Stacey King has always been the determined type.
That quality is a big reason why the 55-year-old Missouri pro has qualified for 10 appearances in the CITGO Bassmaster Classic and won two BASS tournaments during his career. But the latest object of his determination has nothing to do with catching bass.
King is after justice and seeking to make a statement that is heard throughout the fishing and non-fishing worlds that you can't shoot at a fisherman because he or she is fishing near your property.
In June, King was competing in the Bassmaster Elite 50 tournament on the Alabama River when, he reported, a waterfront resident fired multiple shots in the direction of his boat (which also contained an observer), as well as a nearby boat carrying longtime BASS photographer Gerald Crawford. He later found that his boat had been hit by one of the shots.
Law enforcement soon arrested Paul Gray, whom King had never met or spoken to before the incident. And now the wheels of the Alabama legal system have begun to move.
King recently traveled to Lowndes County, Ala., for the first hearing, only to find that the judge had to excuse herself after learning that Gray had hired her father as his legal counsel for the case. It proved to be a long, wasted trip for King.
"I just received a letter (stating) that they had appointed a new judge from a different county to hear the case," he said. "They're supposed to let me know when the next hearing is.
"We were expecting that. I presume that we're going to have to go down there at least a couple more times to get this resolved. I'm going to go down there as many times as I have to do it to get this thing resolved.
"It is a lot of trouble, but my resolve is set to see this thing through and see that hopefully this man is convicted of these charges because this has happened before (in Louisiana) and there was never really anything done about it. And I'm hoping that the media will pick up on this if he is convicted and show people across the country that you can't just go out and start shooting at a man in his fishing boat for no reason.
"You shouldn't be out there shooting towards the water anyway. Hopefully, we can educate the public that something like that shouldn't ever happen. The next time it happens, somebody could get hurt. It could have happened in our situation. Somebody could have been hurt and I don't want to see it happen to somebody else or me again for that matter."
Gray is charged with three charges of reckless endangerment and one charge of criminal mischief. According to the Lowndes County Clerk of Court's office, each carries a potential penalty of a year imprisonment or a fine up to $2,000, or both.
"We don't expect him to get that," King said. "He'll probably get a fine and a suspended sentence, more than likely. At least it could be a setback for him and maybe the press will spread the story if we can get a conviction. And maybe people will come to the notion that they can't do that sort of thing."
Longtime female bass pro Penny Berryman to South Carolina's Jason Quinn in reference to his six earrings: "Do you know you're going to have really large ear lobes when you get old?"
Did you know?
If Tommy Martin qualifies for the 2005 Classic this season he will join the sport's most exclusive club 20 or more Classic appearances. Current members include Rick Clunn (28), Roland Martin (25), Larry Nixon (23) and Gary Klein (22).
On Sept. 2, Texans Jay Yelas (39) and Kelly Jordon (34) will be blowing out candles. Legendary Arkansas angler Larry Nixon turns 54 on Sept. 3, while Florida pro Bernie Schultz becomes 50 a day later.
If I hadn't become a BASS pro
Top western pro and rising young star Brett Hite worked in a boat dealership and tackle store while in high school, but says, "I'd maybe be a cop. It's an interesting job. Or a game and fish officer."
They said it
I was really excited to see him win. I think it's going to be really phenomenal for our sport overall. Now we're international. Not that it hasn't been before, but the Classic is just the biggest event there is to the general public. It gets so much more exposure than a regular tournament. And this is going to help bring (tournament fishing) mainstream. It's like the Olympics. You can win the U.S. championship, but when you win in the Olympics you're competing against everybody in the world. Even though we're doing it all the time and we see it, everybody else doesn't see it that way.
Three-time BASS Angler of the Year Kevin VanDam on the impact of Takahiro Omori's Classic victory.
Tim Tucker's Pro Angling Insider is a new bi-monthly newsletter with an annual subscription rate of $39.95. It can be ordered by calling toll-free 800-252-FISH. A sample issue can by seen on his Bass Sessions 2004 web site, www.timtuckeroutdoors.com.