By John Johnson
BassFan Senior Editor
Brandon Coulter has some advice for young anglers who aspire to fish professionally: Get some opposite-handed baitcasting reels and become proficient at using them.
"We're hearing more and more about elbow problems on tour and we're gonna see a lot more of it," said Coulter, who underwent an operation last month to reattach the extensor tendon to the bone in his upper arm. "(The increased use) of braided line probably has a lot to do with it because it has no stretch when you set the hook.
"The one thing I've started doing is telling the kids who are coming up to learn to fish with both hands. Just the shock of pitching a 1-ounce weight into grass messes with it and if you can pitch right- and left-handed, you'll prolong (having issues), for sure. I ordered right- and left-handed reels a couple of years ago because I knew this was coming and I'd use the left-handed ones in practice and the other ones in the tournament. But then I turned 50 and guess what happens."
Could've Been Better
Coulter was at Lake Chickamauga, practicing for the FLW Pro Circuit Super Tournament, when the extensor tendon finally tore.
"I'd signed up for those tournaments and I was out with a buddy and we were just looking around," he said. "We rolled up under a tree and I got a bite and set the hook. It was no different than any other hookset, but it just snapped.
"I really can't describe what it felt like, but I knew something was badly wrong. When it happens, you definitely know it. I called (his doctor) and he said, 'Okay, I know what you've got. Just come on in tomorrow morning.'''
He'd been having a decent season on the Bass Pro Tour up to that point. He was 33rd on the points list after three events – well inside the cutoff for the 2021 Redcrest Championship – and had just posted a 5th-place finish in the derby at Lake Fork.
The BPT had no provisions for a medical exemption this year (although it will in 2021), so he either had to fish the final two events (Heavy Hitters at Florida's Kissimmee Chain and Sturgeon Bay in Wisconsin) in a handicapped state or accept zero points.
Finishes of 50th and 71st, respectively, knocked him out of Redcrest qualification – he ended up 49th on the points list – although he retained his spot in next year's Heavy Hitters, which is determined by the cumulative weight of an angler's single heaviest fish from each 2020 event.
"I tried to get through it, but it was awful," he said. "I don't want to sound like a little girl, but it messes with your head when you have to try to compete against those guys at less than 100 percent."
On the Right Track
Coulter said his recovery from the operation is ahead of schedule. At his 2-week checkup, his surgeon told him that his arm was in a condition usually not seen until 4 weeks following the procedure.
He said the surgeon drilled deep into the bone to tap into a lot of marrow at the point where the tendon was reconnected. That resulted in a lot of pain for several days immediately following the operation, but has sped up the recovery process.
"He told me I could fish right now as long as I didn't use my left arm to set the hook, but I don't trust myself," he said. "As soon as I got a bite, I'd be in danger of putting myself on the disabled list for longer."
He'll start physical therapy, which will include the use of exercise bands to increase strength, in the next couple of weeks and should be back on the water before too long.
"I'm going to put it through the paces this fall, but there's no reason to rush it. I'm working toward having everything ready to go in January."
> Prior to tearing the tendon, Coulter had received platelet-rich plasma (PRP) injections in the arm and had gotten lidocaine and cortisone shots in an effort to control the pain. "Neither one of them touched it," he said.