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Paralyzed Veterans of America - James River - 6/17-18

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  • Paralyzed Veterans of America - James River - 6/17-18

    I had the opportunity to fish the PVA Bass Tour event 'Old Dominion Brawl' on Friday and Saturday this weekend. What a fantastic experience. I'll write more about the PVA at the end of this, so lets talk fishing first.

    I met my vet at Thursday nights dinner and pairings meeting. My vet, Willie, is a 20-year veteran of the United States Marine Corps, who's due to fully retire in just a few short days. Although Willie is not physically disabled, I know he's hurt, and we had the opportunity to talk about this quite a bit on day 1. Semper Fi brother, and thank you for your years of service.

    Day 1 - Day 1 is a veterans only day. On this day the vets are fishing against the vets and I merely served as a boat captain. The rules allow for boat captains to fish, but nothing they catch can be weighed, and it's also a lost opportunity for the vet to catch that fish. That said, Willie was pretty adamant about me fishing and keeping a rod in my hand. He's not there to win, he's there for the fun and therapeutic benefits of just getting outside. I tired to put it down quite a bit on Friday so he could get the first/best cast in, but every time I did so, he'd kinda just stand there and look at me till I picked it back up. He wouldn't really fish unless I fished.

    I hadn't been on the James in 2-years, so I was just going with some history. We started in a pit for the first hour or so waiting for some water to drop out. No luck here as we tossed topwater baits, plastics, crank-baits and what not. Not feeling it, we moved out to some jetties that had caught fish on before and felt pretty confident about. Not too long into it I connected on a decent 2lber tucked up tight under 'stuff'. A few flips later I had another bite and was able shake it off, hoping we could stop back to it in a few minutes for him to hook-up. We then continued to work the jetties and drains, and unfortunately he missed several bites on a buzzbait, 2 of which seemed to be pretty good fish. A little while later I got bit again, and I told him I had a bite and was trying to shake it off. Willie looks over at me and is like 'Come on man, just set the damn hook'. LOL. Another keeper and another idea as to what was going on. We went back to the first drain where I caught one and shook one off, and Willie was able to hook up on a fish, but it was about 1/4" short, so the livewell stayed empty. We hung out a little bit longer, and felt the water coming in, so figured it was time to move on. We spent the rest of the day searching for active fish in the pits, main river stuff and even way up above Jimmy Deans, but we were only able to come up with small bass or bluegill bites and a single white perch.

    As the day wrapped up and we were enjoying yet another PVA provide meal of Bojangles chicken, we lamented on the missed opportunities of the day. Knowing we had another day to fish, I reminded Willie that we were around active fish all morning. I caught two, shook off one, he missed 4 for sure bites, and caught one. We both agreed that we should have hung on the jetties longer, and that we'd do just that on Saturday when it's a team event, and both our fish count.

    Day 2 - Team Competition - Saturday brought completely different weather conditions from Friday. We were bluebird skies with high-pressure setting in and I wasn't sure what would happen. I got to the ramp and started looking around, and didn't see my vet anywhere. I texted him a few times with no response, and then a phone call that went straight to voicemail. Generally not a good sign... I notified the TD and he said that Willie was a bit late on day 2 at the last event, so I just got the boat in the water and would hang out at the ramp till he got there. After everyone was gone I spoke again with the TD and he said I should I go fish, that this was just as much my day as it was his. I offered to take some of the shore based vets around, but he said that maybe Willie would show up. I decided to stay close and made a quick jump down to Meades. I felt bad going fishing without him, and really wanted him there, because I was confident it would be a good day. As such, I connected on just my second cast on one of the points in Meades. Topwater was the bite initially, and within the first hour I had 3 in the boat with one being a good 3lber. I texted again and again hoping for a response, but it was time to get on down to the jetties, so I went ahead and ran down river a bit.

    Once on the jetties, I just felt good about the fishing. I was seeing a lot of feeding activity and I knew there were active fish there. It started kind of slow, but eventually everything turned on and it clicked in. I started throwing cranks and plastics to pilings and in the drain mouths and landed numerous fish on the day. I put a limit in the boat after a bit, and then proceeded to cull up a few times with a lot of bites, a few misses, and few that came off the crank. One of which would have certainly helped. Again, I really wish he had been there, because I had it pretty dialed in. He finally shot me a message about 11am, apologizing for not making it, but it was all good. I understood. At this point I was going from jetty to jetty and drain to drain on the same 1/2 mile stretch for most of the day, and I knew when and where I was going to get bit. One drain and one jettie in particular produced the biggest and most fish, but they all had a few on them. Once the water covered the tops of the pilings it stopped, and I could no longer really see where I needed to cast. I left at the area about 1pm and figured I had about 12-13lbs. Once I moved on, I never got bit again.

    As I rolled thru the weigh-in, I was still thinking about Willie and wishing he was there. It was tough day out there from what I had been hearing, and as I weighed in I was pleased to hear that I took the lead with 13.03, with about 10-boats left to weigh. One by one they came in, then we got to some of the regular river sticks, and ultimately I was bumped back, not once, but twice to 3rd place. 'Daggum'...but, 'Heck Yeah!!!' at the same time. I finished up in 3rd place beating out some really good river guys, and putting together something pretty good after a long hiatus from the Jimmy. Certainly a great experience, and great way to kick off Father's Day Weekend. Just wish Willie had been there with me... for the PVA Bass Tour. I highly highly highly encourage you anglers out there to take a look at this series. This series is not just for Paralyzed Vets, and even for the guys that are wheelchair bound, don't let that fool you one bit. These dudes can fish, and they will fish hard all day long. It's my understanding that recently the PVA has opened up their registration to any disabled vet as well as mobility impaired civilians. The organization team goes out of their way to make this a great experience for all. From multiple catered meals, to the loading/unloading process to fuel reimbursements and drive through weigh-ins - it was all first class. Even if you don't have a boat, the volunteer opportunities as a shore based helper are numerous as well. They also hold a shore based tournament for anglers who are bank fishing, and they need plenty of help there too. This was was truly one of the most rewarding fishing experiences I've had, and that's even when I was fishing solo on Saturday. I made some new friends this weekend, and that right there is priceless. I can't wait till next year, where hopefully I can get in both the Potomac River event and the James River event.

    Last edited by gnfsnva; 06-20-2016, 01:15 PM.
    Wishin' I was fishin'...


  • #2
    good on ya for doing this, erik. well done!


    • #3
      awesome, Erik
      Make VAO Great again