Avid bass angler, Vietnam veteran, and retired Kentucky coal miner, Blackburn Haddix Jr. passed away at age 75 exactly one week before Sunday’s 11th Toyota Bonus Bucks Owners event on Table Rock.
But his son Greg, along with tournament partner Kevin Willoughby swear “Dad” was in the boat guiding them to their back-to-back victory at the annual event.
The two claimed victory last autumn using a crankbait made by their co-worker Roy Byrd, and swear Dad whispered in their ear to make one more cast to a shallow laydown tree on the shoreline they had cast to at least four times already.
That cast indeed seemed steered by Divine intervention when a 5-pounder, that turned out to be the biggest bass of the tournament, smashed Haddix’s shad colored crankbait to anchor their impressive winning weight of 16 pounds 10 ounces.
“We both got really emotional when we caught it. We truly felt like Greg’s dad was with us in that moment,” says Kevin Willoughby, now in his 25th year at the Toyota Manufacturing facility in Mississippi, where the popular Corolla is assembled.
The emotional win paid the two close friends $5,000 at the no entry fee event for folks who love to fish tournaments, tow with a Toyota, and sign-up for Bonus Bucks, and their 5-pounder won them a $1,000 Carhartt gear package.
Their win was also good enough to net Haddix and Willoughby two pairs of industry-leading sunglasses from Costa, and the 10th place team captained by Eric Reed of Andy’s Frozen Custard also won two pairs of glasses from Costa.
Former Bonus Bucks Owners event champions, Lenny Francoeur and Tayor Gleghorn, who won the 4th annual event on Toledo Bend in 2015, scored a 15th place finish on Table Rock Sunday that was good enough for a $1,000 Bass Pro Shops gift card.
Yamaha also graciously supported the fellowship rich event with a $1,000 Yamaha Power Up prize to Ray and Tricia McGraw for finishing in 31st place, one place outside the regular tournament paycheck standings.
“I don’t know how else you could possibly get a pro tournament experience without ever paying an entry fee if you don’t fish the annual Toyota Bonus Bucks event,” says Willoughby.
Greg’s dad, Blackburn, would likely agree from his place in heaven where the bass are always biting, and the two certainly made him proud on Sunday at Table Rock.