LAKE TOHO, Fla.—Doug Price of Corinth and Cleveland Short of Flowood will represent Methodist Rehabilitation Center in the first ever Grand National Championship for disabled fishermen Oct. 26-28 at Lake Toho in Osceola County, Fla.
The event is held by the Paralyzed Veterans of America and is a part of its National Bass Trail, a series of tournaments throughout the year for the disabled. The PVA Grand National Championship will be televised at a later date.
“This puts them on the map,” said Ginny Boydston, director of therapeutic recreation at Methodist Rehab. “It makes people aware of what people with disabilities are doing. And it also shows other people with disabilities that there are active and competitive things they can be involved in.”
This is the first ever national championship fishing event for people with disabilities, said Robert Cartlidge, PVA Bass Trail Director. “And Lake Toho is without a doubt one of the premier lakes in the nation. We’re fortunate to be holding this event there,” he said.
The tournament includes the top 25 disabled anglers in the country. It collects the top 12 in the PVA’s points standings as well as the top two in each of six tournaments held throughout the year. On the first two days of fishing, competitors fish and turn in their five largest fish at the end of each day. The five anglers with the largest total weight will go back to the lake on Sunday to compete for the championship.
The winner of the tournament receives the distinction of being the national champion fisherman and a new Ranger R81 fishing boat with trailer and motor designed for disabled anglers.
“It’s got a remote control for the towing motor,” Price said. “It’s a really nice boat and everybody’s been looking at it.”
Price injured his spinal cord in a 1982 motorcycle crash, but had fished before the accident. “I’ve been bass fishing all my life,” he said. “But I never competed at the big tournaments before last year.”
An active wheelchair racer, Price had qualified for the Olympic trials in wheelchair racing before he injured his back and couldn’t compete. Dismayed, he was told about the PVA Bass Trail series by friends.
“Even after my injury, I was still fishing. My friends would see my rods in my truck at races and they encouraged me,” he said. After reading about the tournaments in an issue of Sports ‘N’ Spokes, he was ready. He built an addition to his boat that locks his wheelchair into place while he’s fishing.
“This year, I started studying the sport and the bass. I’ve been enjoying it and I’ve had some success,” he said. Price was entered into the championship on the strength of his top 10 placing in the series standings.
There are few differences between fishing for the able-bodied and the disabled, Price said. “You really just have to learn how to reel,” he said. “When you’re sitting down, you can’t get as much leverage and you don’t want the fish to pull you out. So, you have to learn new ways to turn your body to pull the fish out of the water.”
Price is the 2001 champion of Methodist Rehab’s annual Reunion Race which brings together the largest division of wheelchair racers in Mississippi.
Price says he hopes to be as successful in the boat as he has been on the roads. “I’m looking forward to getting started. I’d love to finish in the top spot. Hopefully, I can do it.”