Thanksgiving 2020, a time to give thanks. This year most of us have reevaluated our priorities and what matters most to us. The NEPVA BASS TRAIL, not only thought about it, but was given the chance to show it on September 12th at the picturesque Newton Yacht Club in Newton, MA. The NYC had cancelled all events from July through September except our tournament. Ongoing collaboration with them ensured they would host the 21st annual New England Paralyzed Veterans of America Bass Trail. This would not have been possible without the loyalty and dedication of the Bass Trail BOD, American Eagle Bass Anglers Club, Nam Knights Merrimack Valley and Boston Chapters, the Newton Yacht Club and NEPVA. We are convinced that anything is possible as demonstrated by the success of this tournament despite challenges of COVID-19.
Arrivals began the day prior with one angler who drove 3 hours and volunteer nurse & her husband who traveled by boat from Southern MA the night prior. Not surprising, they were greeted with the Yacht Club hospitality of a boat slip with electricity and dinner. Tournament day behind the scenes, Ray, (Hunter) of the Nam Knights loaded up their clubs wheelchair van and drove across NH to transport one of our loyal anglers who would not have been able to come without assistance. Meanwhile, the Yacht Club was busy providing starter fluid AKA coffee, individually wrapped breakfast sandwiches & donated bag lunches to assist with adhering to state COVID-19 guidelines. We cannot forget that they couldn’t let the day go by without providing their award-winning clam “Chowdah”. Next year they promised they will return to treating us to their grand buffet upon returning to the docks. The NEPVA BASS TRAIL BOD was busy organizing swag bags for anglers complete with hand sanitizer, fishing towels, T-shirts, hats as well as reuniting with participants and other bass trail “family.” The Nam Knights, Merrimack Valley and Boston Chapters were assisting in any way they could as always and coordinating their mission to get anyone in a boat who needed assistance.
Participants began arriving at 5:30 AM for a boat launch at 8AM. All Participants were requested to wear face coverings and maintain social distancing, easily accomplished at this Yacht Club spanning the Charles River waterfront. As you can imagine, we had a lot to catch up on since our last tournament in Oct of 2019, COVID-19 and the passing of our founder, Director of 21 years and legend, Tiny Lafontaine. The smiles and laughs were endless even hidden behind masks. Fish stories began and for several hours, life appeared to be “normal.” For many, this was their first time fishing this year because of our tournament and an army of volunteers making it possible.
Rules and regulations were provided, pairings began, combined with the lunker pool. With the utmost skill, laughs and camaraderie, the Nam Knights positioned themselves at the ramp and docks with ropes, and anything else it took to assist our anglers in the boats. Our two volunteer registered nurses, Stephanie Kealey, Sony Fernandez, volunteers accompanying them Dave and Chris were also dockside along with Dane Grasso of the Newton Yacht Club. Sherri Brousseau assisted with action photos of this amazingly smooth process. 21 years and no wheelchairs or anglers have gone for an unplanned swim yet. Once all the boats were positioned in the water, engines were cut, a moment of silence was held for Tiny, followed by Amazing Grace and the National Anthem sung by volunteer Elaine Sangilo. Now it was time to GO FISH!
Bass Trail BOD, American Eagle Bass Angler Members and a host of volunteers began setting up the weigh in, tents and awards ceremony. A brief meeting was held of BOD, reminiscing of Tiny, and lunch was graciously served compliments of the Yacht Club. Volunteers on shore were treated by Chris Nielsen to a boat ride on the scenic Charles River past Harvard and MIT. We couldn’t have asked for a better day, Mother Nature and Tiny definitely set the stage for a beautiful 70 plus degree September day.
The moment we were all waiting for finally arrived. Promptly at 2PM boaters arrived back at the docks. They were called up one by one and most departed following weighing their fish due to COVID-19. They shared some secrets or “lies” about where they caught their fish and what they used for baits, as well as posed for pictures. This year we had many who did not participate due to COVID-19, however we had several new boat captains and anglers who were able to have the opportunity to join us. Greg Reynolds, US ARMY combat Veteran, single amputee and member of the Wounded Warrior Amputee Softball Team was home and fished with us for the first time. Greg spoke about the “family” atmosphere, volunteerism as well as the work that goes into an event of this magnitude. He stated we can be sure he will be participating in future tournaments. Mike Moran, NEPVA BOD member, another “newbie,” who reluctantly came as he had gotten away from fishing is also now “hooked.” He stated he had lost and found the enjoyment of fishing. He also will be a new member of the “Bass Trail family.”
As you all have waited with “baited breath,” here are the winning teams; total weight for up to 5 fish:
- 2nd Place Chip Servant & Stephen McCann 7.55
- 3rd Place Pat Hannan & Rick Nelson 6.94
- Lunker Chip Servant 3.88
Special thanks to our BOD, Mark Fournier, Jim Wallack, Mark Fournier, Ray (Hunter) Brunelle, Bob (Soupy) Campbell, Tom Blanchard, Gary Clawson and myself. We want to thank Drew Ingoldsby for providing video coverage, Mass B.A.S.S Nation, NH B.A.S.S Nation, and Maine B.A.S.S. Nation, Volunteers, Linda Rinaldi, Sherri Brousseau. Liz Tocce & Stephen, Merri Anne Shippee, Dave Bertocci, Chris Neilsen, Sean McCann, RN’s Stephanie Kealey and Sony Fernandez. Donations of lures were generously provided by Daddy Mac Lures to winning teams. Monetary donations were received from Captain Shawn Tibbetts of Mainetunafishing.com, Dan & Ben Kenney of Ben’s Tackle Shack, Area 51 American Legion Riders, Fairview Machine Company, Sons of American Legion Post 70, and Dalton Manufacturing Group. We cannot thank them enough as our tournaments exist on donations and sponsors.
We look forward to our 2021 season providing no cost bass tournaments to paralyzed Veterans and disabled individuals. Please like our FB page NEPVABASSTRAIL and obtain registration info at HERE.
We would like to wish you all a happy and healthy holiday season.