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Monday, March 7, 2011
On this day: March 7

By Ken Duke
Senior Editor, B.A.S.S. Publications

Billy Westmoreland
Billy Westmoreland pauses for photos with a St. Johns River lunker.
On this day in 1973 at the Arkansas Invitational on Beaver Lake, bad weather and high winds threatened not only the tournament, but the lives of two competitors — Johnny Morris (of Bass Pro Shops fame) and Robert Craddock. When a tornado went through the area and created high waves that overtook their boat, it filled with water and sank.

Morris and Craddock were clinging to a red gas can that popped to the surface, but the cold water was taking its toll on them. Soon hypothermia would take over. Fortunately, smallmouth bass legend Billy Westmoreland saw the gas can floating in the waves and came out to remove it before it was struck by a passing boat, perhaps causing an explosion. Morris and Craddock were scratching a final message to their loved ones onto the can when Westmoreland reached down to grab them.

In appreciation for saving his life (and in recognition of his skills as one of the best anglers in the world), Morris created a line of Westmoreland rods for Bass Pro Shops and supplied the smallmouth expert with two boats a year for the rest of Westmoreland's life.