With 545 total tour points tallied, Ron Ryals secured Angler of the Year for the 2010 Paralyzed Veterans of America Bass Tour. At the tournament’s end, he was dead even in points with the 2009 Angler of the Year, John Clark. However, Ryals went into the Mid-America “Okie Open” with a 13-point advantage, which got him the top slot. Besides bragging rights, the Florida native was rewarded with keys to a brand new Grizzly series boat from Tracker Boats, a tour sponsor.
The annual Paralyzed Veterans fishing tour is a BASS-sanctioned event. The tour now has seven two-day tournaments across the country, where anglers with disabilities can show their skills. Each tournament has boat and bank competitions.
“Most of the lakes I fished until last year were typical Florida lakes, shallow with grass,” Ryals said. “Going to other states, I’m learning a lot about other kinds of waters and fishing.”
At home in Live Oak, FL, Ryals lives and fishes the same places he and his dad did—even after a surgical mishap left him paraplegic at five years old in 1983.
“It was such a young age, I remember very little of walking, to be honest,” he explained. But he definitely remembers hunting and fishing with his dad. He remembers, too, that his folks never seemed to take much notice that their child was a wheelchair-user. “My dad has always hunted and fished, and I always went out with him. Everything was pretty much the same. I just had to do stuff a little different.”
Not only did his dad get Ryals out fishing and hunting at a young age, the two would take an annual lobster dive in the Florida Keys.
Ryals got his first taste of the PVA Bass Tour in the early 1990s, fishing the Central Florida PVA tournaments with his dad. For the past couple of years, he has fished the complete tour.
With his 2010 PVA Bass Tour win, Ryals moves on to the 2010 BASS Federation Nation Championship, to take place on the Red River in Shreveport, LA, October 27-29. A win there could take him to the big show: the Bassmaster Classic.
Ryals said no matter what happens at the Federation Nation Championship or Bassmaster Classic, he feels like the biggest winner in the world because he’s helping veterans, leading by example.
“Paralyzed Veterans is starting to do a lot of stuff with guys coming home from overseas, and they don’t know how to adjust quite yet,” he said. “I’m enjoying helping them.”