By Billy “Hawkeye” Decoteau
Joe Slattery and his lovely wife Rhonda joined the NEPVA Bass Trail only a few years ago, thanks to an open invitation presented to them by Tournament Director Tiny LaFontaine. “We were manning our NEPVA booth at the OSEG Hunting and Fishing Show in Springfield, MA, when I noticed two people maneuvering their way down the aisle in wheelchairs,” recalls LaFontaine. After a friendly conversation and explanation of the NEPVA Bass Trails goals of getting people in wheelchairs out on the water fishing in a professional style bass tournament the Slattery’s signed up for an upcoming April tournament. “Since then Joe and Rhonda have attended and volunteered for every activity within our organization.”
Rewinding back to September 13th The dinning hall of New Hampshire’s Camp Robindel on the shores of Lake Winnipesaukee echoed continuous chattered as to the expected weights anglers anticipated carrying to the scales. While NEPVA Anglers and volunteer Boat Captains enjoyed a hearty breakfast, NH B.A.S.S. Federation Nation liaison Gary Clawson, called out the Lake Winnipesaukee Tournament team pairing.
The rumbling sound of Harley Davidson Motorcycles signaled the arrival of the New Hampshire Nam Knights of America Motorcycle Club. (www.namknightsnh.org) Escorting each NEPVA Angler to their partner’s bass boat, the Nam Knights loaded and safely secured anglers with life vest for a safe day of fishing competition. Then proceeded to load NEPVA Anglers in electric wheelchairs competing in the Pontoon/Bank Division unto two awaiting pontoon boats. Assisting, as deck mates on the pontoon boats were volunteers Bill Breach of the Mass Federation Nation and trail sponsor Paul Marcotte from the New Hampshire Budweiser Brewery.
As the sun peeked over the White Mountains, twenty-five New England PVA Teams kept their lines wet in an effort to secure a five-bass team-limit. For the first time in a long time anglers actually removed their anticipated rain gear, as they rolled up their sleeves welcoming sunshine accompanied with warm seventy-degree temperatures.
When the scales were officially closed for the Lake Winnipesaukee Tournament, Connecticut’s NEPVA Angler Joe Slattery paired with Marine USA, Inc (www.MarineUSAinc.com) Nitro Pro Staffer Mitch Glick captured the 2008 Lake Winnipesaukee Championship Title, their total weight of 8.92 lbs out distanced 2nd Place finishers Boat Captain John Goldberg and NEPVA Angler Paul Reed’s 5-bass limit of 7.68 lbs. Two-time Lake Winnipesaukee NEPVA Champion Boat Captain Paul Gelinas and first-time NEPVA Angler Scott Carruthers of Vermont managed only 4-bass, thus settling for third place honors with 7.62 lbs. Tournament Toyota Tundra Lunker paired with Jim Marino’s Realty Experts Lunker award went to Boat Captain Greg Mazur and NEPVA Angler Ken Mumford with a 2.77 lb largemouth bass.
Nitro Z-7 Pro Staffer Mitch Glick revealed he and Joe Slattery started culling bass at 9:30 am. “We basically utilized two techniques all day long, and in fact caught bass all day long,” states Glick. Working a Drop-Shot rig paired with a YUM (www.YUMbaits.com) ‘Big Show’ paddle worm in a watermelon fleck color and a ¼ oz weight the Champions drifted over contour lines dropping from 3’ into 20’. According to Slattery when the drop-shot bite slowed down they switched to weightless NEPVA Bass Trail sponsor Gary Yamamoto Senko’s in green pumpkin colors. (www.baits.com)
Fast forward to September 27th: When the NEPVA Bass Trail pulled into Roger Williams Park for it’s final tournament of the 2008 season, Rhode Island’s Ocean State greeted arriving NEPVA Anglers with cool 52-degree temperatures. However, RI TBF liaison John Candelmo warmed the morning chill with complimentary coffee and donuts, courtesy of Erikson’s Bait and Tackle. (www.tbfri.com)
Twenty-one New England Paralyzed Veterans registered for the season’s final event, but only four of these NEPVA Anglers would qualify for the upcoming October 11th & 12th Northern Bass Supply Tournament of Champions on Lake Winnipesaukee in New Hampshire.
Ranger Boats and Northern Bass Supply consider the New England Paralyzed Veterans of America Bass Trail, to be one of the premier bass trails in New England. “Our Top-4 New England PVA Anglers qualify to compete in the Northern Bass Supply Ranger/Evinrude TOC, with an opportunity to win a 2008 Ranger/Evinrude Bass Boat combination, large cash payouts, and an array of prizes. We are honored to be one of only a few bass trails to qualify our anglers for this New England Championship,” says Tiny LaFontaine. (www.NorthernBass.com)
According to Bob ‘Soupy’ Campbell, an NEPVA Bass Trail coordinator, there were six NEPVA Anglers within points of each other with an opportunity to qualify. “Today’s event on Roger Williams Park will be the deciding factor as to who qualifies for the Tournament of Champions. It’s my prediction only ounces will separate the Top-4 NEPVA Anglers!”
The uniqueness of Rogers Williams Park is the trolling motor only rule, while the pathways and roads surrounding the ponds allow spectators to actually enjoy the tournament while sitting on park benches. As teams of anglers were witnessed landing bass, Angler Productions cable television fishing series THE BASS BUREAU ……….Where the Road meets the Water (www.TheBassBureau.com) cameras captured competing teams on the water from their Marine USA Nitro Camera Boat. (www.Nitro.com)
“Rhode Island Federations Boat Captains paired with their NEPVA Anglers became instant TV Celebrities as their camera shyness seemed to be vacant in every boat we filmed,” laughed Senior Editor Don Gauvin for Angler Productions.
Members of four Nam Knight Chapters (www.NamKnights.org, NH White Mountain and Granite State, Boston’s Chapter and Central Mass.) saddled their Harley Davidson Motorcycles escorting all of the teams through Roger Williams Park in route to the drive-thru weigh-in stage. “This is the most amazing drive-thru bass fishing tournament weigh-in I have ever participated in,” voiced one RI Federation Volunteer Boat Captain, as he and his NEPVA partner sat in his towed bass boat before being directed to the weigh-in stage.
With the leaders’ board changing hands as every other team weighed in, it finally leveled out when RI B.A.S.S. Federation Nation President Roy Costa paired with NEPVA Angler Joe Slattery heard Weigh Master Tiny LaFontaine call out their total weight of 4.83 lbs! Costa and Slattery edged out 2nd Place Boat Captain Dave Frey and NEPVA Angler Ken Mumford by a mere .3 lbs, claiming the Roger Williams 2008 Championship Title. For Slattery it was his second Championship Title, winning back-to-back events in New Hampshire and Rhode Island. New England NEPVA Angler Frank Vogeli and Boat Captain Dave Breault claimed 3rd Place anchoring their 4.23 lb total weight with a 2.17 lb largemouth bass, winning the Toyota Tundra Tournament Lunker Award. (www.ToyotaTundra.com)
As teams made their way to receive their prizes, each revealed an over zealous interest in continuing the Rhode Island NEPVA Team Bass Tournament on the scenic waters of Roger Williams Park. Bass patterns appeared to be almost identical with each team. Black/blue jigs rigged with a variety of plastic trailers and Yamamoto Senko’s out numbered most baits of choice. A few anglers were witnessed landing bass on both crankbaits and spinnerbaits.
New England Paralyzed Veterans of America Bass Trail Angler Joe Slattery shattered his fellow competitors dreams of winning one of the last two remaining New England PVA Bass Trail tournaments of the 2008 trail season. “This is absolutely unbelievable,” smiled Slattery upon accepting his 1stPlace Trophy at Roger Williams Park in Providence, Rhode Island!”
Ken Mumford managed to secure the New England PVA Top-TOC points position with 2.55 lbs, sliding Joe Slattery into the Second-TOC qualifying points position. While New York’s Frank Vogeli and New Hampshire’s New England PVA Angler Jim Wallack respectfully finished third and fourth in the overall TOC season standing qualifying points positions. All four New England Paralyzed Veterans were elated to have qualified for the Northern Bass Supply Tournament of Champions event on Lake Winnipesaukee, NH. (www.NEPVA.org)
God Bless and Best Bass’n
The New England Paralyzed veterans of America Bass Trail would like to thank the following sponsors for their continued support throughout the 2008 Tournament season and success of the 2nd Annual Rhode Island NEPVA Team Bas Tournament; Rhode Island TBF and liaison John Candelmo, volunteer Boat Captains from both the TBF and the BASS Nation Federations, Dave Bergis and Thomas Hunt of Coca Cola, Erickson’s Bait & tackle, Cappy’s Cycle Center, J.J. Trucking, Marine USA, Inc (www.marineusainc.com), Yamamoto Custom Baits (www.baits.com), Becky Thomas of Shakespeare Fishing Products (www.shakespeare-fishing.com), Nam Knights of America Motorcycle Club (www.namknights.org), and all of the NEPVA Staff and volunteers.
All NEPVA Bass Trail Tournaments are totally FREE to ALL participants 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 Tiny LaFontaine or Bill Decoteau @ 1.413.566.3961