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Articles & Testimonials about BAIT

Article 1:    B.A.I.T.  Lawrence Gunther

What would possess a blind person to catch a train in London Ontario and make his way to Ottawa? Wait at the Fallowfield Station for someone who he has never met before, meet her and get a ride to Renfrew?

What would possess a person to fill up his truck and bass boat and drive three hours just to fish for a day with someone whom he has never met?

What would possess over fifty people to give up a weekend away from their family to spend three days with a person they have never met before?

Have I piqued your interest? It is for B.A.I.T. (Blind Anglers International Tournament).

Thirty years ago a blind person and a member of the Lions Club were fishing together and came up with an idea to help visually impaired people have the chance to fish in a tournament. The wheels were set in motion; and now thirty years later the Lions Clubs of District A4 are still at it providing a weekend opportunity for a visually impaired person to compete against other visually impaired persons in a fishing tournament. How good is that? This year 32 visually impaired people got to participate in this event. They all came together Friday evening with anticipation and left on Sunday with a smile.

For the past 29 years the tournament was held at Nangor Resort in Westmeath Ontario. It was an excellent facility located on the Ottawa River. In that section of the river there was excellent pike and walleye fishing. Unfortunately, last year was our last at Nangor as the resort was sold and would be transformed into a condominium. A new location for the event was found on the shores of Kennebec Lake in Arden Ontario. A special thanks to Cezar, owner of Springwood Cottages in Arden Ontario, who has offered up his luxurious facilities in order to make this event happen.

The weekend starts off with visually impaired people from all over get bussed into a somewhat remote location on a Friday afternoon. There they are met with over fifty volunteers who are their land guides for three days. On Friday evening, at a Red Carpet Dinner they get to meet up with their “Pro Fishermen” for a gala event in preparation for the next day’s fishing tournament.

After a good night’s sleep, (seriously, who can sleep the night before a fishing tournament?) they get loaded on a boat and get to spend the day fishing for the big prize, well really it’s a small trophy. Really, the size of the trophy is their least concern. As in most tournaments there is only one winner but trust me all these visually impaired anglers feel they are winners. With the help of the Lions Clubs and the many volunteers they have had the opportunity to do something special. Most of these visually challenged people may only get one chance to fish each year and look forward to this event as much as a child looks forward to Christmas. This year I had the good fortune of watching a man catch his first fish ever. It was a five pound twelve ounce pike. It was Christmas in May for him. His wife, another visually impaired person was also in the boat and she was just as excited.

B.A.I.T. has just celebrated their thirtieth year of providing this opportunity to blind anglers from Ontario and Northern United States to have this special weekend. Thanks to the dedicated support from the Lions Clubs in District A4, the “Pro Fishermen” who give up their time and the many volunteers on site B.A.I.T has been a first class event. Preparations have already started for next year. The thirty two blind anglers who participated in this year’s event are already anticipating May 25th 2019.

I must give a shout out to the Lions Clubs of District A4 who have organized and funded this event for the past 30 years.


Article 2:    My Last Experience at BAIT

May 26, 28, 2017

By: Lion Penny Leclair, Barrhaven Lions Club

 Ottawa

 

I have been attending the Blind Anglers International Tournament for a day of fishing since 2003. I may have missed 2 weekends in this time. My first-time attending was lucky, since I caught the big fish of the day. I have always had the pleasure of going out with fisherman Wincel, who has always had the same boat.  This has made the event such a grand experience. I enjoy catching fish, or just sitting on the boat and listening to all the sounds of nature.  Conversation is always good, but we hope it is interrupted by a fish wanting something to eat, that we offer.  George joined us this year, so we had a team of three.

The day was great, not too much wind or sun. The water temperature was cool, which probably had an affect on our fishing experience. It was a slow day fishing. Not a lot of action.

Each Friday evening during this weekend we board buses to go  to West Meath have a red-carpet dinner where we have a  grand meal of home-made dishes. It is one of the highlights of the weekend, wonderful home-baked pies and a feast for dinner of several dishes that are made to please everyone.  After our dinner, I was asked to say a few words about BAIT, as a blind angler. I was honored to speak to the group.

 We had 26 teams this year, so that over 100 people attended BAIT.

Our breakfast, for Saturday is always hardy and delicious. I have always been impressed with the quality of the food. So many Lions volunteer to make this experience memorable. The volunteer fishermen give of themselves and their equipment and the bait to fish, you feel so honoured to be one of the team that makes up each angler team. We have guides assigned to each person who is blind, they volunteer to make sure we go where we need to, safely at all times.

During the Saturday evening, we have a roast beef dinner prepared by staff at Nangor resort, an hour and a half west of Ottawa, that is cooked slowly all day. Complete with delicious salads, baked beans, and pie for dessert.

I was out on the water Saturday at about 9:30. I didn’t catch the first fish, but I caught a pike during the last half of the morning. It was a fighter, that I found challenging to bring in. Wince kept encouraging me to keep doing what I was doing, all the years of training had to pay off, I’d bring this in on my own. I found it rather difficult, but Wincel managed to get the fish in the net. The pike was about 30 inches and weighed over6 pounds. We didn’t know the weight at the time.

While out on the water another team indicated they caught a good-sized Pike so I thought they had the better chance at getting the biggest Pike of the day.

We ate our bagged lunch and enjoyed being together and moving around on the water, so peaceful. We fished until 3:00 and came back with smiles and glad we had been out fishing. The bugs were awful but we knew that was the situation, so we didn’t let that ruin our day.

At 4:30, PM, we gathered outside to hear who the winners were. When the catch of the biggest Pike was announced, they said Wincel’s name and I was shocked, because then I knew I had managed to end my BAIT experiences the way I started it, with the big catch of the day. I was so pleased, totally surprised.  I could choose the prize I wanted, so I chose a folding chair that says on it, “fish fear me”.  That was funny.

Sunday, we ended the fantastic weekend with another wonderful breakfast. There is something so special about sharing good meals with happy people. Everyone left with a full stomach and good memories of time spent with friendly people.

So many people volunteer for BAIT weekend, that the feeling is success, no matter what, happens, everyone is there to have a good time, and do what it takes to make that happen. Each year I look forward to the same things, great food, wonderful fishing, fantastic conversation and fun.  I am moving to BC, so that I am closer to my family.  I will miss going to BAIT, it has been a highlight of my summer for about 14 years. My thanks to the Lions clubs of district A4, for seeing the value of this event and supporting it. My heart-felt thanks to all the sighted fishermen, and to everyone who comes and adds their positive energy to a successful fun weekend.

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