DANDRIDGE, Tenn. — Today Larry Draughn caught only two bass at the Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Northern Open presented by Allstate.
It wasn’t for a lack of trying. He was just distracted.
Five years ago this date then U.S. Marine Corps Lance Corporal Larry Draughn was on routine foot patrol in Helmand Province, Afghanistan. While walking along a roadside he stepped on an improvised explosive device.
Draughn was thrown into the air by the impact of the blast. Medics applied tourniquets to both his legs and cared for life-threatening wounds. He was hand-carried by stretcher for one hour and eventually airlifted to a military hospital.
Draughn returned home following the amputation of both legs and two fingers in his right hand. He now walks with a pair of prosthetic legs.
Today, Draughn did his best to focus on long-lining crankbaits along the long points of Douglas Lake. His mind frequently drifted back to a roadside in Afghanistan.
“I couldn’t stop thinking about the guys who came to my aid,” he said. “I wouldn’t be standing on the front deck of my boat doing all this without them.”
The guys are from 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marines, 3rd Marine Regiment, Golf Company.
The guys would be proud of just how far he’s come so far.
Draughn stepped aboard a bass boat just six weeks after being fitted with his new legs. Tournaments came next. Competing lifted his self-esteem and the drive to grow stronger mentally and physically.
Learning to walk again was one challenge. Another was learning to tie lures with missing fingers. Somehow he mustered up the courage and determination to do it all. Get into a bass boat. Stand on the front casting deck. Operate a trolling motor with a prosthetic leg.
And compete at the level of the Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Open circuit.
He’s in his third full season as a pro. You might wonder how he does it. Launch the boat. Pick up his co-angler and fish all day long. Weigh-in. Repeat.
There must be challenges.
“I haven’t really found anything that I haven’t been able to overcome.”
Instead what he’s found are the same mechanical attributes every angler coming through the Open ranks tries to achieve.
“My casting accuracy is one hundred times better than when I started,” he said. “I find a lot more fish and am more versatile as an angler.”
Draughn arrives at the boat ramp at daylight. He finishes at weigh-in time to simulate the tournament timeframe.
He fishes from a Legend Boats Alpha Tactical 211R with a gel coat of military desert tan. The boat is inscribed with Draughn’s rank and stenciled with the letters “USMC.” The most prominent feature is the custom fishing rail system that enables him to board the front deck. It also helps provide stability in rough water.
Draughn, an Ohio native, is looking ahead to the next two Northern Open events for an obvious reason.
“Man, I can’t wait for those two tournaments on Champlain and St. Clair,” he said of the two tournament fisheries in New York and Michigan. “It’s going to be awesome fishing for the smallmouth.”
Indeed, the guys from 2/3 Marines would be proud.