The story of Clay Dyer
“The main reason I tournament fish,” said 24-year-old Clay Dyer of Hamilton, Ala., “is because my life has always been a competition with the situation I’m in, being the way I was born. To me, it’s the fact that I know I’m competing against the best anglers in the nation. By no means am I at that level. My main perspective is that it’s such a challenge to fish at that level. I don’t want to do it for a year or two and then have the fire burn out.”
Indeed, Dyer has a fire inside. Dyer was born without legs and without a left arm. His right arm extends to his elbow. Nevertheless, Dyer flings a bait-caster by clenching it between his cheek and collarbone, cranking the reel with his right arm.
“I can make any cast I need to make,” Dyer said. “I can cast left or right. I can pitch and flip – I do that a lot. I can pitch and flip as easily as I can throw a big crankbait. It took a lot of practice – a year or two – to learn a lot of the casts.”
Dyer started fishing at 5 years old and began tournament fishing with older friends at 12 years old. By 1996, when he was a senior in high school, Dyer was fishing full time, and since then, he has won 30 team and regional tournaments. His next goal is to fish FLW Tour and EverStart Series events. Dyer’s hopes are buoyed by a full roster of sponsors, including Yamaha, Minn Kota and Plano. He also splits fishing time with inspirational speaking engagements.
“When you meet the guy and see how determined, how outgoing and how willing to tell his story he is, it’s that much better,” said David Simmons, field promotions coordinator for Yamaha Marine Power Group. “As far as his marketing and promotional abilities, they’re excellent regardless of his abilities or disabilities.”
Another angler with determination and ambition is Brett Ketchum of Little Rock, Ark. Last year Ketchum fished the National Bass Association of the Deaf circuit and the full BFL Arkie Division, taking seventh at Lake Ouachita. “I don’t think (my lack of) hearing affects my fishing at all,” Ketchum said. “That’s why I chose fishing rather than hoops or baseball, which required hearing. I only need help from my partner for the flight call.
“My events for 2003 should be the same with the BFL,” added Ketchum, a cabinet maker with Raytheon Aircraft. “I’m still looking forward to the EverStart Series. If I get a chance, I will go for it!”
Going for it – it’s a common theme among anglers with disabilities. In a way, their fishing is not unlike any other aspect of their lives, with day in, day out obstacles to overcome. The way they look at it, one of the most crucial components of any aspect of their lives is the mental edge.
“I’ve always had a lot of willpower,” Dyer said. “I’m not trying to brag or boast. When something gets in front of me, I’m going to go 110 percent until I accomplish it.”