Oct 19-20 – Belton Lake and Central Texas hosted the largest Soldier appreciation event of its kind. 296 teams participated in a no cost bass tournament all thanks to the local community, businesses and fishermen wanting to show appreciation to the Soldiers and their Families stationed at Ft Hood. The word was put out several months ago and the community responded. Soldiers were told to sign up and someone would take them fishing and that is what is happened. Local anglers were asked to donate their time, boats and often fishing gear to team up with one of these Soldiers and fish a standard five bass tournament for some pretty lucrative payouts and it was a record setting number of teams in its 7th annual event.
And as has become customary, many ArmyBassAnglers were on hand to participate as well. Prostaff members like Dale Hughes, Don Bailey, Vinnie Adler, Chad Nelson, Danny Hughes, Efrem Diccochea and Rodney Thompson all brought their Returning Heroes Home wrapped Skeeter boats and a “boatload” of sponsor gear for their partners. SGT Kenny Smith, PFC Tammy Ramirez, SPC Steven Krech, SFC Elias Cuellar, SSG(R) Chris Cramer, and SGT Robert Griffin all were excited when they learned they would receive some extra special attention from their ABA staffer members. Following the extraordinary banquet and rules meeting the night before, each of these Soldiers received hundreds of dollars worth of gear provided to them courtesy of the ArmyBassAnglers’ sponsors, such as Oakley, Evercast, Dermatone, Tightlines, Fury Custom Lures, BioBorEB, and Aggregate Haulers. They each also received ArmyBassAngler Coalition gear like hats and tournament jerseys, which they all wore the next day.
As usual, Belton Lake proved to be very difficult for many of the 296 teams with less than half even weighing any fish in. Most of the ABA teams weighed at least one fish in with the best competition happening between Vinnie and Danny. Each of their teams weighed in three fish with Vinnie and Steven barely inching out Danny and Chris, 3.96 pounds to 3.92 pounds. Most teams on the water reported similar tactics, techniques, and procedures…..”fished many spots, concentrated on primary and secondary points, threw a lot of crankbaits early, switched to shakey heads and drop shots later.”
In addition to the Prostaff being present, over a dozen ArmyBassAngler Coalition members made a significant impact on the event. “The banquet hall is crawling with ArmyBassAnglers” commented Dale Hughes, the ABA Southern Region Coalition manager. With the entire ABA organization being comprised of Active, Reserve, National Guard, Retired, and other Veterans from all four services, it’s not hard to see why this event means so much to them. After all, not only are they the ones lucky enough to take one of the Soldiers fishing, they also represent the very sacrifices being recognized by the Central Texas community.