Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Mom, Thanks For the Memories

Linda Anderson
Linda Anderson - Mom!
In life, death is our cruelest foe.  I only know one person who beat death and he happened to be God's only Son.  The odds are kind of stacked in deaths favor in the struggle of life.  This past Sunday, Palm Sunday in fact, the cruel foe paid a visit to my family and in particular to my mother.

Truth is she had not been in superb health for more than two years after battling pneumonia twice in about a three month period.   Although being clear of it since that initial episode, pneumonia set in again this past week and this time she couldn't overcome it.  In the end, it was exactly how she had always spoken of leaving this life.  No long drawn out battles.  No prolonged period in a nursing home or hospice.  She always wanted to go from this life into the next with a bit class and style...and she did.

But it's not all gloom and doom!

My passion for the outdoors was rooted deeply by my mom and dad.  My mother loved to fish and went with my dad as much as she could.  Although she was passionate for it, she was also a little fickle in that she really liked to catch more than fish, if you get my drift.

When dad had to work and we were off from school And it was pretty AND she knew she would catch something, she would load me up in the car and we would go dip a line just the two of us.  While some women would be adverse to getting in the mud for crawfish, my mom went with me on more than one occasion. She was a real trooper!

The highlight of her sporting life was catching a 7.5 pound bass.  I was fortunate enough to be in the boat that afternoon.  While my father and I used better gear, she had her trusty Zebco and she did a marvelous job of landing that big fish.  It was a glorious occasion.  We glowed in that moment until the sun had set and we had to get home and she smiled ear to ear the entire way.

She taught me a healthy dose of respect for the things of God.  She read the Bible all the time and took her relationship with the Lord very seriously.  I appreciate the legacy that she instilled in me to know the Lord and make Him known.

Thanks for the memories mom!  I can't wait to make new ones with you when I see you on the other side.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.  Philippians 4:6-7 New International Version

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

The Drag, Not The Dog, Is Man's Best Friend

Courtesy of Neil Mcnicoll Photography
Courtesy of Neil Mcnicoll Photography
It is truly big fish season.  Last week in Texas, 3 Bass were caught weighing between 11 and 15 lbs.  This week's article can be the difference between landing the fish of a lifetime or having to tell the sad story of what could have been.

Rod selection is important.  Having the right line is crucial.  Heck, even presenting the right bait and in the correct manner is truly necessary.  But if your drag is not set correctly, all of that goes down the pooh-tube very quickly.  I have been around fisherman that speak of the drag like it is not a manly component on the reel.  "Let line out?  Not me!  I am not soft!"

Yep and I would wager that you don't routinely catch very big fish either.

I watched my dad for years lose big fish.  Something always seemed to happen. Line snaps.  Hooks pull loose.  Solar know, crazy stuff!  I was following in his foot steps until two things happened: 1.  I met a man that all he did was catch fish above 7 lbs.  and 2. I began to fish in a saltwater environment.

I was working with youth at a small East Texas church while in college.  I was given a shack (no literally a shack) to live in at a local Church Encampment facility.  They had a lake and so I fished almost daily.  An older gentlemen invited me to fish with him one evening and I gladly stepped into his boat.

Courtesy of Neil Mcnicoll Photography
Courtesy of Neil Mcnicoll Photography
The guy was a master.  He used 10 inch worms and this was the late 80's before this was even popular.  He was the first person to ask me how tight my drag was set.  I had it on lock-down being the chip off the old block.  He advised me to be sure to allow these fish some room.  I had no idea what he meant until the water exploded.  He hooked a huge bass as the moon was coming up on a July night that was over ten pounds.  It wrapped up in a tree and we couldn't retrieve it.  He cut the line so as not to kill the monster bass.  But, unlike my dad, his line had not broken.  The knot had held flawlessly.  The fish had room to charge and surge, regardless his hook stayed firmly embedded in the fish's mouth.  If not for the brush, he would have easily boated a fish larger than any bass I had ever witnessed in person.

I had learned a giant lesson that evening with the old man but what came next radically changed my world.  Saltwater might as well come from another planet.  Two-pound fish in saltwater fight more violently than five to seven pound fish do in freshwater.  Oh sure, small-mouth put up a great fight and like spotted bass most of them live in areas where there is current.  But, a saltwater fish deals with a water that is dynamic and moving everyday and all the time.  Twice a day that tide is going to roll in or out and move a lot water going either way.

Speckled Trout
Speckled Trout
I was now traveling and speaking to youth groups and found myself near Galveston, Texas.    I was fishing with a man named Big-Fred.  All of his reels were set to perfection and especially the drag systems.  The very first saltwater fish I ever caught was a speckled trout...again, I had no idea.

When the fish hit, it almost took the rod right out of my hands.  I was amazed to see the line being ripped off the reel as the fish ran.  As it slowed, I was able to turn the fish and we landed it.  I thought my heart was going to explode.  The adrenaline rush was amazing.  Nothing had ever pulled like that in my freshwater only experience.  I have gone on to land Red-fish, Mahi-Mahi, Barracuda, Snapper, Grouper, shark and even one Black Marlin.

Drag on a spinning reel
This was my baptism.  Everyone who has fished saltwater understands the necessity of the drag on their reel. Without it you get spooled (all the line taken off the reel by the fish).  It is a tool just like anything else.  Why would you not want to take every advantage available to you to land the fish of a life-time?

In freshwater, your drag being set correctly can help you boat fish that otherwise should have gotten away.  I know this personally from a painful experience.  My wife and I were invited to stay a week at a ranch near Luckenbach, Texas.  The ranch had a spring-fed pond with water clarity to about five feet...Amazing.  It was spawn time and the first day it got warm, my wife and I both set the hook on Goliath sized bass within ten minutes of each other.  I landed mine weighing 9 lbs 14 ounces.  We think the one my wife hooked up with was even larger.

We don't know for sure because like a ding-bat, I had not checked the drag on her reel after we had arrived from traveling. The fish snapped her line.

I was sick.  She was MAD!  I don't blame her.  Just a few clicks on that dial would have given us one of the greatest days we had ever had on the water together.  Instead, I truly felt guilty to even rejoice in the biggest bass I had ever caught.

Don't be the goat.  Set it correctly so that your wife, son, daughter or grandchildren can experience one of coolest moments in life - catching a fish with you.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Keys To Setting the Hook From a Wheelchair

Scott Anderson Spring 2015
Sight Fishing!
Spring is here!  Just 3 weeks ago we had 3-4 inches of snow here in Louisiana.  Yesterday the high temperature was 83 degrees...Thank you Lord!  With the warm rains and overnight temperatures barely dipping into the upper 50's, the bass have moved up.  At the beginning of the week, I had the marvelous opportunity to get some sight fishing in and boy did I have a blast.  Moocheaux patience required but tons of freshwater fun.

There is nothing quite like seeing a fish, making the cast to it and presenting the lure in such a way as to get a reaction out of it.  It's part hunting and part fishing.  Watching with expectation as the fish inhales the bait is simply exhilarating.  Making as many as 20-30 casts to the same fish and staying focused is tedious.  Being ready when the fish hits is paramount.

This brings up a great discussion.  How to properly set the hook when fishing from a wheelchair?  If you find yourself getting bit but not sticking fish then this article will hopefully remedy that problem.

Courtesy of North Shore Fishing Report
Courtesy of North Shore Fishing Report
For years you have watched these guys on TV who attempt to rip the lips off of fish when they set the hook.  They reel down and look like someone competing in an Olympic power lifting competition.  It's a big sweeping move followed by walking backwards in their boats.  Impressive!  And, wrong for me and you.  If you are using a rod with zero flex, the fish is in deep heavy cover, and you are standing almost above it, this maneuver is effective.  But for us who are fishing from a chair, it's wrong on so many levels.

First off, using the correct type of rod is key.  Please refer back to this article for selecting the best rod for yourself.    With a medium flex rod, many times the fish sets the hook on themselves, which is nice.  Once you have a rod that will allow you to load up on the fish, it really comes down to technique and speed.

Courtesy of Neil Mcnicoll Photagraphy
When I was a teenager, Jimmy Houston had one of the best fishing shows on TV.  He actually took time on one episode to talk about the mistake mentioned above that many anglers make when setting the hook.  The Super-Man hook set should be replaced with something more akin to's all about generating speed!  Great boxers do big time damage with the quick jabs instead of the over hand bomb.

Mistake #1 - Most people who routinely miss fish on the hook set are usually guilty of reeling up too much slack.  "Hey wait, I thought you weren't supposed to have any slack?"  If you have no slack at all, you will pull the bait out of the fish's mouth. In order to create the speed necessary to drive the hook and barb into the fish's pallet, there needs to be about 4-6 inches of slack.  If you are in proper contact with the bait during the retrieve, simply dipping the rod (no reel up) to give the necessary slack and then loading up on the fish will plant the hook deep enough for a good hook set.  This is critical when sight fishing for spawning bass.

Mistake #2 - I have never understood why people do this but when they set the hook, they put their arms above their heads.  Whuuut?  By doing this they have just eliminated all the leverage the rod is designed to give them.  In the same TV episode, Houston asked this great question, "When you open a jar of pickles and the cap is on super tight, where do you put it, in your gut or above your head?"  By sticking the butt of the rod anywhere in your mid-section from chest to lower stomach and using your body weight to set the hook, you are able to release all of the potential energy that is stored in the rod directly into the hook.  You are also in a much better position to fight a fish.

Mistake #3 - People who miss fish also have a bad habit of having their rod tip out of position.  The tip will be pointing away from the bait...bad form.  This position gives you very limited range of motion to set the hook.  It's a killer for a disabled fisherman.  If the rod tip is pointed towards the bait as it is being retrieved, then you will have all of the range of motion you need to drive the hook into the fish.  Also, remember to sweep the rod opposite of the direction the fish decides to run.  Again, this is crucial to your success when going after spawning bass.

Hope it helps.  Tight lines!

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Off-Road Adaptive Transportation

The fact is this topic never gets old because the options available to conquer the conundrum are limited.  Previously on this topic, I did an article on tracked wheel chairs and although they are great options there are serious limitations as to what they can achieve.  Whether it is limited range on the batteries in an electric model, overall cost for a gas powered style or the lack of comfort because it doesn't feel like your normal chair, the limitations are there and are very real.

So, here we are staring at the Mt. Everest of mobility limitation.  There is a real need for an all terrain vehicle that is at a reasonable price and also delivers the range someone would want when going off-roading.  If I could wave my magic wand and complete that punch-list, would you be interested…even just a little?  I am certain your answer is - YEEEEESSSSSSS!

John Kazanchy
John Kazanchy
Let me introduce you to ORAV Mobility and one Mr. John Kazanchy.  After spending 20 plus years in Atlanta, GA doing vehicle modification on vans and cars and then another 13 years on product development while being an expert witness in liability lawsuits involving vehicle modification, John relocated to Canon City, CO.  In the beautiful vistas of the Colorado Rockies, he could not escape his life’s work.  Like a mad scientist who can never truly be done inventing, his history with modification began to inspire him to tinker with adapting ATV’s for the handicapped and disabled.

ORAV Mobility
In all of the efforts attempted to climb the colossal mountain that is off-road access for the mobility impaired, John’s team has produced the very best option I have seen as of yet.  They take Kawasaki Mules (4 seat) and Polaris Rangers (4 seat) and adapt them so that people in a chair can get behind the wheel.  John started with a generic ramp system.  After speaking with some former contacts from Braun ramps and lifts, a deal is in the works to put their trusted ramps in these wonderful machines.  His keen eye from years of doing vehicle modification also noticed that both Kawasaki and Polaris wasted enough space for him to drop the floor to fit someone in a wheelchair without giving up any ground clearance…amazing!

ORAV Mobility
I asked him what precipitated him focusing on these ATV’s.  John was passionate in his response that in his mind’s eye, he could see the adventurer, rancher, hunter, fisherman, etc. that wants to get back out there but also have the comfort of their own chair.  The Mule and Ranger are true work horses and are very dependable. Both are powerful and have the small cargo bed in the rear where you can take essential gear with you.  Lastly, and to me one of the more important points he made was that these vehicles give you the joy of having others with you.  The rear seat never comes out because it covers the engine.  All other off road options for the handicapped and disabled are solo solutions. Now you can drive your wife, buddy, son, daughter or grandchild around and explore together – AWESOME!

ORAV Mobility
What is the difference between the Mule and Ranger?  Put simply, space!  Every effort will be made to accommodate every chair.  However, space is the key.  John takes your chair’s dimensions and tells you which ATV will work best.  While the Mule can easily be modified to fit most all push chairs and even most mid-wheel electric chairs, the Polaris actually has more length in the seating area and allows for almost all wheelchairs to be accommodated.  Be graceful and patient.  John and his team are developing new technologies to better fit chairs all the time.  In the event yours may not fit this week, next week it might!

Right about now you are likely asking, “How do I get one?”  John has a dealer in Canon City, CO. You can purchase the ATV through the dealer and ORAV Mobility then does the modification.  After the mod is complete, they ship the finished product to you.  At first thought, I figured the shipping would be very high.  I was surprised to find out that he just recently shipped one to Wisconsin from Colorado for just under $800.

So, what if I already own one or I can get one cheap that is used and I want it modified?  That’s cool.  You simply have to have it shipped to them so they can modify it.  If you inquire about a used one with John, he may be able to locate one for you.  Just figure that your shipping costs will be double, as it will ship twice.

ORAV Mobility
What is the price of the modification?  I think you are going to be surprised that it is relatively inexpensive especially if you were to price compare this modification with a gas powered tracked chair in comparison.   The price is $8,475 and includes: all structural modifications to the vehicle floor and roll bar support, flip up/down driver’s seat, hand control, one strap style manually operated wheelchair restraint, and ramp system. ATV is not included in the price of the modification.  Additional features, special accommodations and shipping are also extra.

John was gracious in giving us a discount code when you call for an additional 10% off the cost of the modification.  Be sure to use it when you call.  The code = HANDICAPPEDOUTDOORS.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Where To Go Fish When You're Bound By A Wheelchair

I originally wrote this article on July 2nd.  At the time, we had a very small readership.  The subject matter is in my opinion so important that I wanted to give our current readers the info this week as the weather is about to change begin to warm.  May there be many huge fish in your near future!

I fished for a large portion of my life standing in a bass boat or prowling a bank up-right and on two legs.  But for the past 10 years or so this became impossible, and I was limited to a scooter or wheelchair.  This reduced good fishing water for me drastically.  Getting a wheelchair through thick brush or soggy bogs wasn't an option.  I can still be placed in a boat seat, but it is still not what it once was.  As this transition took place I had to become ever creative in finding good areas to pursue my passion of fishing.  I hope my trial and error will help you out in giving you some prime destinations you can try too!

  State Parks can be a wonderful option.  State Parks are usually located on some of the best waters in the country and many times will have a wheelchair accessible fishing area.  Guides who are associated with these bodies of water are typically very accommodating in assisting people with special physical limitations to get out there and chase their passion.  I have also noticed that many of these parks' waterside areas are kept fairly clean in there grooming of lawns and such so that someone in a wheelchair can access the water.  An examples of this is Lake Fork in Texas which is world renowned for being a big bass lake. It has a park on it with an accessible fishing pier.   The lake also has a plethora of guides to contact and work out any details you may require to fish from a boat if that is still an option for you.

The next secret spot I am going to share is one you likely have not thought of, but I have found can be an excellent resource - Golf Courses!  This is not a place you just roll onto and go for it.  Talk with the pro who runs the course to get permission and be instructed on what you will and will not do.  Abide by golf course etiquette and ever watchful for the game that is going on around you.  Let me say this - DON'T EAT THE FISH! AHAHAH! You don't want to turn into the Incredible Hulk and the golf course doesn't want the lawsuit...just saying.  These things aside, a golf course can be one of the most enjoyable fishing destinations you will ever encounter.  As there is very low fishing pressure on these ponds, the fish are typically very aggressive and will hit just about everything in your tackle-box.  Because the courses are very well groomed, accessibility is usually much better around the edges of these small lakes and ponds.  Be alert for the word "Fore!!!"

The next spot is a real, true-blue secret destination but is usually one of the easiest to get permission to fish.  Check your local area for Christian or secular camp and retreat centers.  These places are amazing and hands down one of my favorites.  Lots of people have been to summer camp.  There is always a lake that everyone goes to and catches bream right?  Trust me, that ain't all that is lurking in those waters!  In the camp near my home-town, I have routinely caught bass ranging from four to eight pounds.  I always giggle when someone calls the place the Dead Sea because they have never caught anything but a bream or catfish there.  Believe me, large swimming beasts are located in those 3 acre lakes.  Like golf ponds these camp facilities are typically very well maintained making a great area for my electric wheel-chair to handle the fishing experience.  An added bonus for most of these places is that there is usually a handicapped accessible bathroom in one of there buildings which can be a very good thing.  I have developed a wonderful relationship with the couple who runs the place near my home-town and they have given me freedom to come fish anytime the gate is open...and I do!  I received that freedom by respecting the place.  Don't take big fish home with you - Catch and Release is a good policy for most of these type spots.  I have also helped them out by taking care of the pond over time by aiding in the eradication of certain types of animals they did not desire in their pond.  These little things are huge in building a great relationship with people.

As we wrap up this week's article, I wanted to touch on the obvious locations for fishing from a wheelchair - a farm pond is hard to beat!  If you know someone with a farm pond, there is a great chance they will let you fish it by asking first.  I simply cannot over-state this fact:  People are usually very generous and will accommodate others who are physically challenged with what God has blessed them with so long as those folks are polite, courteous and willing to follow the rules as laid out by the property owner or manager.

As always, I hope this will help you get out there and enjoy the creation a little more.