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Friendship Finds Fish

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If you are reading this story, it's because of friendship.

Brian Stacey's friend, Chuck Melton wants you to know that the Bostic dump truck service guy, drives a lot more than a dump truck.

Stacey and his partner Jeff Lowdermilk have been earning points this year to qualify them to compete nationally in October at Lake Hartwell. Among their point earnings are three first place finishes in regional competition leading up to the big tournament.

Crappie USA runs tournaments in four regional divisions across the country and picks ten top fishing teams from each region to compete at Lake Hartwell this year.

Stacey and Lowdermilk have fished in regional bouts from Kentucky to Georgia to Alabama. Their latest first place finish came at Santee Cooper in South Carolina.

Besides their three first place finishes, they have earned honors as high as third and eighth this year. The win at Santee Cooper came against 31 other boats.

Okay, so the man can fish.

His wife, Linda, is even supportive to the point of staying home and keeping things going there. They have a daughter, two step-daughters and seven grandchildren. One grandson just graduated from East Carolina and one daughter just walked with the grads at Chase High.

But here's the real story.

"He's a very humble guy and wouldn't seek recognition for anything. He helps all kinds of people. I've seen him put money in without his name on it when somebody needed help. He's a true friend," Chuck Melton said of the man who also calls him, "A brother from another mother," something they call each other.

"My granddaddy asked me one time where I was going," Melton said. When he told his granddaddy he was off to see friends, his granddaddy corrected him, "Those are only your acquaintances. If you're lucky in life, you'll have five true friends. God, first, then your mother and father. After that maybe one or two good friends. I can tell you this guy is a true friend. Very humble and the kind of guy who would do anything for anybody if he knew they needed help. Without God we're nothing."

The two friends met when they were teenagers, so Melton figures, "35-36 years."

Melton has some health issues so doesn't fish competitively with Stacy, although they do fish together for fun, also deer hunt.

Lowdermilk got Stacey interested in the large tournaments years ago when he ran some "crappie slayers," competitions in Western North Carolina.

The competitors do often eat their catches and a biologist is on hand at the tournaments to weigh and measure the catches, put them in a fish truck and return them to the lakes.

"They're good to eat," Stacey said of the crappie.

Stacey got away from it for a while, but for the last three years has been very successful. He said he and Lowdermilk reeled in about $12,000 in the past year. Boats are also among the prizes.

The tournament at Lake Hartwell offers more than $100,000 in cash prizes and two boats.

Melton called his friend, "a real hard fisherman. He puts his heart and soul into it. When nobody else is catching them, he's catching them," and Stacey said nothing about the winning was given to them. "We had to work real hard to hone our skills over the years. We love it."

Stacey's father, Eddie, also ran a dump truck service for over 40 years. His parents live in Forest City.

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