Ouch! Sinker Shoots Back, Lodges In Angler’s Eye

Melinda Tanner was doing battle with a bass and all of a sudden had a bullet sinker lodged in her eyelid.

Craig James | April 20, 2020

When Melinda Tanner, of Douglas, headed on an early April fishing trip, she was excited to get after some big bass in her pond  located on her Broxton farm in Coffee County. Little did she know this would be a fishing trip she would never forget, and for all the wrong reasons.

“The bass had really been biting good the previous week, so I decided to head to the pond for a few hours and try my luck before dark. My husband wasn’t able to go with me, so I loaded up our jonboat and headed out to the farm,” said Melinda.

Once she got to the pond and started fishing, her daughter Michelle called her and said she was coming to get in on the action, as well.

The pair fished for the next 20 minutes or so, catching a few nice bass in the process. Then Melinda got a bite she will never forget.

She set the hook hard with her Zebco 33 Max spooled with 20-lb. test line, and the fight was on.

“I never got a really good look at the fish, but from what I saw, I know it was in the 6- to 10-lb. class,” said Melinda. “The fish was stripping drag and fighting hard. I finally managed to get the fish boat side, and that’s when it happened”

With one final pull, the fish popped free from the hook, sending Melinda’s worm, hook and bullet sinker flying right back at her face.

“It popped back like a rubber band and slugged me like a hammer. I had no idea what had hit me,” said Melinda.

Warning: A photo below is fairly graphic.

While Melinda sat there trying to process the pain and what had taken place, Michelle warned her mother not to use her phone to try and look.

“That made me want to look worse,” said Melinda. “I could feel something on my cheek and I couldn’t see out of my left eye. I could feel a bunch of tangled line on my face, and I knew this wasn’t good. I figured the hook was in my eye.”

Little did Melinda know, the hook was dangling on her cheek and her bullet sinker had gone through her eyelid and into her left eye.

“My line was spider webbed all over my face, and I knew I had to trim it off. I had a Boy Scout type knife with those tiny scissors, and I used them to trim the line off of my face,” said Melinda.

With the line trimmed and her hook still hanging from the sinker impaled in her eye, Melinda began to paddle the boat the 200 yards to shore.

“My daughter was really upset, and in our little jonboat you can’t stand up, so she wasn’t able to come get the paddle from me,” said Melinda. “I just turned around and paddled us to shore the best I could. Little did I know I was dragging our anchor as a I paddled. All I knew was I was getting myself to a hospital.”

After making it to shore, Michelle drove Melinda the roughly 30 minutes to Coffee Regional Medical Center. Upon arriving at the ER, doctors first cut off the hook and then carefully removed the sinker from her eye, but Melinda was far from out of the woods.

“My pupil wasn’t reacting to light, and I had a bunch of bleeding in my eye,” she said.

Concerned with her symptoms, the doctor recommended she go to Shands Jacksonville Med Center for further treatment of her eye.

“The doctor down there took a look at my eye and recommended I follow up with an optometrist in a few weeks. A few days after going home, I was doing worse, and my eye was still bleeding, so I decided to seek out treatment,” said Melinda.

This turned out to be the right move, as it was determined that her eye required immediate laser surgery.

“I’m doing a lot better now, and I’m starting to see better out of my eye. I still see black squiggly lines and dots out of my eye, but the doctor says that should go away over time, and hopefully I will make a full recovery in the next three months,” she said.

When asked if she had plans to do any fishing in the near future, Melinda had this to say.

“I’ve never liked wearing sunglasses before, but my husband came home with some Realtree fishing sunglasses the other day, and you can bet anytime I’m fishing I’m gonna wear them. I have a little healing left to do, but I can’t wait to get back on the water.”

Melinda is looking forward to returning fishing, but she will be wearing sunglasses on all future fishing trips.

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  1. frankwright on April 23, 2020 at 8:04 pm

    Wow! I am so glad you did not lose that eye. Those sunglasses will surely help. I tournament bass fished for 20 years and I could write a book on the damage hooks,line and weights have done to people!

    • MelindaTanner on April 23, 2020 at 11:01 pm

      Thanks! I’m thankful I can still see. Not fully clear yet, but I’m getting close 🙂 I’ve seen plenty of fish hook stories, just not anything like a sinker through the lid. It won’t happen again 🙂 Thanks again!

  2. MelindaTanner on April 20, 2020 at 9:40 am

    Everyone, wear something on your eyes when fishing. The eye isn’t replaceable. Thank God I’m still seeing and fishing again soon ?
    Keep on fishing ?

    • Traps on April 23, 2020 at 7:29 pm

      Thanks for sharing ma’am. Prayers!

      • MelindaTanner on April 23, 2020 at 10:59 pm

        Thank you! I appreciate the prayers. I am healing and hoping to have my full vision back real soon. 🙂

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