CORNELIUS, N.C. — Brian Linder and Nathan Thompson of Minnesota State University had one of the more memorable tournaments of their lives at the Strike King Bassmaster College Series presented by Bass Pro Shops event at Lake Norman March 25-26, and it had nothing to do with where they finished in the standings.
Placing 79th of 211 teams, after all, has a way of fading into the mist in short order.
What the Minnesota State seniors instead will remember most about the two-day event on Lake Norman is the graciousness of the local community that reached out to help them when they experienced equipment failure on the eve of the tournament.
The motor in Linder’s 2014 Stratos wouldn’t crank on the final day of practice. The young anglers brought it to Ed Watkins Marine located on Lake Norman, and the diagnosis was a short in engine’s computer. A replacement part wasn’t on hand, and it certainly wasn’t arriving before the March 25 takeoff at Blythe Landing.
Linder and Thompson were dejected, but marina staff suggested they make a plea for a loaner boat on a local Facebook page for bass anglers. They did and then they prayed for a response.
“I said, ‘Hey, my name’s Brian and my boat broke down and can anyone please help us,’” Linder said. “It would have been heartbreaking had we driven 21 hours here and not been able to fish.”
A local bass angler named Zack Perkins came to the rescue. He responded to their message and promised them the boat they needed. They picked it up at an area launch about midnight on March 25 and were on the water seven hours later.
“Not much sleep, but totally worth it,” Linder said.
“It was an older boat, a 2000 Nitro 18-footer with a 150 (horsepower engine), but we were grateful to have anything,” Thompson said. “We were ready to just go out with our trolling motor and fish around the boat ramp. Thank God he reached out. He was a super nice guy.”
The Nitro allowed Linder and Thompson to reach some big bedding fish they located during practice near the Highway 150 Bridge.
“It’s a 20-mile run from (Blythe Landing) one way, so there’s no way we do that on a trolling motor,” Thompson said, laughing. “We’d still be heading there.”
Linder, 21, and Thompson, 20, didn’t catch the big bass they were seeking, finishing with four bass for 7 pounds, 3 ounces on Day 1 and following with a 9-15 limit on Day 2. The two-day total of 17-2 didn’t net them a check or a berth in the College Series National Championship, but it did give them a chance to fish when the odds were against them.
It also reminded them of the camaraderie bass anglers often share, both on and off the water.
“(Perkins’) generosity allowed us to compete,” Linder said. “We can’t thank him enough.”
The Strike King Bassmaster College Series at Lake Norman presented by Bass Pro Shops was hosted by Visit Lake Norman, Visit Charlotte and Mecklenburg County Parks and Recreation.