It was an exciting day for the sixth grader from South Carolina in July 2017. The boy was on a fishing trip with the promise of adventure, and he was packing a new rod. For everyone who picks up a fishing pole, there is one mission in mind – catch a big fish. And, when that becomes a reality, the objective is to land it safely. But the boy’s fishing party could not quite believe the whopper he brought ashore that day…
Of course to reel in a big, strong fish, a young angler has to work hard. They may have to rely on the wisdom of older fishermen to guide them in their struggle. They might even need some physical assistance as they hold tight to a rod and line being vigorously pulled by a fish who has a violent objection to becoming someone’s trophy.
In the end, the satisfaction of reeling in that scaly opponent is so sweet that the memory of the struggle to land it almost disappears. However, 11-year-old Brodie Brooks will vividly remember the fight for his massive catch on July 3, 2017 for a long time. And all because of what was actually hanging on the end of the boy’s rod when he managed to pull his line in.
The boy and the small fishing party he had joined that day, at Lake Hartwell in Anderson County, SC, had all been excited when Brooks had snagged something big. But that excitement turned to astonishment, because Brooks had caught hold of something that was not a fish at all. The boy’s prize was a water-logged and leathery old bag.
Astonishment turned to curiosity for the fishing party as they realized that it was a woman’s purse. One of the other anglers, Ben Myers, 39, a distant relative of Brooks, helped the boy unzip the bag and examine its contents. Myers could not believe his eyes. Amongst the various personal effects he fished out was a faded image of a woman – presumably the purse’s owner. And Myers knew exactly who she was.
When the party set out on the fishing trip to the local reservoir that morning, young Brooks had one thing on his mind – his box-fresh Ugly Stik fishing rod. He was eager to try out his new piece of tackle, but also anxious that no harm should come to it. But some kind of damage seemed increasingly likely when the boy snagged what he thought was a big one.
In the week following the fishing expedition, Brooks spoke to ABC News about the catch of the day. “I felt like it was a big fish because it was bobbing my rod up and down,” he said, adding, “I’d just gotten an Ugly Stik, so I was scared I was gonna break my rod. I was scared the line was going to snap.”
Despite his fears, the determined young angler kept up the struggle. He alerted the rest of his fishing buddies to the big excitement. This was when Myers stepped up to help his young relative to bring in the extra-heavy haul. However, once Brooks pulled it from the water, he realized that what he had struggled with wasn’t a fish at all. Understandably, the boy’s first reaction was to feel a little let down after all that effort.
However, Myers was quick to recognize the muddy item for what it was. With more experience of fishing, the older angler knew what a rarity the pre-teen had reeled in. Also speaking to ABC, Myers said, “I told him, ‘You ain’t got no fish, you got a treasure!’” Myers soon helped Brooks to change his disappointed tune.
“We might catch a can here, or something like that. But as far as a woman’s purse, that’s a first for me,” Myers continued to the news cameras. “I’ve been fishing on this lake all my life, and that’s the first time I saw something be caught like this.”
Fortunately, the purse had been zipped when it fell into the water which meant that the bag’s contents weren’t completely destroyed. This despite being submerged under what Myers estimated to be almost 30 feet of water in that part of Lake Hartwell. As Brooks and Myers opened it up, the inquisitive pair found out a little bit more about the purse’s owner.
The purse contained plenty of evidence about the owner. Brooks and Myers discovered two tubes of lipstick and cards so old that some of the stores they belonged to are now long out of business. At the bottom of the bag they even found a teasing comb – presumably to get the owner’s hair to the optimum height. Most important of all, however, was the fact that whoever owned the purse also carried her photographs in there. These indicated that the bag had been lost in a time before smartphones were able to hold a person’s images.
Brooks and Myers carefully sifted through the sodden photographs. And, despite the fact that the images were faded, Myers eye was caught by one picture in particular. To his amazement, he realized that he knew the woman in the photo. He later told ABC News, “She’s a friend of the family. I went to school with her nephew, but I hadn’t seen her in ten years.”
The angler grabbed his phone and got in touch with the woman’s nephew. He in turn relayed the news of the bag’s remarkable recovery to his aunt, April Bolt, 49. Later, she spoke to ABC about her astonishment, saying, “I couldn’t believe it. I was lost for words. You never think you’d see it again.”
It turned out that Bolt had lost her purse during a cookout at a marina close to Lake Hartwell that had taken place in 1992. In other words, an unbelievable 25 years had passed since the bag had disappeared. But Bolt believed way back then – and still maintains to this day – that her bag had vanished in suspicious circumstances.
Bolt explained her theory to the ABC cameras. Speaking about events in 1992, she said, “We were on the boat and my parents had a condo there and we were grilling burgers and we parked the boat in the slip… There were two guys there fishing and – I hate to accuse anybody – but when we got back I was like, ‘My pocket book is gone!’”
Bolt well remembered how emotional the loss had made her. “I was crying,” she recalled. “It wasn’t a whole lot of cash – maybe like $60. But a woman fits her whole life in her purse. It was devastating.” Bolt was also upset that her cosmetics had disappeared. “My favorite lipstick was in there and the color was discontinued,” she ruefully chuckled.
And, while Bolt was undoubtedly delighted to see her favorite lipstick again, it was something else she carried in her bag that meant the most. Among the photos preserved inside the purse that Myers had used to identify Bolt were some precious pictures of her son. Bolt explained, “My son is 26 now, but he was 15 months then, and I had all his photos that were professionally taken in my wallet. They have water damage but you can make him out.”
Reflecting back on Brodie Brooks’ amazing big catch, neither Myers nor Bolt could believe what had happened. “It was pretty wild,” Myers told ABC News. “You fish up a purse – for one – then you actually know whose it was…” Bolt said that the bag’s recovery from a depth of almost 30 feet, and a quarter of a century gone “meant the world” to her.
However, following the discovery, Bolt is trying to figure out why the universe wanted her to have her bag back. “Everyone keeps telling me, ‘There’s got to be a meaning to why you’re finding this so many years later,’” she said. “I’m sure God will reveal that in time.” But first, Bolt wants to revel in her good fortune and the pleasant memories her purse has provoked. “It’s just so precious to have it back,” she concluded.