Video: Pro Bass Anglers Suspended After Dangerous Boat Wreck

by Vern Evans

Two men have been suspended from the MLF following a dangerous collision during a bass fishing tournament in Florida

The aftermath of a boat wreck at a bass fishing tournament in Florida.

Although it’s hard to tell in this screenshot, there’s another bass boat underneath the boat that’s listing on the shoreline. Photograph by Eriz Panzironi / via YouTube

A professional bass fishing tournament nearly ended in tragedy on March 19, when two competing boats collided in a narrow canal, with one boat landing directly on top of the other. The boat wreck occurred during day one of Major League Fishing’s Toyota Series on Florida’s Harris Chain of Lakes, and MLF determined through its investigation that both operators had intentionally sped through the no-wake zone in the Apopka Beauclair Canal. The league said in a press release that the two men have been suspended from all MLF tournaments for at least one year.

“Boater Mark Succi of Cataulua, Georgia, and his co-angler Jeff Cox of Saline, Michigan, along with boater Douglas Reed of Bridgeton, New Jersey, and his co-angler Mitch Hayes of Chipley, Florida, were involved in the accident,” MLF explained. “Both boaters were in violation of MLF Toyota Series Rule No. 9. Specifically, Succi and Reed operated their boats in an unsafe manner and violated a posted no-wake area.”

The league did not provide any additional information about the wreck. But Eric Panzironi, another pro angler who was fishing the tournament and happened upon the wreck, posted a YouTube video on Saturday that reveals further details about the accident. Panzironi’s video doesn’t show the actual crash, but it gives a before-and-after account of the collision. Panzironi overheard Succi and Reed talking before the wreck as they all waited for a lock to open in the canal. His GoPro was even recording when one of the reckless boaters talked about how he intended to speed through the no-wake zone to make it back to the weigh-in on time.

Panzironi and his fishing partner were the first boat to arrive at the scene of the crash, and as he explains in the video, it’s a miracle nobody was killed or maimed.

(Explicit language warning.)

“You guys cannot be running these no-wake zones because it’s not worth it, especially in this Apopka Canal,” Panzironi says at the start of the video. “You can barely fit one boat through there at that railroad trestle, and I don’t even know how they were planning on running it. Even idling through there is pretty sketchy, so it doesn’t make sense to me.”

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The pro angler from Longmont, Florida, explains that both Succi and Reed were speeding in the same direction through the narrow canal when they approached the railroad bridge. He says the boater in front apparently slowed down at the bridge. The boater in back was unable to stop in time, and he ran his vessel over and landed directly on top of the lead boat.

“We don’t have brakes on these boats, it’s not stopping fast, so they ran right on top of the other boat,” says Panzironi. “I don’t even know how anybody [didn’t] get seriously injured or killed. You couldn’t even see the other boat. It was on top of him when I pulled up.”

Panzironi adds that he was even more shaken by the wreck because it very well could have been him and his fishing partner who ended up underneath a bass boat that day. The roughly 12-minute video clip shows how he let one of the boats that eventually crashed go in front of him because they were already talking about how they wanted to shave off time by running through the no-wake zone. (Panzironi already knew he’d be late for the weigh-in and decided it wasn’t worth pushing it.)

“When I get through there, boys, close your eyes,” one of the reckless boaters says in the video as they wait for a lock to open in the Apopka Canal.

The boater mentions a sheriff that sometimes hangs out in the no-wake zone, but says it’s worth risking it so he can make the weigh-in at 5:00 p.m. Another angler speaks up and says there’s no way they’ll make it in time since it took them nearly an hour to make the same run that morning.

“If you go through one of those no-wake areas, though, you can save 15 or 20 minutes,” the reckless boater says. He then nods when the other angler asks if they have a bag worth weighing. The next time you see his boat is when Panzironi happens upon the two-boat pileup at the railroad bridge.

“That’s what happens when you do stupid shit, man,” Panzironi says as he and his fishing partner approach the bridge. “He’s on top of his boat. Holy fuck.”

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Somehow, all four of the anglers survived the collision without any real injuries, although Panzironi mentions in the video that one of the anglers was bleeding badly when he first arrived on the scene. He also states the obvious fact that several commenters have also pointed out, which is that no amount of prize money is worth risking life and limb.

“I let the one guy go in front of me, and luckily I did, because he could have been on top of my boat, or killed me or my co-angler or seriously injured us,” Panzironi says. “It’s not worth doing [this] over a tournament, guys. It really isn’t.”

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