Quick-thinking marshal captures timeless moment

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Les Cook
Bassmaster Marshal Les Cook with Elite rookie Kyle Welcher

From angling to acting, you don’t always need top billing to merit high esteem. Consider these big names honored by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences:

Frank Sinatra, Louis Gosset Jr., Denzel Washington, Joe Pesci, Tommy Lee Jones — each won Best Supporting Actor awards, perhaps more importantly, they directed the spotlight on leading roles such as:

• Burt Lancaster, From Here to Eternity (1953)
• Richard Gere, An Officer and A Gentleman (1982)
• Matthew Broderick, Glory (1989)
• Robert DiNiro, GoodFellas (1990)
• Harrison Ford, The Fugitive (1993)

Without question, Les Cook earned tournament fishing’s version of the BSA award on Feb. 9, when he saw rookie Kyle Welcher come tight on a big fish during Day 2 of the AFTCO Bassmaster Elite at Florida’s St. Johns River. In his first Bassmaster Marshal assignment, Cook steadied his iPhone 11 Pro Max and recorded — start-to-finish — one of the most amazing catches in Bassmaster history.

How it happened

About 30 minutes before he needed to leave for check-in, Welcher had relocated from south of Lake George to his final spot above the lake, near the Rodman Reservoir discharge. Flipping shoreline cover, he immediately caught a 3-pounder and about five flips later connected with his personal best — a 10-pound, 1-ounce St. Johns giant.

“Kyle had a few bites throughout the day, and I tried to make it a point to capture all of his catches on video, but when he said, ‘Big one dude,’ I knew something was different,” Cook recalled.

Recording what would be the largest bass catch he’s ever witnessed took not only sure hands, but nimble feet.

“For most of the day, I was on the back of the boat, but that was the first time he moved from the front of the boat to the back of the boat,” Cook said. “All I remember thinking as he was heading my way was, ‘Get out of the way.’

“I moved to the side and when I saw he was coming to the back I moved to the front to be as much out of the way as I could. Something in my head told me, ‘The shot is going to be off the driver’s side of the boat, so get that camera off the side of the boat so you can capture everything.’ It all just came together through instinct; there was not a lot of thought put into it.”