By Todd Ceisner
For the last two months, BJ Haseotes has stared longingly at his bass boat parked in the driveway of his Cape Cod home. He'd love to take it out for a day or even an hour, but nagging back pain has prevented him from doing so. A couple Advil would probably do the trick and he could be on his way to the ramp, but doctor's orders and his desire to avoid any setbacks has him putting any trips to the lake on hold.
Haseotes has dealt with back issues for many years, possibly as a result of a weight-lifting regimen, and it came to a head at the Toledo Bend Elite Series event in May when rough water during practice caused him to "tweak something," he said. "The pain shot through my leg. I was pretty sure it was my sciatic nerve. I couldn't even sleep that Tuesday and I couldn’t fish that Wednesday. The only way to feel good was standing up."
A call to tournament director Trip Weldon led to a decision by Haseotes to withdraw from the event and head home for further evaluation. He hasn’t competed since and will sit out the remainder of the season with an eye on returning in 2015.
"I almost pulled out at Table Rock," he said. "Even with the break we had between Table Rock and Toledo Bend, it still wasn't right. The biggest thing was hitting that wave."
Been An Issue
Haseotes says he's dealt with back fatigue for some time and there were times he could barely stand after a day on the water, let alone a full week of tournament practice and competition on the some of the largest lakes in the country.
He said it wasn't a major issue last season and he thinks art of the reason was because his brother-in-law helped him by driving his boat to the tournament venues while he would fly from home and not be sitting in a truck for hours on end. This year, his brother-in-law secured a full-time job and Haseotes was faced with driving himself to and from events.
"Last year I made it through and it didn't hurt a quarter as much as this year," he said. "That takes a real toll. It didn't bother me until the St. Johns River. But it kept mounting and mounting. Mentally, I was strong enough to stay out there, but physically I couldn't take it any more.
"I need all the help I can get against these guys. They're a lot better than me and have been doing it longer. I was handicapped even more at Table Rock missing a day of practice. It's definitely got in the way of my goals and what I wanted to do."
Haseotes is the not first nor will be the last angler to deal with back issues. As smooth as modern bass boats ride on the water, the prolonged jarring rides on rough water takes a toll over time. Byron Velvick has had chronic neck and back ailments and underwent spinal fusion surgery a few years ago. Current AOY points leader Mark Davis had a similar procedure done last year. Retired pro Denny Brauer had five back surgeries during his career.
So far, Haseotes has avoided surgery and hopes continued physical therapy and weekly trips to a chiropractor will help him continue on the path to being pain free. A recent MRI revealed that the herniated disk is improving, but doctors are concerned rheumatoid arthritis may be developing in the area.
"We're still doing research on that, but I think in two weeks or so, I'm going to try to just take a boat ride," he said. "By no means am I going to push it. It's a lot better now. At first, I thought surgery was needed for the herniated disk, but they've kept me stretching and cracking me and it's relieved a lot of pressure on the nerve so I've avoided surgery so far. I'm still in some pain, but on the road to recovery."
Bummed To Miss Northern Swing
Haseotes cashed a couple checks last year in his return to the Elite Series after sitting out 2011 and 2012 following the death of his infant daughter. He struggled early on this season down south, partly due to his back issues. His decision to skip the rest of 2014 was difficult considering he was among a handful of Elite Series pros with any semblance of experience fishing the Delaware River and Cayuga Lake.
"I'm really disappointed and that's been weighing on me a lot," he said. "I've fished both the Delaware and Cayuga a bunch. Those were my two bulls eyes on the calendar. I had a chance to do a lot better than I was doing. The hardest thing is we're coming up north where I want to be and know how to fish. That part of it sucks that I can't do that."
Haseotes said B.A.S.S. officials have been extremely understanding and supportive as he works through his injury.
"I've been on the same page with B.A.S.S. and in talking with Trip, we came to the consensus that I need to get myself better," he said. "They gave me the hardship because I made through half the season so I will be back next season. The great thing is B.A.S.S. treats us like family. I couldn't be more pleased to get the hardship. It relieves the pressure of having to qualify through Opens again."