Canadian Danny McGarry has quite the fish story to tell about competing in the 2021 B.A.S.S Nation championship.
It won't concern a stirring, comeback victory as McGarry finished the event in 47th place. Rather, it will revolve around being given the chance to compete because of the consideration and generosity of a complete stranger.
McGarry, of Newcastle, Ont., had planned to drive to the tournament, which began Wednesday on the Ouachita River in Monroe, La. But when he got to the Canada-U.S. border, an agent wouldn't allow him to cross with his 21-foot bass boat.
The agent felt McGarry wasn't entering the U.S. for essential business despite having proper documentation from B.A.S.S. McGarry had crossed the border three times during the summer to compete in tournaments.
So McGarry turned around and returned home, packed as much tackle and gear as he could and booked a flight to Louisiana. Trouble was, that still didn't address the matter of not having a boat.
Blake Sylvester, a 30-year-old American angler from Louisiana, heard of McGarry's plight over dinner last week with some fellow anglers in Baton Rouge, La. In the group was Josh Cotier, a fisherman from Massachusetts who was friends with both McGarry and Sylvester and relayed the Canadian's plight.
When told of the story, Sylvester immediately offered to not only loan McGarry a spare boat but also make the four-hour drive to Monroe to deliver it. Sylvester left the boat in the parking lot of McGarry's hotel, all without never having met the Canadian.
"Why not? He's a fisherman, I'm a fisherman," Sylvester said in a telephone interview. "I fish the B.A.S.S Nation and I know how it is.
"Sometimes things don't go your way and you kind of start to panic and freak out worrying about all kinds of other things. When Josh told me about it, I said, 'Man, I have a boat at home. He's more than welcome to use it.'"
All with no strings attached.
"He wanted to pay me to rent it, but we didn't worry about that," Sylvester said. “People in the B.A.S.S. Nation, we take care of one another.
"I guess it's southern hospitality, that's what you'd call it."
McGarry, 24, wasn't immediately available for comment but told bassmaster.com he deeply appreciated Sylvester's gesture.
"Everyone I’ve met in the States has been amazing to us," McGarry said. "And what goes around comes around.
"Maybe someone needs some help one day and I can help them too."
McGarry and Sylvester have something in common: They're both young men trying to make a living as professional anglers.
Sylvester, a married father of two young children (daughter who turns three next month, 15-month-old son) finished second in the 2020 B.A.S.S. Nation event. That helped him secure a deal with Skeeter — a bass boat manufacturer — and ultimately compete in the '21 US$1-million Bassmaster Classic, pro bass fishing's premiere event.
Sylvester said he and McGarry have become friends as a result. In fact, McGarry has a standing invitation to join Sylvester and a group of friends over the American Thanksgiving holiday for a week of fishing.
"Yeah, I've texted him pretty much every day," Sylvester said. "I've already told him next Thanksgiving to go ahead and make plans.
"If you can get down here, you need to."
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 5, 2021.
Dan Ralph, The Canadian Press