BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — Bassmaster Elite Series angler Brad Whatley of Bivins, Texas, is returning to fish the final two Elite Series tournaments of 2022 after missing three tournaments due to a medical hardship.
Whatley, who has been battling the effects of Crohn’s disease for nearly two decades, had been in and out of the hospital since January. By the end of the Guaranteed Rate Bassmaster Elite at Chickamauga Lake, he had to take the medical hardship that B.A.S.S. offers anglers on the Elite Series once during their career.
“Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been to the emergency room several times,” said Whatley. “But I’ve never been admitted to the hospital for several days. I wound up spending five days in the hospital.”
Whatley’s body was doing all it could to fight off infection after infection, but it was time for medical intervention.
“They thought my small intestine was completely closed off. That’s why I was getting the infections. I got really, really sick at Harris Chain.”
Whatley, who was rooming with fellow Elite Series pros Brock Mosley, Hank Cherryand Tyler Rivet, was so sick during practice that he couldn’t get out of bed.
“They’d come in there and check on me, and I’d be in the bed with three jackets on and covered up. It wasn’t that it was cold. I’d get an infection, and then I’d get a fever and freeze to death. Then the fever would break and I’d sweat like a hog. It was a vicious cycle. And then while all that was going on I’d feel like I’m getting my guts ripped out.”
After starting a new medication and having a small procedure done, Whatley’s Crohn’s disease is finally in remission again.
“I started infusions at the end of April and wound up getting sick again. I thought the medicine wasn’t working. But that wasn’t the case. It takes eight to 10 weeks for it to get into your system. I have not been sick since the last day of that Fork event and feel better than I’ve felt in 10 years.”
The medication Whatley started taking in April, Stelara, helped to fight off the infection, and once that was under control, it was then time to talk about surgery.
“I had two options: They could cut out part of my small intestine and reattach it, or, if we got the inflammation down, they could put me under and basically put a balloon in me and blow it up and stretch out where I have a lot of scar tissue and I’m really constricted.”
Whatley was able to undergo the second and less aggressive surgery a few weeks ago, and it has made an enormous difference in his quality of life. This is a procedure that is not expected to have to be done again. Though there are certainly still some negative effects of having Crohn’s, Whatley is feeling optimistic.
“From what I understand, if you can get to your golden years, it finally lessens up and you don’t have the problems.”
Focusing on the near future, Whatley is excited to get back onto the Elite Series trail. He’s certainly missed the competition and camaraderie.
“I’m no different than anybody else out there. I eat, breathe and sleep competition. If we’re going to sit down and play dominoes, I’m here to beat you.”
It was tough for Whatley to sit out for three events, especially with those fisheries traditionally being good to him. Whatley has finished fifth, ninth and 26th at Lake Fork, the St. Lawrence River and Pickwick Lake respectively.
“Feeling like I feel now, I could go ahead and not fish the remaining couple of tournaments on the schedule. At the same time, I’m a competitor and I want to fish. It’s killing me to not fish.”
Whatley will be rejoining the remainder of the Elite field for the final two events, and he’s happy B.A.S.S. has set it up to where he is unable to negatively affect the outcome of the Progressive Bassmaster Angler of the Year points race.
“I’m going to fish to win, but I’m going to stay out of everybody’s way. I wouldn’t come back if I was going to affect somebody’s points. And I haven’t had any negative feedback. I’ve had lots of guys that have texted me, ‘Man I miss you out here.’ Everybody’s been cool about it and checked up on me pretty often, which I appreciate.”
Whatley will not receive AOY points for the remainder of the year, and the cut to fish Day 3 will remain at 47 boats. The last check will still go to the angler who finishes in 61st place.
The Elite Series field takes to the water again August 18-21 at the Guaranteed Rate Bassmaster Elite at Lake Oahe in South Dakota.
B.A.S.S., which encompasses the Bassmaster tournament leagues, events and media platforms, is the worldwide authority on bass fishing and keeper of the culture of the sport, providing cutting edge content on bass fishing whenever, wherever and however bass fishing fans want to use it. Headquartered in Birmingham, Ala., the 515,000-member organization’s fully integrated media platforms include the industry’s leading magazines (Bassmaster and B.A.S.S. Times), website (Bassmaster.com), TV show, radio show, social media programs and events. For more than 50 years, B.A.S.S. has been dedicated to access, conservation and youth fishing.
The Bassmaster Tournament Trail includes the most prestigious events at each level of competition, including the Bassmaster Elite Series, St. Croix Bassmaster Opens Series presented by Mossy Oak Fishing, TNT Fireworks B.A.S.S. Nation Series, Strike King Bassmaster College Series presented by Bass Pro Shops, Abu Garcia Bassmaster High School Series presented by Academy Sports + Outdoors, Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Team Championship, Yamaha Rightwaters Bassmaster Kayak Series powered by TourneyX, Yamaha Bassmaster Redfish Cup Championship presented by Skeeter and the ultimate celebration of competitive fishing, the Academy Sports + Outdoors Bassmaster Classic.
Media Contact: Emily Harley, B.A.S.S. Communications Manager, 205-313-0945 (o), 205-253-1114 (c), firstname.lastname@example.org