Federations Rally for Veterans
By Bill Decoteau

Nestled along the scenic shorelines of North Pond in Smithfield, Maine Pine Tree Camp was the October 7th site for the fourth annual Paralyzed Veterans of America Bass Trail Team Tournament. Hosted by federation anglers representing both the B.A.S.S. Federation Nation and the newly formed FLW Partners in Fishing Maine TBF Federation, federation anglers volunteered their time as Team Boat Captains. Each Boater was paired with members of New England Paralyzed Veterans of American Bass Trail in a random drawing for a friendly day of competitive bass fishing!

According to B.A.S.S. Federation Nation President Steve Wilson (www.MEbass.com), the two federations pool their resources when it comes to helping organizations such as the NEPVA. "The Maine BASS Federation Nation and The Bass Federation (TBF) complete for tournament lakes and permits, membership as well as sponsorship dollars, however when it comes to opportunities within the State of Maine that are beneficial to others such as PVA, Shiners, Camp Sunshine and other excellent organizations, we have collectively decided to pull our resources together as one to get the job done!"

CAPTION FOR PHOTO ABOVE: NEPVA North Pond 2006 Champions (L-R) Smallmouth Lunker Champ NEPVA Angler Ken Mumford, Boat Captain Lewis Mendall, and NEPVA Angler Ray Grandait pose with their winning smallmouth weight of 14.33lbs. (Photo Credit: Bill Decoteau)

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"There is no doubt had it not been for the dedicated members of both federations, we would not have had enough Boat Captains for all of our Boater Division NEPVA Anglers," says Tiny LaFontaine tournament Director for the NEPVA Bass Trail. Twenty-six New England PVA anglers were registered for the Boater Division, while another four New England PVA Anglers signed-up for the Bank/Pontoon Division. "Our Bass Trail is the number one sporting event for the NEPVA (www.nepva.org), with it's Free Entry Fee the Bass Trail continues to grow with every tournament event!"

Heath Morris, who spearheads Maine's Federation anglers as liaison to the NEPVA seemed ecstatic during the morning breakfast briefing and pairings. "Many of the NEPVA Anglers travel from New York just to compete on our pristine bass fisheries, the excitement in their voices framed with a smile every time they hook into a smallmouth bass are a treasured commodity that only those volunteering their time as Boat Captains will experience!"

An early morning fog coupled with an icy dock called for a delay in the take-off, as members from the Nam Knights Motorcycle Club of America (www.NamKnightsnh.com) defrosted the docks, cleaned off the bass boat seats and secured the hoist for transferring the Paralyzed Veterans into their partners' bass boats.

Under the watchful camera lenses of the Go Fish with Dan Kenney (www.gofishdan.com) cable television fishing series, each Maine federation Boat Captain paired with two NEPVA Anglers became instant TV Celebrities as camera shyness was not one of their attributes. "We have some very exciting coverage on the water; it is absolutely amassing as to the ability of these paralyzed anglers when it comes to adjusting their casting techniques around their individual disabilities," voiced Kenny as he and his camera girl Christy Wettlaufer prepared for the 2:00pm weigh-in.

Thanks to the assistance from Ride-Away Handicap Equipment's Barry Linder, (www.ride-away.com) under the guidance of Nam Knight Ron 'Saint' St Jean, all New England Paralyzed Veterans were safely unloaded from their partners' bass boats, including those competing in the Bank/Pontoon Division. As anglers anxiously waited to be called to the weigh-in scales, fish tales netted with good-ole heckling surrounded sponsors banners, while the aroma of hamburgers filled the air.

North Pond's smallmouth population seemed to out number their green cousin largemouths, as most teams brought bronzebacks to the scales! With the leaders' board changing hands as quickly as a northern pike steals a spinnerbait, it finally leveled out when Woods Boat and Motor's Champion Boat Pro-Staffer Lewis Mendall paired with NEPVA Anglers Ken Mumford and Ray Grandiat handed Weigh Master Tiny LaFontaine their five-bass limit! "Folks we have a new leader, with 14.33 lbs," announced LaFontaine. Anchored with the tournaments Smallmouth Lunker, Ken Mumford revealed how his 4.23 lb smallie devoured a white chartreuse backed crankbait worked over submerged boulders in six-eight feet of water.

Paired with Maine's four-year volunteer Dwayne Turnage, first time Boater Division NEPVA Angler Cyndy Chamberland and her dad World War II Veteran Charlie Reutt, approached the scales with a huge bag of bass. Selecting their largest bass, a largemouth bass was placed on the scales and before LaFontaine could announce its weight, the crowd started to whistle and cheer Nation Guard Hooah's!!!

With some help from Turnage, Cyndy Chamberland held up the largest bass caught of the tournament! Her 4.85lb largemouth bass claimed Largemouth Lunker honors, while the teams 5-bass limit gave them a second place finish, sliding Maine's Boat Captain Eric Lowe and NEPVA Maine Anglers Wayne Caspersen and Al Barter into third place with a total weight of 11.70lbs.

During the evening awards banquet, anglers, volunteers and family members enjoyed a wonderful chicken dinner, all part of the totally Free NEPVA Bass Trail. Starting with the Bank/Pontoon Division NEPVA Angler Karen Butler claimed the 'Most Fish' title, while Bob Swain landed his second "Lunker Bass" title of the 2006 season with a 3.24lb smallmouth! Posing for pictures with their handcrafted wooden plaques, both Bank/Pontoon Division Champions revealed their secret winning baits were green pumpkin colored Gary Yamamoto Senkos.

Volunteering in his third NEPVA Bass Trail event, Boat Captain Lewis Mendall replayed his North Pond 2006 Championship Tournament Strategy. "This was the first time I ever competed in a bass tournament with a three angler team in one boat! But, I have to say it was a total Team effort all the way!" According to Mendall, the team secured their 5-bass limit by 10:30am, and then continued to cull bass all day long. With a Championship plaque in each hand NEPVA Angler Ken Mumford, explained how the team developed a one-two bass technique.

"Lewis worked a oz white Hog Sticker Spinnerbait (www.spinnerbaits.com), and if the bass didn't eat the bait they would follow it to the boat. This is when Ray and I targeted them with weightless wacky rigged Yamamoto Senkos. We caught at least twenty to twenty-five bass today utilizing this Team Tactic!"

As the awards banquet was coming to an end, NEPVA Angler Ed Tyler of South Portland, Maine requested to make an announcement. "For eight years we paralyzed anglers in New England have been blessed with the opportunity to participate in professionally formatted bass tournaments totally free! While, our numbers have grown astonishingly, the NEPVA Bass Trail has managed to feed us, house us, provide unprecedented volunteer Boat Captains, and continue to run the Bass Trail with no entry fees. The Maine PVA Chapter understands that nothing is free; therefore on behalf of the Maine PVA Chapter we present this check for $500.00 to the NEPVA Bass Trail as a token of our appreciation to help off-set the Bass Trails expenses."

All NEPVA Bass Trail Tournaments are totally FREE to ALL participates and open to all individuals with disabilities whether veterans or non-veterans! Individuals interested in fishing the tournaments may contact Tournament Director Tiny LaFontaine @ 1.781.935.2480. As a non-profit organization the tournament trail is funded only by generous donations from its sponsors, with all sponsor donations being tax deductible. For information on becoming an NEPVA sponsor, contact the NEPVA office @ 1.800.660.1181 or visit their web site @ www.nepva.org.

Bill Decoteau is an outdoor journalist with a strong passion for pursuing the Black Bass. His activities include covering and photographing professional bass trails, the New England Paralyzed Veterans of America Bass Trail, as well as emceeing benefit tournament. Bill may also be found holding bass seminars or sharing winning techniques utilized by some of the nationals' top-bass pro's at many of the regional sportsmen shows.

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