Longtime fishing partners found dead near empty boat in SC Lake, officials say

Two longtime friends and fishing partners who were also beloved sports trainers have been found dead floating near a boat on a South Carolina lake, friends and officials say.

Jerry Stoots, 75, and Lee Watkins, 68, were found on Moultrie Lake in Pinopolis just before 2 p.m. on Jan. 24, according to the Berkeley County Coroner’s Office.

A person who lives nearby reported seeing a body floating in the lake, and rescuers found the second body in the same area, according to a news release from the coroner’s office.

The fishermen were likely in the water for a “short period of time”, the statement said. An autopsy is scheduled for January 26.

Stoots was “the winningest baseball coach in South Carolina history” and was inducted into the state Athletic Coaches Association Hall of Fame, according to the Post and Courier. He has more than 925 career wins at three South Carolina schools over 48 seasons, the outlet reported.

He was also a football coach and worked for several seasons as the head football coach at RB Stall High School in North Charleston, the outlet reported.

After leaving Stall High School, he started a football program at Northwood Academy in Summerville, Ryan Leaver, the academy’s assistant principal, told McClatchy News. Watkins also worked at Stall High School and Northwood Academy coaching football with Stoots, Leaver said.

“Their bond and friendship was admirable,” Leaver said of the two coaches.

Leaver said Stoots was generally a quiet person, but commands a lot of respect among his players and fellow coaches.

“When he was talking, you just wanted to listen,” Leaver said.

Stoots was “from a different generation” and carried a notebook with him to keep track of games, Leaver said. He liked to meet up with friends at fish frites and talk about life and family.

Watkins was “probably one of the most genuine people I’ve ever known,” Leaver said. He often called Leaver just to inquire about him, his wife, and his children.

Kenny Wilkinson, a 1976 Stall High School graduate who played both football and baseball under Stoots, told the Post and Courier he was a “great coach but an even better man”.

“A lot of people don’t realize the impact he had on so many young guys who then got into coaching, helping him coach,” Wilkinson told the outlet. “He always gave the guys opportunities and he took care of his players throughout their lives.”

Moultrie Lake covers 60,400 acres and is the third largest lake in South Carolina. It’s about 40 miles north of Charleston.

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Longtime fishing partners found dead near empty boat in SC Lake, officials say

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