South Dakota Man Lucky To Be Alive After Freak Fishing Accident

by Jennifer Shea

It was a freak fishing accident that could have cost him his life. Todd Thesenvitz, 53, wound up with a bottom bouncer stuck in his heart one early July morning, and the South Dakota man probably owes his life in part to his daughter, who convinced him not to pull it out immediately.

The veteran angler still marvels at how quickly a wonderful fishing expedition with his family turned potentially lethal. He was on Indian Springs Lake near Clark, South Dakota with his wife Marie and daughter Keanna. And they had already landed six walleyes and three perch when it happened.

“I hooked up with this northern,” Thesenvitz told the Post Bulletin. But once the fish surfaced, it broke the line.

Then, Thesenvitz said, “all of a sudden, I could see that bottom bouncer, I could see it in really slow motion. It just took off heading toward the boat like sometimes it does. I could see it was headed right toward me.”

South Dakota Angler Barely Survived

A bottom bouncer consists of a thin wire bent at a 90-degree angle with a lead weight on one end and a swivel on the other to tie hooks and spinners. It’s attached to the rod halfway between the weight and the hooks.

When the fish broke the line, the rod snapped back and propelled the thin wire from the bouncer into Thesenvitz’s chest, between his ribs and into his heart.

He said it only “hurt a little bit” at first. But then he looked down at his chest and saw the bottom bouncer sticking out.

“Every time my heart would beat,” Thesenvitz said, “I could feel this bottom bouncer move in and out of my chest. It would move just a little bit with each beat of my heart.”

Fortunately, Keanna is a nurse. She calmly told her dad not to yank the wire out and called 911.

“She was a rock star,” Thesenvitz said.

The Hard Part of the Journey

With Thesenvitz in no shape to steer, Marie had to take over the captain’s seat and get them back to the dock, using the GPS navigation line from the depth finder that they took out there.

As the boat bounced back toward the dock, Thesenvitz was in agonizing pain. He screamed helplessly as they went.

They made it back to a waiting ambulance, which drove him to Watertown. About an hour and 15 minutes after the bottom bouncer pierced his chest, he arrived at the hospital.

However, the team there took a look at him and opted for surgery in Sioux Falls. The wire had entered his left atrium and the area around his heart was filling with blood.

So, Thesenvitz traveled by helicopter to the operating table in Sioux Falls. Doctors there broke open his sternum, removed the wire, and stitched him back up. They said if they had waited 10 to 20 minutes more on the surgery, Thesenvitz might have died.

Marie told the Post Bulletin that since the accident, the family has heard from people all over. Those who fish found it particularly easy to relate to Thesenvitz’s story.

“It kind of restores your faith in mankind that people do care,” she said.

Meanwhile, Thesenvitz, who left the hospital on July 11, kept the bottom bouncer as a souvenir. And he said if his doctor gives the thumbs-up, he’ll go right back to fishing, bottom bouncers included.

“But for my peace of mind, I’ll put a small bend on the tip of it,” Thesenvitz said.