For the past three years organizers of the “north Carolina Visually Impaired Persons Fishing Tournament” have included a national-level competition, in addition to the tournament for North Carolina residents. 2010 competitors in the national event represented over nine different north-east states, and myself as representing Canada. Competitors are selected through local state tournaments and travel to North Carolina in the company of their team leaders – more often than not volunteer Lions.
In 2010, over 400 competitors with vision loss competed in either the NC state tournament or the National event held the following day. Add to the mix another 300+ volunteers, and it was without doubt quite a show.
(Photo of Lawrence holding a Spot)
I practiced fished along side NC competitors on day one on the Kitty Hawk peer. Three other peers were also being used in addition to two head boats. The Kitty Hawk peer extends into the Atlantic the furthest, which seemed to offer an advantage this year with water temperatures still being quite high, (colder water is more conducive to fishing).
After fishing for an hour I weighed in just over 2.5 pounds of fish. My bag consisted of Spot, Puffer, Mullet, Croaker, and Trout. I caught at least 40 fish within four hours with a rough total weight of 8-9 pounds. The top three weights for day one were caught on the Kitty Hawk peer and came in at between six and nine pounds. Day two was a completely different story.
The National competition on day two began at 12: noon and ended three hours later. Air temperature had dropped significantly from the mid 80’s the day before to the low 60’s. Winds had also backed around and increased to 30 mph out of the north east. While not a low tide, the water level was definitely dropping.
Photo of Lawrence holding a surprise catch – Mr. Crab)
All competitors use Tournament-issued rods, reels, line and hooks. Bait is also issued in the form of blood worms cut into 1/2 inch lengths. Given the capacity of certain ocean fish to crush their food using powerful jaws, it was important to check hook points regularly to ensure they hadn’t been broken off or bent over.
(Photo of Lawrence holding a Sea Mullet with Lion Peter)
My first two fish came as a double. Two puffers. Fish number three was also a Puffer, only considerably larger. From their it was a mixed bag of Spot, Croaker and Mullet.
(Photo of Lawrence with his “Lady Luck” Ruth)
I fished just behind the breaking waves on the wind-word side of the peer. This meant exercising caution to ensure my line wasn’t pushed under the peer and snagged on the pylons. It also meant facing into the wind which was strong enough at times to lift ones hat clear off.
All the National competitors fished on Kitty Hawk on day two. There was about 50 in total. With the weather having turned, the fishing was not what it had been the day prior. My total for the day was two pounds 4 ounces. Good enough to place me in a tie for first, sharing the honors with a competitor from Massachusetts.
(Photo of Lawrence and Mike from Massachusetts receiving their first place trophy)
Once again, this event proved beyond doubt that the spirit of giving and service remains strong among Lions and the public in general. The stories I heard from my fellow competitors never fail to leave me feeling humbled. Where as I may commence my travels each year to North Carolina with a view to win, I inevitably return home with a far stronger feeling of being part of a humanity that can only be characterized as up-lifting.
Many thanks to Gwen White for having me down and for her excellent leadership; to the Lions of eastern Ontario for providing me with the support needed to attend this event; for Lion Peter who has become a good friend; to Ruth, my “lady luck” on the peer; and to everyone who makes this event possible, including my fellow non-sighted competitors. Will I be back for year four of the National Tournament – only time will tell.