Wounded Warrior lives his dream

An explosion in Afghanistan could not keep Marine Corporal Larry Draughn down. He has found new life on the weigh-in stage of the Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Opens.

B.A.S.S. member Larry Draughn is no different than any other aspiring angler fishing the Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Open series. His goal is to turn pro, become an Elite Series angler, and win bass fishing’s world championship.

That quest began after a painful but heroic turn of events on May 10, 2009. On that date then-U.S. Marine Corps Corporal Larry Draughn was on routine foot patrol in Helmand Province, Afghanistan, when an improvised explosive device detonated under his feet.

After being thrown into the air by the force 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 to an awaiting medevac vehicle and eventually airlifted to a military hospital. He returned home following the amputation of both legs and two fingers in his right hand.

Draughn underwent intense rehab treatment at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., for two weeks. Ironically, the hospital is near the Potomac River, where Draughn would begin reclaiming his life.

The next chapter in Draughn’s life began after he was fitted with a pair of prosthetic legs. Bass fishing came next. Just six weeks after discharge from the hospital and against the odds, he experienced competitive fishing for the first time. It wouldn’t be the last after he made a cast into the Potomac.

That was at the Paralyzed Veterans of America Wounded Warriors tournament, which has been supported for years by the Maryland B.A.S.S. Federation Nation.

“It was amazing because I’d never had the chance to fish competitively before my injury,” recalled the native of Fairborn, Ohio. “I grew up bass fishing, having done it with my dad since I was big enough to hold a rod.”

The experience would spark his interest in competitive fishing, while taking away the pain of his injuries.

“I had to learn to cast again, learn to tie lures differently with my hands because they both were broken in the injury,” he said. “But when I’m out there fishing, all my pain and worries go away.

“When I went bass fishing I didn’t even need to take any pain medications,” continued Draughn. “That’s when I knew that was it. I wanted to get into the competitive side of the sport.”

Draughn, 24, is fishing the Southern Opens and plans to add the Northern division to his schedule. He’s going full bore, fishing as a boater from a custom rig built by Legend Boats, as a result of a campaign by the Ultimate Fishing Experience TV show hosted by former B.A.S.S. emcee Keith Alan. The boat has a handrail from its centerline to the casting deck to provide Draughn support when fishing in rough water.

“I’m living a dream right now,” he said. “It’s unbelievable to be able to do this, injury or not.”

Originally published April 2012