarks and qualified for the Bassmaster College Series National Championship.

Harris was able to purchase some new Abu Garcia rods and reels using a coupon he received at the national championship and had other fishing gear at his home, so he was able to fish the following spring collegiate season. However Smith was unable to muster enough fishing gear in time for the spring season and was only able to fish one tournament when a teammate let him borrow some rods and reels for the event.

Smith said he missed two FLW College tournaments and three Carhartt Bassmaster College Series events during the spring while trying to recoup his losses. “It was a bummer sitting at home, but I still rooted on the guys on the team,” he said.

During his down time, Smith decided to contact Hank Weldon, B.A.S.S. College and High School senior manager, because he knew Weldon had several contacts in the fishing industry. He told Weldon about losing his fishing gear in the fire and asked Weldon if he could help in any way.

Weldon recalled a previous conversation with Pure Fishing Vice President of Marketing Jon Schlosser in which Schlosser said his company wanted to get more involved in college fishing. Weldon thought helping Smith would be a good opportunity for Pure Fishing so he decided to call one of his B.A.S.S. sponsor contacts.  

“Hank called me and let me know about Tyler’s situation,” said Brad Rutherford, Pure Fishing pro staff manager. “After hearing the story, I wanted to help and get him back on the water. I sent him several Abu Garcia rod and reel sets and Berkley line and baits. We all wish him the best.”

On May 3, Smith received the following tackle and baits from Rutherford: three Revo X HS baitcast reels, one Revo X baitcast reel, one Revo STX-SHS baitcast reel, two Revo X 30 spinning reels; one 7-foot medium-action Abu Garcia Villain spinning rod, one 7-3 medium-heavy Abu Garcia Villain casting rod, one 7-2 medium-heavy Abu Garcia Ike Signature casting rod, two 7-foot medium-light Abu Garcia Veritas spinning rods, two 7-3 heavy Abu Garcia Veritas casting rods, one 7-foot medium Abu Garcia Veritas casting rod, one 7-6 medium-heavy Abu Garcia Veritas casting rod, one 200-yard spool of 12-pound Berkley Trilene Fluorocarbon, one 200-yard spool of 10-pound Berkley Trilene Fluorocarbon, one 200-yard spool of 30-pound Spiderwire Stealth Smooth line, one 200-yard spool of 50-pound Spiderwire Stealth Smooth line, six packages of black 5-inch Berkley Powerbait Maxscent The General, six packages of green pumpkin 3-inch Berkley Powerbait Maxscent Meaty Chunks, six packages of black/blue flake 4-inch Berkley Powerbait Maxscent Creature Hawgs and six packages of June bug 8-inch Berkley Powerbait Maxscent Kingtail worms.

Most of the rods and reels Smith lost in the fire were Abu Garcia products. “I had a lot of the Revo STX and SX reels,” he said.

The college angler was most grateful for the care package from Pure Fishing. “I can’t thank Brad and Abu Garcia enough,” Smith said. “It was a tough time. It wasn’t just fishing stuff that I lost. I lost my laptop and all the notes I had taken for a whole semester three days before finals. So their helping me out was a big weight off of my shoulders because I had to replace a car, the clothes on my back and just everything.”

The goodwill gesture from Pure Fishing has probably made Smith a loyal patron of the company now. “I don’t see why I would use anybody else the rest of my life,” Smith said. 

Weldon thought Pure Fishing reaching out to help Smith was a “good faith” gesture. “They didn’t know the kid but they certainly were generous in doing that so I thought that was pretty cool,” Weldon said. 

While trying to recover from his losses, Smith learned about the generosity of his friends and neighbors. “It is amazing how many people are willing to help,” he said. “Pure Fishing helped me on the fishing end, but I had friends I had grown up with or lived next to give me Cabela’s gift cards or some cash. I’m definitely going to have to give back to somebody when they need help later in my life.”

The construction management major is living at home with his parents and is interning with the City of O’Fallon this summer.

Smith’s grandparents are rebuilding their weekend house, and it should be ready for Smith to move back into for his senior year. With the help of Pure Fishing, he now has enough fishing tackle to compete for the SEMO bass team this fall and in the spring of 2019. He plans on competing in the Carhartt College Series again, along with FLW College Fishing and Association of Collegiate Anglers tournament series.