Fishing & Boating News

On the Dock with Rick Smith

6th Annual Fishing for Freedom Bass Tournament

by: Rick Smith,

Landan Ware and Josh Jordahl, winners of the 2011 Fishing for Freedom bass tournament. Total weight was 13.89 lbs.
Photo by Rick Smith
CSM Faulk presenting Rick Smith and Cliff Brown with Certificates of Appreciation for their commitment to the military.
Photo by Rick Smith
(Oct. 19, 2011 - Lake Belton, TX)

The 6th Annual Fishing for Freedom bass tournament is now history. Over 282 boaters from across the nation gathered in Central Texas to honor our nation's military with a free guided fishing trip on Lake Belton. Friday evening, Texas Partners Federal Credit Union and the Ft. Hood B.O.S.S. Association sponsored a BBQ at the Killeen Convention Center for all the participants and volunteers.

CSM Faulk represented Ft. Hood III Corps command with a rousing inspirational speech enlisting numerous shouts of "HOOAH" from the audience. He also thanked the community for coming together with this special event for the military and awarded plaques to two area boat dealerships, Marine Outlet of Temple and Texas Boat World of Harker Heights, for their commitment and support of the military.

Featured speaker was B.A.S.S. 2008 World Champion Alton Jones who encouraged the fishermen to remember that they win in life, as well as on the water, by taking it one step at a time. Alton said "Catch your first fish and then catch your next one. Don't worry about what you're going to do to catch your limit, just concentrate on what it's going to take to catch your next fish". Alton also demonstrated some casting techniques on a volunteer, Ronnie Trower, to the delight of the audience.

The Emcee's, Cliff Brown and Rick Smith thanked the dozens of sponsors of the event along with the volunteers who came to help. Cliff and Rick gave special thanks to the boaters who donated their boats, time and tackle to make sure the soldiers had a great time. But most of all they gave the honors to the military families who have devoted their lives to maintaining the freedoms that have given us our American way of life.

A special moment occurred toward the end of the evening's program when the donated Alumacraft boat and Yamaha motor were given away. The winner was Earl Bentz, founder of Triton boats, who had donated an 18' Triton bass boat as the grand prize for the fishing tournament. Earl came to the stage and immediately paid it forward by donating the aluminum boat back to an active duty Purple Heart recipient. Several members of the audience who qualified stepped forward, some still in their BDU's, having come to the banquet directly from duty. To break the tie, Earl asked who had the most combat overseas tours and one senior NCO had five tours which were more than anyone else. Then something truly special happened when this soldier requested that the boat go to an E4 or below. The lowest rank was an E5 so the SGM gave the boat to him. The crowd gave both Earl and the SGM a standing ovation.

Saturday morning found the boaters crowding the launching ramps on Lake Belton in order to get their boats into the water. Long lines of boaters waited patiently to launch as dawn approached. After playing the National Anthem and blessing the fleet, team numbers were called out as the fishermen headed to their favorite fishing holes. Even though the weather cooperated, fishing on the lake was tough even for the pros. The team of professional angler Landan Ware and his soldier, Josh Jordahl, 7th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Squadron, 1st Brigade Combat Team, started in a later flight, but had caught five fish before many of the other teams had made it to their fishing spots. They then spent the rest of the day searching for some larger fish so that they could cull to a larger total weight. Their largest bass was 4.24 lbs and their total weight was 13.89 lbs. For their efforts they won a complete bass boat package valued at $20,000, which they plan to sell and split the money.

Second place went to fisherman Travis McCollough and his partner Darrin Cross with 10.01 lbs. They won $1,500 in prize money which was donated by the Grapevine Elks Lodge. Another professional angler, Charles Whited, fished with Darius Cox, taking third place with 9.04 lbs of fish and they earned $1,000. Altogether 24 places were paid out to the teams.

Out of the 282 teams there were 238 fish caught weighing a total of 406.59 lbs giving an average fish weight of 1.71 lbs. The smallest legal single fish weighed in was 1.16 lbs earning the fisherman $500. The largest bass was 5.12 lbs caught by the team of Leonard Philipp and BOSS representative, Luis Rios, which paid out over $2,000. Only 125 teams brought fish to the scales, but the tournament was about much more than just catching fish as bonds of friendships were forged.

The dates for the 7th Annual Fishing for Freedom tournament have been set for October 19-20, 2012. Photographs along with a complete list of the teams may be found at the fishingforfreedom website.
Landan Ware and Josh Jordahl sitting in the boat that they won for first place.
Photo by Rick Smith