After injuring his back during practice for the Bassmaster Elite Series event at Lake Eufaula in June, Mark Menendez spent the next month resting, rehabbing and following his doctor’s orders to the letter.
But in the end, it wasn’t enough to save his season.
The veteran Kentucky pro with three B.A.S.S. victories and six appearances in the Bassmaster Classic made it official this week that he’ll be taking a medical hardship waiver for the remainder of the 2020 slate.
“I actually held out hope for a long time that I would still get to fish — and there’s a chance that if things had worked out just right, I could have,” said Menendez, who has won more than $1.2 million with B.A.S.S. “If the New York swing had been canceled, I might have been able to make the next one at Lake St. Clair (Aug. 20-23). But with things starting back up now, there’s just no way.
“The ride up there to New York would be as hard on me as anything.”
Menendez finds it comically ironic the way he injured his back at Eufaula. The lifelong ledge-fishing enthusiast, who honed much of his craft on the Tennessee River, was working a Strike King 6XD crankbait on a ledge and felt severe pain when he set the hook on a bass.
“Everyone knows when you’re fishing a crankbait, you don’t exactly put a lot of force into setting the hook,” said Menendez, who was forced to withdraw from the Eufaula tournament. “Some people who know me just laugh like crazy when I tell them that’s how I did it. But my doctor said it was just one of those things where all of the planets lined up just right — or just wrong.”
His problems include sciatica and a bulging disc in the lumbar region of his spine. But Menendez plans to take every possible step to avoid surgery, including physical therapy — and he fully intends to be back next year.
“Like I said, with a little more time, I might have been able to come back this year,” he said. “I don’t like watching from the sidelines, but this is what’s best.”