MONTGOMERY, Ala., November 29, 2001--When Richard Warwick claimed the Paralyzed Veterans of America Bass Trail Grand National Championship this year, he had no idea that he had also claimed the right to compete in fishing's world amateur championship- - the CITGO B.A.S.S. Federation championship.
Warwick who has been fishing the PVA Bass Trail since 1995 will become the first PVA champion to participate in the CITGO B.A.S.S. Federation Championship marking a coming of age for the PVA Bass Trail.
"It means a lot to me to be able to participate in the championship," said Warwick. "It also means a lot to the PVA by bringing us to a new level. Being the first to do it is an accomplishment I am extremely proud of."
During the PVA Grand National Championship tournament held in October, the anglers participating had no idea the winner would be advancing to participate in the CITGO B.A.S.S. Federation Championship. In fact, Warwick learned of the opportunity while on the stage after winning.
"Al Smith (B.A.S.S. Federation Director) came on stage and congratulated me and then informed me I had qualified for the championship. It was a surprise I was not expecting," said Warwick.
The PVA began its Bass Trail in 1994 and even in its early days has had close ties to the B.A.S.S. Since that time, the PVA's Bass Trail has grown into an annual program with 6 events and the Grand National Championship taking part across the country. B.A.S.S. began sanctioning the trail, which now has over 500 participants annually, in July of 1999.
"PVA is the worldwide leader in offering sports for the disabled," said Robert Cartlidge who serves as the PVA National Tournament Trail Director and as the Oklahoma B.A.S.S. Federation President. "The mission of the PVA is to start programs for the disabled in sports where none exists and then bring the program to a level that is equal to that of the non-disabled. B.A.S.S.' involvement with the trail helped it to be taken more seriously in the fishing community and gives it more cred ibility.
"Without the help of the B.A.S.S. Federation the PVA trail simply wouldn't work," added Cartlidge. "The Federation supplies boats, equipment and the manpower to conduct the events."
Cartlidge continued that one of the goals of the PVA is to enable its anglers to integrate into mainstream events such as B.A.S.S. Federation tournaments and even the CITGO BASSMASTER Tournament Trail. He hopes in the future more PVA members will learn the basics of fishing and how to fish with their disabilities then move on to the other tournament trails.
Geoff Hopkins who serves as the Associate Director of Sports and Recreation for the PVA echoes Cartlidge's sentiments.
"Its hard to put into words what B.A.S.S.' involvement means to us," said Hopkins. "It means a lot to have the organization that is recognized as the leader in bass fishing helping to provide opportunities to disabled persons. Also, without the help and support of the B.A.S.S. Federation we couldn't do any tournaments."
In addition to its Bass Trail, the PVA offers several other programs for disabled athletes including the annual National Veterans Wheelchair Games which encompasses 17 sports and the PVA National Trap Shooting Circuit. All together the PVA supports programs in over 50 wheelchair sports.
B.A.S.S. General Manager Dean Kessel hopes the inclusion of the PVA into the Federation championship shows people anyone can fish.
"Bass fishing is a sport that anyone can participate in," explained Kessel. "We're proud that B.A.S.S. is involved with an organization such as the PVA to open up the sport to new groups."
Story Courtesy of B.A.S.S., Inc.