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For many years now, the first Saturday in May...

has been the date for a one-of-a-kind fishing event – the annual Airboat Redfishing Tournament for Disabled Sportsmen held at Shired Island Recreational Park in Dixie County. I’ve been invited to participate in the past, but was never able to attend until this year.

I’m so glad I did, because it was such a good time I’m still grinning.

American Disability Adventures hosts and organizes the event, which drew hundreds of folks to take disabled outdoorsmen fishing from airboats along Dixie County’s coast.

I arrived around 7 a.m. with my fishing buddy (and much younger sister) “Chicken” and was blown away by the number of people there. Folks were arriving from all over, not only to fish, but to assist the disabled participants and set up for an enormous fish fry. There were dozens of airboats lined up near a makeshift dock to take out the fisherman.

Chicken and I wasted little time in making our way to the dock, where we boarded a beautiful airboat owned by Rod Hier accompanied by his son Justin. Throughout the morning, Chicken and I enjoyed the company of these fine gentlemen, who went above and beyond to put us on some fish. Naturally, Chicken caught the largest fish on our boat.

I was nearly overwhelmed at the outpouring of genuine goodwill and brotherly love amongst all of the participants, sponsors and organizers. Mikey Blanton and Roy Skinner, founders of the American Disability Adventures group, were busy seeing to it that everyone was greeted warmly and all of their needs taken care of. The work they do on behalf of disabled outdoorsmen is amazing. I’d like to say a personal thank you to both and their families. They are very much appreciated!

After all the boats were in, we dined on a wide variety of the very best food – BBQ pork and fried fish with so many sides I couldn’t keep track – although I did my best to get a little of everything until I was stuffed. Whoever was in charge of the cooking must have been blessed by the Good Lord that day!

There are so many folks who deserve thanks for making the event the enjoyable time that it was, especially the airboat owners and operators, who were unbelievably generous to donate so much of their time and resources.

Each of the machines I witnessed was a real beauty, and now Chicken wants one so badly she’s losing sleep thinking about them.

Most of the fishermen were using live or frozen baits, and they really put it on the redfish population! My buddy Josh Klein hauled in a keeper redfish, a couple of nice trout and a kingfish. Another lucky participant even hauled in an 80-pound black drum.

The weather was perfect, and I couldn’t have enjoyed myself more. It was simply a perfect day and I’m grateful to American Disability Associates for bringing it all together!

To all who provided food, desserts and airboats, it couldn’t have been done without you!

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by Toby Benoit

Currently, Toby remains a member of the editorial staff of Outdoor Sports In The Southeast Magazine and the popular Woods 'n Water Magazine and operates as a press stringer for the National Wild Turkey Federation. In addition, he also serves as a forums moderator for the popular outdoor discussion boards of the Heirloom Game Calls, Ohio Camp Cooks, Woods 'n Water, and the Smart Hunting Strategies websites. In addition, Toby serves on the Expert Advice Panel for Woods 'n Water Magazine and is a member of the National Field Staff of DK Flatwoods Camo.

He currently resides in Citrus County, Florida surrounded by family and friends. He is a a member of Temple Terrace Masonic Lodge #330, The National Wild Turkey Federation, Wheelin’ Sportsmen NWTF, The National Rifle Association, Florida State Coon Hunter’s Association, East Pasco County Coon Hunter’s Association, The United Sportsman’s Alliance, The American Trap Shooter’s Association, and The North American Hunting Club