Woodruff wears pride - on his leg

fullsizerender_2.jpg

Craig Lamb

Steve Woodruff (left) with Pee Wee Powers

Steve Woodruff wears his B.A.S.S. pride not where you would think. You will not find the leaping bass logo patch on his hat or shirt.

Look down - you'll find it on his leg.

Woodruff wears a prosthetic leg after a blood clot forming in a foot required amputation earlier this year. His story is more about the pride he shows for B.A.S.S. and the tournaments with every step he's taken since joining the organization in 1971.

Back then Woodruff was at war in the U.S. Navy and stationed aboard the USS Savannah. The replenishment oil ship was on tour resupplying aircraft carriers along the coast of Vietnam.

"All I got was mail from my wife and I wanted something more to read," he recalled of the 1971-72 tour of duty. "I joined B.A.S.S. so that I could get Bassmaster magazine and have something else to read."

Read he did. Woodruff eagerly awaited mail call and the arrival of the next issue. He read it cover to cover and more than once. Along the Tournament Trail was a favorite section because Woodruff was a fan of Roland Martin, Tom Mann and Jimmy Houston, pros who dominated the tour in its early years.

"When we had down time I sat in the radio room and read about all the new tactics, lures and tackle that was coming out while I was overseas," he recalled. "It made me homesick to get back and try the tournaments myself."

In 1977 Woodruff finally did that after a work colleague suggested he join a bass club. He joined the Virginia B.A.S.S. Nation and has been a member since. Woodruff spent 21 years as Region 2 director and currently is the Virginia vice president, a post he's held since 2012.

What Woodruff enjoys more than anything, tournament fishing included, is serving as a volunteer at B.A.S.S. events. That started in 1988 when Pee Wee Powers, at the time the Virginia Nation president, contacted him about volunteering at the Bassmaster Classic held in Richmond.

"It was a great experience and I think it went beyond everyone's expectations," recalled Woodruff of the first of three consecutive Classics in Richmond.

Standout moments were seeing the 13,500-seat capacity Richmond Coliseum filled to capacity, hometown hero Woo Daves nearly winning the title, and driving the Chevrolet Blazer sponsor tow vehicles with the pros aboard.

Mementos came with the memories. Back then the volunteers received sponsor gifts, including a Rubbermaid cooler that Woodruff still uses today.

"The Classic is a special week and I really enjoy coming back to see old friends, the B.A.S.S. staff and the pros," he said.

Woodruff worked the Classics in Richmond and elsewhere in Birmingham, Ala., Greenville, S.C., and Shreveport, La. He's volunteered at a dozen B.A.S.S. events with more to come.

Woodruff has performed the duties of tow vehicle driver, volunteer coordinator, service yard worker and more. In Richmond he assembled 1,000 Zebco 202 combos used in the youth fishing outing at a city park lake.

Woodruff spent his entire work career with the City of Lynchburg, although he never got to pursue his dream job.

"I really wanted to work for B.A.S.S. as a contractor with the tournament department support staff," he said.

That dream ended on Feb. 15, 2016. Woodruff was clearing snow from his front yard when foot pain forced him inside. After removing his boot he found the foot had turned white. Emergency room doctors admitted him to the hospital after discovering a blood clot formed in the foot. It was amputated one week later after treatment failed to do any good.

"On Memorial Day weekend I got my new prosthetic leg, threw away the crutches and started walking around the house," he said. "I decided I was going to learn on my own to walk again and I've been at it ever since."

He's at it this week, working with Powers and the volunteers at the Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Northern Open on the James River. Coincidentally the weigh-in site is the same location as the launch ramp for the Classics held in Richmond.

"I'm B.A.S.S. all the way and just love working at the tournaments," he said. "There's nothing I'd rather be doing than being with the staff, other volunteers and seeing the pros."

Woodruff's leg is also getting a lot of recognition. This week he's on the weigh-in stage, assisting Senior Tournament Manager Chris Bowes with fish-weighing duties.

The leg is decorated all around. The screen print logo of the Virginia B.A.S.S. Nation came from an actual tournament jersey. Woodruff added the membership stickers and patches, including a tribute to close acquaintance Brian Harold, who died earlier this year in a drowning accident.

"My wife suggested I put something on the leg," he said. "I love fishing and B.A.S.S. and the nation so much I decided to wear my pride."

Back up and walking, you can be assured that Woodruff will eagerly accept any chance to volunteer at B.A.S.S. events. Likely there will be many to come.