Editor's note: Last time the Elites visited Wheeler, Yusuke Miyazaki had an unfortunate encounter.
DECATUR, Ala. – You may have seen the 2006 movie starring Samuel L. Jackson entitled “Snakes on a Plane.” You may have heard about another 2006 movie “Snakes on a Train.” The trilogy was completed Saturday on Wheeler Lake. Its title: “Snake on a Boat.”
The stars in this latest adventure with a snake are Bassmaster Elite Series pro Yusuke Miyazaki and his boat Marshal, James Stoler.
Early reviews are good: “It’s one of the most exciting days I’ve ever had bass fishing, and I never made a cast,” Stoler said.
Adding to the horror was the fact that this wasn’t a movie. A long, dark-colored snake of some still-unidentified species crawled aboard Miyazaki’s bass boat while he was competing Saturday in the Dixie Duel. The incident occurred about 10 a.m. but its aftereffects continued until late in the day.
“I was sitting in the passenger seat and had my arm propped up across the back deck,” Stoler said. “I felt something on my arm. I just thought it was a fly or something.
“I looked back around and there was a snake strolling across my arm. I ran to the front deck. Yusuke looked at me like, ‘What are you doing?’”
The Japanese angler, who now lives in Forney, Texas, initially thought Stoler was playing a joke on him.
“My kids have toys,” said Miyazaki, the father of two. “I thought he was kidding me. Then the snake went ‘Ssssshhhh,’ like that and I said, ‘Oh, it’s no toy.’”
Stoler estimated the snake’s length at 4 1/2 to 5 feet.
“It was a dark color,” he said. “I would guess it was a black water snake, but I’m just not sure.”
Neither Stoler nor Miyazaki got a good look at the snake because it quickly crawled inside the boat’s console near the steering wheel. Miyazaki didn’t know what to do, since Stoler didn’t want to leave the front deck and Miyazaki didn’t want to sit behind the console of his boat to start his 250-horsepower Yamaha outboard motor. So Miyazaki did what all Elite Series anglers do in emergency situations. He called Elite Series tournament director Trip Weldon and assistant tournament director Chuck Harbin.
“They said, ‘Be careful, be careful,’” Miyazaki recalled. “They said, ‘Maybe no poisonous.’ What is ‘Maybe no poisonous?’ I really don’t know.
“I know largemouth bass and spotted bass and smallmouth bass. But I don’t know what is poisonous snake or not.”
After losing about 30 of 40 minutes of fishing time while trying to figure out what to do about his predicament, Miyazaki tried to get back to business. But he said he couldn’t concentrate on fishing and kept looking back toward the boat console to see if the snake had reappeared.
Stoler said the snake almost had to have been swimming in Wheeler Lake, then crawled into the boat from the stern.
“We were out in the middle of the river channel,” Stoler said. “I don’t know what it was doing out there.
“I had one crawl into my boat one other time, but I just took my fishing rod and flipped it out. This was a little different deal, right here.”
Miyazaki finally decided it was time to move. He took a cue straight out of “Snakes on a Plane,” when Jackson, playing FBI agent Neville Flynn, says, “Everybody listen! We have to put a barrier between us and the snakes.”
Miyazaki stuffed some extra clothing in an opening under his boat’s console, creating a barrier. Then he had Stoler watch under the console to make sure the snake didn’t come out while Miyazaki was behind the steering wheel.
With his concentration broken, Miyazaki caught only one bass Saturday and finished in 49th place in the tournament with 26 pounds, 1 ounce.
When Miyazaki motored his boat back into Decatur’s Ingalls Harbor, two men from the Yamaha motors crew – Daniel Johnson and Randy Miller, who are from the area near Missouri’s Lake of the Ozarks – came aboard and tried to find the snake.
“We are jacks of all trades,” said Miller, when asked why they had been selected to remove the snake.
But Johnson and Miller weren’t able to find the stowaway serpent. They guessed the snake may have crawled into the area between the boat hull and the decking. Miyazaki planned to fill that area with water after he got his boat on its trailer, in hopes that the water would send the snake in search of higher ground and out of his boat.
Stoler came to Decatur this week as a photographer for a Guntersville, Ala., newspaper. When B.A.S.S. officials needed another boat Marshal Saturday, Stoler volunteered. He had no idea what he was getting into.
“It’s been an exciting day, I’ll tell ya,” said Stoler in summing up his day on the lake.