GREENVILLE, S.C. (Feb. 20) — The amount of bass caught by Cabela’s/GEICO For Your Boat angler David Walker was secondary on the first day of the GEICO Bassmaster Classic.
Why? Because in the crowd for weigh-in at Bon Secours Wellness Arena was Brandon Ardister, the man Walker pulled from chilly Lake Hartwell last Sunday, likely saving his life.
In honor of Walker’s heroics, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers surprised Walker, who weighed in four fish at 12 pounds, 3 ounces to stand in 15th place, with a certificate of appreciation.
“I wasn’t looking for any awards,” Walker said. “I wasn’t even going to say anything about it to start with.”
Ardister was fishing Lake Hartwell on Sunday when his boat sank, and he clung to life preservers for children as he tried to swim toward shore, but after being in the water for nearly 20 minutes, hypothermia was a real possibility.
Walker, though, happened to be fishing in the same area during practice and steered his boat to what he first thought was an object but turned out to be Ardister.
“I know how cold water affects you and I know how much it hurts you to be in it,” Walker said. “I knew I had to get him out of the water no matter what.”
Walker helped get Ardister in the boat and to shore, where emergency personnel had gathered to help. Walker left the scene to go back to practice, but it hit him later that night when he called his wife, Misty, to tell the story.
“She said, ‘Did you save him or something?’ ” Walker said. “I thought, ‘Maybe I did.’ The more I thought about it, I was like, ‘There’s no way I could’ve swam as far as he had to go.’ He would not have made it, and that was my fear when he said, ‘Just pull me in.’ ”
Walker feared Ardister would simply let go, but both fought to get him in the boat.
“I was like, ‘You’ve got to get in the boat,’ ” Walker said.
That determination is what prompted the Army, via Col. Tom Tickner of the Corps of Engineers, to present Walker with the certificate.
“I promise you, anybody else who had been there at the time surely would have done the same thing,” Walker said. “For whatever reason, I went there and I was in the right place at the right time.
“I’m ecstatic that I was there for him because what was going through his mind? I can’t imagine what he was thinking.”
Walker was simply overwhelmed by the honor.
“For the Army to give me an award, a certificate of appreciation, how cool is that?” Walker said. “I worked in factories right out of high school and I love to go fishing. All I ever wanted to do was go fishing, and here I am getting an award for being out there doing what I love to do and being able to save a guy who went out there to go fishing, too. I could not be prouder of this award.”
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