Eddie Camara grew up hopping from pond to pond to wet a line. That ended when the Shawnee resident was diagnosed with muscular dystrophy in 1991.
“I couldn’t walk around the ponds anymore,” Camara told me four years ago for a feature I wrote in The Oklahoman.
Camara became so discouraged by his disability that he stopped fishing. There were days when he wondered, “Why go on?”
“I didn’t do nothing for a while,” he said. “ I laid around and felt sorry for myself.”
Then one day a buddy persuaded him to enter a team bass tournament at Shawnee Lake.
“I won $750 that first night,” he said. “I thought, shoot, I can do that all of the time. It wasn’t quite that easy.”
But Camara’s spirits were lifted, and he caught the fishing bug again. In other words, he started living again.
In 2005, he was the champion of the Paralyzed Veterans of America Bass Tour and qualified to fish in the B.A.S.S. Federation Championship.
I saw Camara Sunday at the Red River Hunting & Fishing Expo in Oklahoma City. He told me that fishing in the B.A.S.S. Federation Championship was an unforgettable experience. ESPN did a story about him and he was treated like a king.
Camara is still fishing the PVA trail and is in contention for the championship this year. The winner of the BASS Federation Championship also qualifies for the Bassmaster Classic.
“I want to be the first guy in a wheelchair that makes the Classic,” Camara said.
He reminded me Sunday about the PVA tournament coming up at Keystone Lake next month and asked me to inform readers that able-bodied anglers are needed to help assist the disabled fishermen.
The PVA has a six-stop bass tournament trail and next month the Oklahoma based Mid-America Chapter of the Paralyzed Veterans (MAPVA) will be hosting the final event - the MAPVA Okie Open Bass Tournament – on Keystone Lake Sept. 25-27.
The event is open to any angler with a proven physical disability and attracts anglers from all across the United States.
Deadline to enter is Aug. 25 for disabled anglers.
However, able-bodied anglers are needed to partner with disabled anglers. They can register now until a welcome reception Sept. 25 at Camp Victory, just north of the town of Mannford.
Fishing at Keystone will be in two divisions: an “open” division where each angler will be paired with an able-bodied angler and fish from a boat.
Anglers in the “bank” division will fish from a boat house at Pier 51 Landing. Anglers are paired with volunteers to assist them while fishing.
MAPVA has been hosting these fishing events for the disabled since the 1980s. The PVA Bass Tour started in 1991.
The tournament at Keystone will determine who will win the PVA’s “Angler of the Year” award and earn a spot in the B.A.S.S. Federation Championship.
Winning the open division at Keystone will earn an angler a 450 Yamaha Rhino 4×4. Entry fees are $135 for disabled anglers and $50 for boat partners.
For more information, call Bill Kokendoffer at (405) 721-7168 or 1-800-321-5041.
Or visit the Web site, www.pva.org and hit the sports and recreation link, then the boating and fishing link.