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Blind luck?

Dirk Price and his guide, Rob Jackson, show off Price’s winning Northern Pike.

Dirk Price and his guide, Rob Jackson, show off Price’s winning Northern Pike.

Price takes prize in tourney

The story started like this, “This one time, a blind man pulled out the biggest fish in a Canadian fishing tournament.”

But it’s no joke – Dirk Price of Red Level has the seeing-eye dog and the trophy to prove it.

Price, an avid fisherman since being “knee high to my daddy,” began losing his sight at the age of 5. He went on to earn a master’s degree in fisheries from Auburn and operate his own fish farm for 20 years until his sight left him completely.

“I used to joke that my wife and I were all about fish – we raised fish for a living and when we went on vacation, we went fishing,” he said.

Last week, a vacation found him in Ottawa, Canada, and a participant in the Blind Anglers International Tournament. Sponsored by the local Lions Club, the tournament outfitted visually-impaired fishermen with everything needed to enjoy a day on the water.

Price said he found his way to Canada after he began experiencing problems safely navigating around his home pond. With the help of the state vocational rehab program, Price found Canadian Lawrence Gunther, and in turn, a device that would change his life.

“(Gunther, an avid and visually-impaired outdoorsman) learned to navigate around by using a talking, portable GPS and an audible compass, which beeps to keep you on course,” Price said.

“You plug in a point, and if it keeps quiet, you’re going in the right direction,” he said. “I put in my dock, and it tells me how to get there and back to the house. It’s a pretty neat little rig.”

It was also a device that opened a new friendship and provided Price – and guide dog Muri – an opportunity to travel to Canada to meet his new friend.

“I can’t tell you how much fun I had,” Price said. “I’m just now coming down off my high. Saturday morning, I went out on a boat with Lawrence and a friend of his and reeled in a 28-inch Northern Pike.

“It hit that white spinner bait, and man, I knew it was a big one,” he said.

The fish, which weighed in at about 5 ½ pounds, earned Price a trophy for the largest fish of the tournament.

“There were 32 teams, and each team had a captain and two blind people,” he said. “All together there were about 75 people competing, and I was fishing against the pros. I’ve been tootin’ my horn all over the place about it.

“I guess sometimes you got to be an Alabama boy in Canada to show ‘em how it’s done,” he said jokingly.

Price was one of two Americans attended the tournament, and he said it is an experience he will never forget.

To learn more about Gunther, visit his website at blindfishingboat.com.