Johnson and his wife had rented a room at the Motel 6 just off the interstate. Sometime during the night someone alerted Johnson his boat was being pilfered. He went out into the parking to check and confronted the would-be thief. After a brief altercation, Johnson was shot.
The next day, a 17 year-old confessed to police he was responsible for Johnson’s death. Now two lives have been ruined over an attempted theft of fishing tackle.
Tournament anglers travelling to an event are prime targets for thieves. They know the high-dollar bass rigs can be easy pickings for some quick cash. Pro anglers draw more attention with their sponsor wrapped tow vehicles and boats. And when anglers roll into town, the thieves and thugs get ready to make their move.
While one tragic event doesn’t necessarily reflect every tournament stop is a danger, anglers can take some precautions to protect their life and property. A little planning and forethought will help for a safer tournament.
“In every new area we try to go pre-fish and scout out the safest area to stay,” said B.A.S.S. pro Randy Howell of Springville. “There can be some bad areas at every fishing location.”
Anglers can search online or contact the local chamber of commerce for some preferred and safe locations to stay during a tournament. Some locales will cater to anglers and have designated parking areas that are well lighted. Other spots may also provide some type of security person while the event in in town.
Some anglers will try to save a buck and stay in a rough or less desirable area. However, the extra cost may be worth the peace of mind and a restful sleep. Tournament anglers may travel together and pitch in some cash to hire a security guard to watch over their boats and equipment.
“We have been staying in campgrounds for 10 years now,” Howell said. “That's without a doubt the safest way to go.”
Howell goes on to say that motels are never really as safe as you want them to be.
Lock it up
Thieves are looking for a quick and easy meal. A couple of rods or a tackle box not secure can disappear in a blink of an eye. Using the on-board lockable storage compartments may not be enough protection. A few companies have designed some extra safety locking units for bass boats.
“I use a Tackle-Safe locker bar in my boat when traveling,” said Howell.
The Tackle-Safe locker is no longer in production. However, T-H Marine Company in Huntsville makes the Loc-R-Bar safety system. A stainless steel bracket is fitted into the gunnel on the front deck of the boat. A heavy diameter bar is fitted across the rod and storage compartments. The bar can be secured with a pad lock and attached to an alarm.
Anglers also should remove any electronics or other equipment that is not bolted down. Thieves don’t care about wires or cables. They just grab and run. Tackle bags with $5 to $20 lures are also prime targets for scumbags looking for an easy score.
Thieves will focus on anything of value that can be removed. This includes stainless steel props, power-poles and electric trolling motors. There are locks and security devices to help prevent theft for these units. Also, don’t forget to lock your trailer to tour hitch on the tow-vehicle.
Boat covers can help deter some thieves. The lawless characters may pass by a covered boat to prey on an open one nearby. It is a good idea to keep your boat covered as not to advertise what is available.
Sound the alarm
Several boat manufacturers and aftermarket companies manufacture alarm systems especially for boats. The Loc-R-Bar can be fitted with an alarm. Any tinkering with the lock or bar system and the alarm will blare.
“I use an alarm on my boat,” Howell said. “And the thing will scream if needed.”
Alarm switches can be added to almost any device or unit on a boat. Outboards, steering consoles, electric trolling motors and other spots can be equipped with a high decibel alarm that will send thieves running.
Not only can tackle and equipment be stolen, complete bass rigs have disappeared from tournament sites. Trailer wheel and hitch locks are the first line of defense. Also, secret motor start switches can be installed to render the outboard unusable.
Anytime anglers are travelling to the lake vigilance is always a must. I have heard stories of some fishing buddies stopping for gas. One heads to the restroom and the other goes inside for a bag of ice. In under a minute their GPS/locator and a couple of rods vanished.
For the most part many tournament sites are safe. Anglers need to be watchful and take a few precautions. The incident in Mississippi brings safety issues to the forefront.
Charles Johnson is The Star’s outdoor editor. You can reach Charles at ChrJohn7@aol.com