By Billy “Hawkeye” Decoteau

Season Opener Belongs to Blais and Blanchard

April 26th Southwick, MA: Overcast skies and 50-degree temperatures greeted New England Paralyzed Veterans, arriving at Congamond Lakes for the 2008 Season Opener, celebrating the New England Paralyzed Veterans of American Bass Trail’s Ten-Year Anniversary. “This is the Connecticut TBF 5th Annual NEPVA Bass Tournament, which has been held each April on Congamond,” said Jim Marenzana, Vice President of Connecticut’s FLW/TBF The Bass Federation. (
“Congamond is an ideal location for our tournament format,” voiced NEPVA Tournament Committee member Bob ‘Soupy’ Campbell. “The State launch is a Handicap accessible facility allowing our wheelchair anglers to move around the entire area on their own unobstructed.” “An added bonus for the NEPVA Anglers wanting to fish from shore is a huge handicap-fishing pier extending over 150 feet, providing them excellent fishing,” says Lake Management Director Dick Granell.

With 465 acres of fishable water, the North Pond’s 46 acres harvests warmer water for an abundance of spawning largemouth bass, not to mention the Massachusetts state record Brown Trout! Middle Pond is the largest section occupying 277 acres, tapering points, steep banks, humps make up contour lines that at times have surrender some huge smallmouth bass. Traveling south anglers venture through a culvert into South Pond, having 142 acres of sandy shorelines, and a variety of vegetation holding the lakes main forage of Crawfish and Alewife’s.

“This tournament was won last year by Connecticut TBF President Joe Rachiewicz and NEPVA Angler Laurie Oaks in the North Pond section,” replied Ct-NEPVA Liaison Jim Marenzana as he and his NEPVA partner Ray ‘Indian” Clary of New York talked tournament strategy. (

As registration/check-in continued, the twenty-two NEPVA anglers in the Boaters Division and their Connecticut FLW/TBF Federation volunteer Boat Captains enjoyed warm coffee and donuts courtesy of Hampden Dunkin Donuts. While Pontoon Volunteer Boat Captain Dr. Peter Coruseria and Volunteer Bill Breach signed on three NEPVA Anglers for the Bank/Pontoon Division.

With the arrival of the Nam Knights Motorcycle Club of America ( anglers gathered together removing their hats in reverence for our National Anthem and Morning Prayer. Ending with a round of applauds and a shout of “Protect Our Troops Over Seas”. New Hampshire’s White Mountain Nam Knight President ‘Saint’ called the Boat Captains to the docks in numerical order for the Knight’s patented synchronized loading technique meeting each paralyzed veterans individuals needs. (Nam Knight Chapters represented included New Hampshire’s White Mountain, Massachusetts Boston and Central Chapters.)
Angler Productions television camera crews were on hand filming the entire event for one of their Public Access Cable “The Bass Bureau…Where the Road meets the Water” fishing series shows. “We always enjoy working with the New England PVA Bass Trail,” replied Chief editor Don Gauvin. Adding, “We have two camera crews on the water working from opposite ends of the lakes, we should be able to get some great footage if the rain holds out?” (

As the hours ticked away the ‘Dock-Talk-Chatter-Box’ grew in proportion as to the success of Boat Division Anglers working the shallow waters of Congamond’s North Pond. Few anglers however wore such a huge smile, as did NEPVA seasoned competitor Mike Guilbault! “I have been competing for ten years on the New England PVA Trail and have also competed in National PVA Trail events, but never have I drawn such an awesome Boat Captain as Bass Pro Shops/Toyota Tundra Professional Angler Gene Ellison! Just riding in his wrapped Nitro Z-Series Bass Boat and checking out his TV size screen on the Lowrance color GPS Sonar is a thrill of a lifetime.” (


The first anglers to approach the scales were the Bank/Pontoon Division competitors. Utilizing live night crawlers provided by Yankee Outdoors LLC, (, it came down to which angler was able to keep his crawler in the water longest. NEPVA Angler Paul Reed claimed the ‘Big Fish’ title with a bluegill measuring 5 ¾ inches. But, 2007 Bank/Pontoon Division Champion Ulf Londberg refused to relinquish his crown, as his bucket of bluegills took home the 2008 Bank/Pontoon Championship Trophy.

With the Nam Knights unloading the arriving Boater Division teams, and the Southwick, MA Big “Y” Team of Cooks filling the air with the aroma of Big “Y” hotdogs and hamburgers, Connecticut TBF Vice President Jim Marenzana presented the New England PVA Bass Trail a check for $250.00. Trantolo and Trantolo Law firm once again volunteered their ‘Trantolo Girls’ Wendy and Krystal to assist with the weigh-in ceremonies. “On behalf of Vincent Trantolo we present this check for $500.00 to the New England PVA Bass Trail to help offset their Congamond Lake expenses,” announce Wendy. (

Weigh-Master/Volunteer Nitro Boat Captain Jim Marino called the Teams to the scales and one-by-one the Leaders Board logged the teams’ results. Over one-half of the Boater Division Teams managed to secure five-bass limits making for an exciting weigh-in until Vietnam Veteran Tom Blanchard and Grizzly Tracker Boat Captain Chris Blais handed their five-bass limit to check tank volunteer Mitch Glick.

“Folks we have a new leader, Blais and Blanchard 5-bass all alive…16.81 lbs,” announced Weigh-Master Marino. With only Weigh-Master /Boat Captain Jim Marino and NEPVA TOC Top Angler Rick Nelson to weigh their bass, Mitch Glick handled the scales. Reaching into their bag Marino held up a huge Largemouth Bass, and Glick placed it on the scales. As the scales settled on 4.98 lbs the crowd went wild. One-by-one Marino and Nelson hand over three more bass to Glick, and somewhere in the crowd roared the words………..”The Grizzly Growls Again!”

First–time Boat Captain Dave Morrissette and NEPVA season angler Joe Slattery, spent their time on the water throwing Yamamoto Senko’s and Texas rigged chartreuse lizards to bedding bass to fill Dave’s Triton Bass Boat’s livewell with a five-bass limit totaling 13.43 lbs. Claiming their 3rd Place hand-crafted wooded plaques Morrissette replied, “I am honored to have been able to participate in this NEPVA Bass Tournament and spend the day with Joe. The event is well ran and organized with enough donated prizes for everyone. I plan on checking my BASS Tournament schedule and hope I have the chance to fish another NEPVA tournament in the future.”

Call it the ‘Luck-of-the-Draw’ or whatever, but first-time NEPVA angler Chris Barrows assisted by his Dad Bob, paired with first-time Volunteer Boat Captain Brian Schulte managed to pull off an outstanding day on the water! “This is unbelievable! I didn’t know what to expect so we concentrated our efforts in North Pond randomly making cast to docks and wood cover,” smiled Schulte as he and Chris held up their 2nd Place Plaques. Their five-bass limit tipped the scales at 14.01 lbs.

Tournament Champions NEPVA Angler Tom Blanchard and Marine USA, Inc Tracker Pro Staffer Chris Blais disclosed they’re wining patterns. “We basically had a ‘One-Two-Punch for Bedding Bass……..Grubs & Senko’s’!”, revealed Blais. (

Blais and Blanchard worked black/blue 5” Yamamoto Senko’s rigged Wacky Weight-less style and white grubs on ¼ oz jig heads. “Our plan was to utilize the Yamamoto Senko’s for suspended bass, but Tom landed two bass over three pounds before I could even get to our first spawning bed,” laughed the Tracker Grizzly Boat Captain. ( “That aluminum Tracker Grizzly livewell was growling all day long,” laughed Blanchard. “Chris and I must have caught at least twenty bass today?”

On hand to present the first New England PVA Toyota Tundra Big Bass Award Plaque and Cash Payout valued at $250.00 was Toyota’s New England Team Captain Gene Ellison. Boat Captain Jim Marino and NEPVA Angler Rick Nelson’s 4.98 lb Congamond Lunker caught on a white Zoom Fluke landed the Tundra Big Bass Award
When Ellison was asked if he and Toyota were pleased with the New England PVA Tournament format and if he thought Toyota made the right decision by getting involve with the NEPVA Bass Trail’s disabled anglers. Ellison replied “Definitely…And, not because I was able to participate in the tournament, but because all the people involved with the NEPVA Bass Trail do it for all the right reasons!”
God Bless and Best Bass’n

The NEPVA Bass Trail would like to thank their Congamond Lake sponsors; Connecticut TBF, Yankee Bait & Tackle, Shakespeare Fishing Tackle, Tournament Force Tackle (, Saunders Marina, Northern Bass Supply, Nam Knights, Trantolo & Trantolo, Woods & Waters USA, Tibby’s Harley Davidson (, Marine USA, Inc., ( Gary Yamamoto Baits (, Worcester Tornados Dave Peterson and a very special thanks to the Big “Y” We Care Program as well as all the individual donations. (For complete tournament results log

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 Tiny LaFontaine or visit NEPVA @ .