Inside BASS: Wilks Misses Bassmaster Elite Series Excitement
While the nation’s best bass pros were in Syracuse, N.Y., last week for the CITGO Bassmaster Elite Series Empire Chase presented by Mahindra Tractors, one of the anglers who has earned such Elite status was stuck at home in Rocky Mount, N.C. Dustin Wilks has tried to stay busy and not think about what he is missing since the pain of a severe, lingering elbow injury forced him to drop out after the Series’ season opener at Texas’ Lake Amistad.
“It’s disappointing not to be out there in the first season of the Elites,” the 29-year-old pro said. “I’ve watched it on TV a few times.”
After months of increasing pain, Wilks reached his lowest point at the Battle on the Border in March. “Right after Amistad, I was really bummed out because I could not move my elbow at all.”
Wilks finally surrendered to complete reconstructive surgery of his right elbow May 31 at the famous Mayo Clinic in Minnesota. To repair extensive ligament and tendon damage, he underwent the so-called Tommy John surgery, which includes replacing a torn ligament with a tendon from elsewhere in the body.
“The doctors were really happy with the surgery,” he said. “They were visibly excited when they came in afterwards. I hope they’re right.”
Wilks returned to Minnesota recently to have the accompanying cast replaced with a brace that immobilizes his arm. Physical rehab is still weeks away and even light fishing is at least three months down the road, according to doctors.
Meanwhile, Wilks stays as busy as possible at home, while some of his best friends are competing for fame and fortune.
“It’s tough not competing,” he said. “But then, in another sense, it’s kind of nice because I have never known anything but competing. It’s nice to spend time at home, which I have never done for very long. But then another part of me wants to be back out there.”
Wilks reports that his sponsors (Skeeter Boats, Yamaha, Daiwa, KeelShield, Culprit and Yo-Zuri) have been very supportive during his downtime. And he is taking comfort in the knowledge that a medical exemption has assured him a spot in next year’s Bassmaster Elite Series.
Until this hiatus, the longest Wilks had gone without fishing was less than two weeks.
“I finally couldn’t stand it and I went down to a little pond the other day,” he admitted. “I had to run up the pond bank to drag the fish up the bank, and then run back down to the fish. I’m hard-pressed.”
BASS BABIES. A pair of Bassmaster pros welcomed new additions to their families recently.
Bassmaster Elite Series pro Skeet Reese and his wife, Kim, managed to deliver their second daughter, Courtney Ren, between tournaments. She weighed a solid 8 pounds. Mother and baby came home two days after delivery.
Meanwhile, three-time CITGO Bassmaster Classic qualifier Mike Auten and wife, Becky, saw son Ryan arrive 16 weeks prematurely. He weighed just 1¼ pounds and is still being cared for at the hospital. A fund has been set up to defray the Autens’ mounting medical bills for the premature baby: Friends of Ryan Auten, c/o Scott Rob, 378 Union Hill Road, Benton, Ky., 42025.
A YEAR LATER. The folks in the Pittsburgh area want BASS fans to know that fishing is considerably better than when it set the standard for Bassmaster Classic futility last July.
“Too bad those guys aren't here this year. They'd see an altogether different fishery,” local tournament director Don Wagner was quoted as saying in a recent Pittsburgh Post-Gazette article titled “Bassmasters missed by a year.”
“The other day on the Allegheny, I had four or five bass in the 2-pound range on back-to-back casts. All we were doing was running the shoreline. Most of them were smallmouths, but I had three spots; and they were big, chunky fish. You got to wonder, where'd these fish come from?”
Monte Misplay, tournament director for the Pennsylvania BASS Federation Nation Region 1, described local bass fishing as “just awesome, phenomenal, the best the river's been since I moved here from North Carolina seven years ago.”
WRAP RAP. Bassmaster Elite Series rookie Ken Brodeur’s boat is wrapped with the colors and logo of Loctite, one of the adhesive brands from Henkel Corp. The company is headquartered in his home state of Connecticut.
“Within the fishing community, products like Loctite and QuickTite instant adhesives are a common sight in the tackle boxes of professional and recreational anglers,” Brodeur said. “They are used as a quick fix for all kinds of unexpected problems. That's why this sponsorship is such a natural fit.”
HOTTEST RIG. The Hottest Rig Running contest on http://www.Bassmaster.com is now in its final week. Fishing fans can vote on the hottest rig from anglers who have advanced to the final round. Those anglers include Rick Clunn, Todd Faircloth, Timmy Horton, Michael Iaconelli, Russ Lane, Ish Monroe, Skeet Reese, Mike Reynolds, Ray Sedgwick, Gerald Swindle, Kevin Wirth and Stephen Browning. The winner – which will be announced at the Bassmaster American on Lake Wylie in Charlotte, N.C. at the end of July – gets $10,000.
WEIRDEST CATCH. It was during a BASS event on Arkansas’ Lake Hamilton that Bassmaster Elite Series pro John Murray caught — and landed — three bass on the same cast. One was hooked on a Frontrunner teaser, while the other two nailed his topwater bait.
DID YOU KNOW? Wilks is the only known angler to qualify for the Bassmaster Classic while still in college. He was a senior at North Carolina State University when he made the 1999 Classic as the points leader in the Bassmaster Eastern Invitational division.
IF I HADN’T BECOME A BASS PRO … Barbara Gaskins, an angler on the Mercury Marine Women’s Bassmaster Tour presented by Triton Boats, would be able to devote her full attention to her job as a crane operator in Suffolk, Va.
THEY SAID IT. “We are impressing a lot of fans out there. The sport is growing, and not just because of what BASS and ESPN are doing. More people now are noticing bass fishing. There is just more awareness of it than in the past.” — BASS boss Don Rucks told The Daily Oklahoman newspaper that the sport has made significant strides with the inaugural season of the CITGO Bassmaster Elite Series
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