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Canadian Team Challenge

Canadian Team Challenge Canada has some terrific fishing. These anglers not only catch a boatload of Canadian fish, they do it all from wheelchairs.

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Wheelchair fishing

Left to right, Dave McDonald, Andrea, Jerry Dean, Jon Bostic, Kent Dakour, Shorty Powers (front) and Jimmy Lankford (front)

It's a bit different for a Texas based organization to be covering a lake in Canada, but no more so than our trips to Mexico. For Honey Hole TV producer Kent Dakour and myself it's been a pleasant change to travel to Mazatlan and Tampico, Mexico during the colder months of Winter.
   This year we decided to travel north in July and August while temperatures hovered around the 100-degree range here at home in Texas.
   Two separate happenings actually brought this about. First our old friend Don Wallace, the host of The Wallace Wildlife Show for 20-odd years set us up a trip to northern Saskatchewan in August. Before we set out on that journey though Shorty Powers, president of Paraplegics on Independent Nature Trips (P.O.I.N.T.) invited us to join him and his crew on a trip to northwest Ontario in July.
   Like Honey Hole, P.O.I.N.T. is sponsored by MotorGuide, Quantum and Zebco. Shorty's newest project with MotorGuide is called 'Team Challenge'. The "team" consists of four physically challenged individuals. Shorty and Jimmy Lankford are confined to wheelchairs, Jon Bostic and Frank raven, are amputees. Frank, by the way, was suffering with a bout of kidney stones and regrettably was unable to join us on this trip.
   The term "confined" to wheelchairs in this instance is an oxymoron. These guys are confined in their chairs only in the fact that they can't get up and walk away. Therein lies the concept of the team challenge. The guys are traveling here and there, fishing tournaments and causing general mayhem to the image most folks have of the disabled being somehow physically incapable. With the support of MotorGuide I and Shorty's benefactor and friend Homer Tompkins, these guys are determined to help others with physical impairments realize that they can do just about anything they wish to try. They just have to "want to" bad enough.
   Tournaments and fishing in general is the avenue Team Challenge has chosen to demonstrate their capabilities, and they're producing a video for distribution in early 2000. Tackle basics and selection, general equipment needs, fishing tips including map usage, even overcoming the problems of bladder relief while in the boat will be covered.
   Many things the able-bodied take for granted can be obstacles to those with physical limitations, but a lot of it is only in the mind of the individual. Overcoming any problem just takes a desire to do so.

Wheelchair fishing

   After traveling to Lac Seul (French for Lake Alone), we spent a week fishing for walleye and northern pike as the guests of Dave and Bobbie McDonald the owners of Whitewing Resort. The McDonald's lodge is located near Ear Falls, Ontario on the northwest end of Lac Seul, which encompasses 560 square miles of island-dotted water. Over 93 miles long, there's 3,900 miles of shoreline.
   Canadian fishing trips include excellent shoreline lunches of walleye and all the "fixin's." Our first day out we even had a visit from a young caribou on the next point over on the island where we had chosen to enjoy our lunch.
   Whitewing Resort also books bear hunts in the fall and you're just about guaranteed success. While we didn't see any bear (another group of anglers staying in the two houseboats that belong to Dave and Bobbie did), we did see a moose cow and her calf feeding in a cove we were fishing.
   We all caught several walleye, with a few in excess of six pounds, but the northerns were the fish that got us excited as bass anglers. These toothy critters will absolutely blast a spoon out of the water. We caught a few eight- and 10-pounders, but even those in the five-pound range fought like you had a three-foot alligator on the end of your line.
   No different than here at home, we found fish on the windy side of islands, points, and grass beds which the locals refer to as cabbage. We tried buzzbaits, stickbaits, lipless and diving cranks and although they will all catch fish, big metal spoons with single treble hooks simply worked the best.

Wheelchair fishing

   Casting the spoons past the cover, it was simple to jerk them loose when entangled in the weeds and this often brought on a strike. The erratic action, as well as the thickness of the cabbage, caused a lot of missed hook-ups, which just added to the excitement.
   There were a lot of hits and misses, but almost always you could entice them to hit again by dropping your rod tip. This would let the spoon flutter down a bit deeper and when you brought it back up again, they couldn't resist hitting it again. The action was definitely fast and furious. No doubt, the walleye are tops as table fare, but we all opted to spend most of our time casting for northern pike.
   Actually, as good as the shore lunches were they couldn't compare with the meals served by Ms. Bobbie back at the lodge. This lady can cook! I know this is a fishing magazine, but folks every meal was different. The servings were more than anyone could eat and each setting looked like a picture out of Good Housekeeping. Seriously, gourmet meals are part of what they call the American Plan where you eat with them in the dining room. The alternative is bringing your own food, which can be prepared in each cabin's fully equipped kitchen if you choose to rough it.
   Dave and Bobbie are wonderful hosts and their entire staff goes out of their way to make you comfortable. While the McDonald's work the lodge during summer and fall, they winter in southern Georgia, which is Bobbie's original home. Dave grew up on Lac Seul where his parents had a lodge back in the 50's and 60's. We all enjoyed his dry Canadian humor so much we invited him to come fish with us this winter on one of our lakes.
   Shorty, like the rest of us, had so much fun he threatened not to leave when the week was over. But that's Shorty. His enthusiasm is high, no matter what he's involved in. That, along with the help of his wife and partner Nancy, is what has made P.O.I.N.T. such a successful organization.
   Just this last Mother's Day, which is the date of the annual P.O.I.N.T. tournament at Lake Caddo, we helped Shorty and Nancy celebrate the organization's 20th anniversary. Over the years the scope of P.O.I.N.T. has branched out in various directions. With that thought in mind, this spring they renamed their organization Turning Point.

Wheelchair fishing

   The main focus will still be to get physically challenged individuals to accept their fate and still enjoy life to the fullest extent they are able.
   Shorty, because of his own personal love of fishing, uses this sport to get more people outdoors into the sunshine, but there are also other activities involved as well. At Bachman Lake in Dallas each June P.O.I.N.T. holds an Extravaganza outing. This year there were basic computer instructions indoors while outside they were giving rides on a knee-board behind boats. In this picnic-type atmosphere there's always plenty to eat and lots of door prizes.
   I can't stress enough the good things these folks do for physically challenged kids. The adults who frequent P.O.I.N.T. activities have a positive attitude toward life and they share this with the youngsters. Of course this positive attitude reaches out to even the able-bodied individual as well. For more information on P.O.I.N.T. contact Shorty Power at 972-524-4231. They always need volunteers and they always can help if you know some one who needs to be shown that they can have a wonderful, active life whether they're walking or rolling.
   Over the years I have spent a lot of days and nights around this group and I've witnessed changes in friends who have volunteered to assist at the tournaments. P.O.I.N.T. members have that affect on you. Sharing a cabin for a week in the Canadian bush with these guys helped me realize even more the challenges they face on a daily basis. The concept of Team Challenge is bound to each out and change some lives.

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