Since the day that I got hurt, I never thought that I would be able to share the things that I love to do with my little boy. Having a strong wife who pushed me every day that I laid in that hospital bed told me to stop worrying and keep positive is what got me through the worst of it all. As I was recovering, she really pushed the nurses to allow me to go outside, get some sunlight and fresh air. When she pushed me out of those doors and I got that first breath of fresh air, I knew there was a reason that I had lived. It gave me a boost of motivation that kept me going, giving me hope that it was going to be okay.
Growing up, I was always out fishing with my family whether it was bass, catfish or bluegill, it didn’t matter, I just loved being outside! I never really did any tournaments, but I really liked watching them on TV, wondering what it would be like to fish professionally. During my therapy at Walter Reed, I was given that chance. There was a bass tournament that I was invited to in New Jersey with Marines Helping Marines. It was there that I was paired up with Elite Series Pro, Dave Wolak. Dave took the day to show me how to tie knots with my missing fingers and two broken hands that still had rods and stitches in them. After all, I was only a month or so out of the date of my injury. It was a learning experience for the both of us. That tournament gave me a new outlook on what was ahead of me.
A few weeks later, I learned of another fishing tournament that was coming up and close by. It was the Maryland PVA in Waldorf. I had to go! There I was paired up with Pro Angler Randy Elliott. We spent the first day with Randy showing me how to use a bait caster, it was pretty funny. I backlashed most of the day but he had the patience to keep ripping them out and he still managed to keep me on the fish. It didn’t really dawn on me until after the tournament that the whole time I was on the water that I felt no pain and I wasn’t thinking about anything but fishing. It was the best therapy I have had since day one. Fishing had found a new place in my heart; it was my new focus to keep motivated. I knew from that point on, that is what I wanted to do with my life, fish. I could show other veterans how to achieve and overcome, and make their disability an ability. I was going to make it happen, I just wasn’t sure how. That was until my family flew down to Florida.
My wife told me that her two uncles had planned a gator hunting adventure for me. So we flew down to Orlando to meet them. The next morning after we got in, I thought we were going to have a family breakfast on the veranda of one of the restaurants. We got to the restaurant and the hostess led us out to the back veranda. As I started walking out I turned back to make sure my little boy was still behind me and caught out of the corner of my eye a camera flash. Who would have thought that this was just the beginning of a dream come true. I walked down the sidewalk and there was Keith Alan standing there and with a big smile saying, “Larry, your Ultimate Fishing Experience begins now!” He then introduces me to Bassmaster Elite Series Pro, Jason Quinn. I was going to be fishing with him for the next few days. I was in for an experience that I had never even dreamed of. I was speechless for most of the first day, still trying to take it all in.
Then the fishing began. It was an awesome day on the water, like every fishing trip should be; talking baits, tricks and just hanging out. Then we started catching fish. I loved every second of being out there because I knew that I was going to be able to help other wounded veterans see that anything is possible. The Second day rolled around and I couldn’t wait to be back on the water again. Jason let me pick his brain about what it takes to be a Pro and learn the tools I needed to be successful. He was great about answering all of my questions, but I still had a lot to do to make my dream come true.
The third day couldn’t come fast enough. I couldn’t wait to get my family out on the water to fish with me and finish up some interviews for the show. Then Keith told me the Experience was not over yet, and I then heard a diesel engine start up. From around the corner came the sweetest bass boat I have ever seen. I was in tears when Keith told me that it was mine, and that all the sponsors on the jersey I was wearing were my sponsors because I was going Pro! I was speechless again!
I can’t even put into words what this experience has meant to me! It made my dream come true! It changed my life for the best and I am forever grateful for all the people and organizations that have made this possible.
Thank you so much Ultimate Fishing Experience for giving me this great opportunity to chase my dreams and those big fish!