By Zell Rowland

Fishing is rewarding in so many ways, and most of those rewards come far from the weigh-in stage. Some of those rewards are memories of things that happen any time a bunch of competitive bass-fishing fanatics get together. There are always mishaps and things that just make you shake your head. Let’s just say I’ve been in this long enough that Bill Dance and his bloopers have nothing on me!

Anything can happen on any given day on the water…and it usually does!

Back in the days on the tournament circuit when pros drew fellow pros to fish with, I fished a tournament on Sam Rayburn reservoir in Texas. My draw for this memorable day will remain unnamed, but he was a great fisherman.
We had agreed to fish out of my boat, and launched at Twin Dikes Park.

I had a fancy Suburban, the kind with a small-screen TV and the other amenities SUVs had back then.
But I had cut a deal to make rod straps for boats, and part of the deal was that I would get an enclosed boat trailer. I would use it for entire season.

Now, this enclosed trailer was an interesting concept, and I liked it a lot. Part of the roof hinged up, just like on the trunk of a car. It kept your boat, motor and tackle dry all the time, and the enclosure made it easy to keep your boat clean.

Basically, you lowered it down the ramp just like any boat trailer, but when you loaded it back up it was like driving your boat into a “box” that resembled what an 18-wheeler trailer.

Of the hundreds of boat owners that showed up for bass tournaments, only two or three of us towed boats in these enclosed trailers. My partner had only seen them a time or two himself.

He and I had had a good day on the water. As I pulled near the launch, he asked if it was hard to drive the boat up and into the enclosed trailer. I told him, “Heck no, it’s easy! You just have to treat it like a boat trailer and drive the boat into the box.”

He asked if he could do it, and I thought that was no problem and walked up to my truck. I opened the two back trailer doors and the little door up front where I could reach in and tighten the boat winch. Then I backed the trailer down the ramp into the water. He drove the boat into the trailer, and I got out of my truck, reached in, and winched it up. He asked if he needed to crawl out through the front hatch, and I told him that there was no need. The boat was sitting on the trailer just like any other boat in the lot. I assured him that he could stay seated while I towed the boat up the ramp to the tie-down area.

Only one other boat was waiting to get off the lake as I started back up the steep ramp. As my Suburban labored with the boat and enclosed trailer in tow, the ramp seemed like it sat at an 80-degree zell rowland. Suddenly, I heard a “Pop!” and my load lightened a lot. I looked in my rear view mirror and watched as the trailer rolled back down the ramp. It must have been moving 20 or 30 miles per hour when it hit the water.

The “pop” had been my safety chain breaking, and, if I’ve ever had a time when I felt truly helpless, it was at that moment.
This was a tandem axle trailer, so it had four tires full of air. The walls of the trailer were insulated with foam, so when the trailer and the boat inside it hit the water, the whole thing immediately floated 15 or 20 yards from the ramp. It continued to float farther away as I got out of the Suburban and ran to the water’s edge.

What could I do?

Meanwhile, my partner was still in the trailer, wondering “Why did Zell stop and suddenly back me into the water again?”

Finally his head poked up over the side of the trailer. He could see now where he was and his eyes got real big and he hollered that he was going to jump.

“Don’t even think about it!” I hollered back, the thought of my boat at the bottom of Sam Rayburn haunting my brain. By this time three or four guys had gathered on shore, and they were rolling in the dirt laughing. I didn’t think it was funny. That was my trailer, my boat and motor, my livelihood floating helplessly out there – how long it could stay afloat I had no idea.

I drove the truck back down the ramp. Then I yelled to my partner to trim the motor down and drive boat and trailer back to the ramp. He trimmed the engine a little, started it again and the floating trailer -- seemingly blind -- chugged back toward the ramp.
With the help of the jolly guys on the bank we slid the tongue back into the trailer and one of them had an extra pin. I couldn’t believe it, but we were good to go!

By the time we reached the top of the ramp my partner was consumed by two thoughts: First, getting out of such a mess might well have made this the happiest moment of his life. Second, that he would never own an enclosed boat trailer.

He kept that vow.

That was not my only misadventure with the trailer. That may have been the craziest season of my life. Once I was driving down the highway, and I feel a bump. The next thing I know, a tire rolls past – ahead of my truck.

My first thought is, “Man, someone lost a tire.”

Then something in the side view mirror caught my attention. It was sparks, and I realized that poor fellow who lost a tire was me. That tire had come off the axle and rolled right on past me!

A year later the enclosed trailer was gone, along with its comedy series. I do enjoy watching the reruns when I need a good laugh, though.