Delaware Angler Wins First PVA National Championship

KISSIMMEE, Fla. - October 29, 2001 - A paraplegic angler won the first national championship bass fishing event for persons with disabilities Oct. 25-28 at Florida's Lake Toho.

Richard Warwick, Newark, DE, topped a field of 25 disabled anglers to win the first Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA) Grand National Championship. The 36-year-old competitor caught a five-fish limit the first two days to make the final cut to the top five anglers. On the final day, Warwick weighed in a 9.50-pound limit to clinch the tournament and earn the top prize of a fully-rigged bass boat. The other final-round finishers included Glen Davis, Mt. Airy, GA, who took second place with 3.61 pounds and collected $2,500; Jim Kremer, Apopka, FL, third, 2.42, $1,500; Jon Bostic, Oklahoma City, OK, fourth, 1.78, $1,000; and Bryan Harrison, Prince Frederick, MD, fifth, 0.00, $750.

Relying on the same pattern each day, Warwick caught more than 100 Lake Toho bass throughout the three competition rounds. "I was drifting down through the hydrilla and throwing a jerkbait (Competitive Edge black-and-silver model)," said Warwick. "I needed the sun out to catch my fish. If the sun wasn't out my fish turned off."

The sunshine and Warwick's jerking retrieve of his lure created enough flash to draw strikes. "My arm is about ready to fall off," said Warwick, who worked the hard-plastic jerkbait in vegetation about 6 feet deep all three days.

The skies were partly cloudy throughout the tournament, but the sun popped out often enough for Warwick to catch quality fish. A cold front had passed through the area, which he thought might hurt his pattern. "I think it helped me though," he said. "Each day the fishing got a little better for me."

A post-frontal wind hampered Warwick in his open-water area, but he devised a plan for staying on top of his fish. "Whenever I caught a fish I threw a marker buoy out," he revealed. "I had two drift socks out and an anchor. When I would get off the spot I would hit the trolling motor to get back to it."

The first day Warwick culled through four limits of bass and finished in fourth place. He caught another limit the second day to move into third place and make the final cut. In the final round, he boated a limit by 9:15 a.m. and finished with his heaviest creel of the three competition days to clinch the championship.

"I thought I had a good chance to win it," said Warwick of his expectations heading into the final round. "I know I couldn't do any worse than fifth since there were only five of us left."

Warwick, who has been confined to a wheelchair for the past six years, had never fished Toho before this event. He won a PVA National Trail Tournament event in 1998 on the Potomac River and qualified for the national championship by winning the 2001 Southeastern PVA Tournament at Clarks Hill Lake in Georgia.

The 25 competitors qualified for the national championship by fishing the PVA National Bass Trail, a B.A.S.S. sanctioned event. "A lot of these guys can't afford to fish a national trial, so we set it up so that first- and second-place finisher out of each of the six regular season events qualify for the Grand Nationals as long as they fished one other tournament," said Robert Cartlidge, PVA National Trail director and Oklahoma B.A.S.S. Federation president. The other 13 qualifiers came from the top 12 spots in the PVA National Trail point standings and the previous year's Trail Champion.

The national championship followed B.A.S.S. rules and had the same format as a BASS Masters Classic as each contestant was provided a boat and paired with an observer. The St. Cloud Basscasters, a local B.A.S.S. Federation club, provided several of the boats for the event. The weigh-in crew consisted of B.A.S.S. Federation members and PVA chapter volunteers.

"We brought lots of players together for this event and I think it went real well for our first national championship," said Cartlidge. "Obviously we had a lot of help from the St. Cloud Basscasters and Florida B.A.S.S. Federation. The PVA is set up a lot like the B.A.S.S. Federation in that it has a state PVA chapter, so we had some help from the local Florida PVA chapter as well. We also partnered with the Vietnam Veterans of America and had the Vietnam Memorial portable wall at the weigh in."

For additional information contact the B.A.S.S. Federatio Department at (334) 272-9530.