The Warriors on the Water Military Appreciation Bass Fishing Tournament makes its Arizona debut tomorrow, June 9 on Roosevelt Lake.
A field of 25 to 30 bass fishing professionals, several from Payson and Tonto Basin, will gather at Grapevine Ramp on the lake to escort military veterans from World War II, Korea, Vietnam, Desert Storm and Operation Iraqi Freedom on fishing trips.
“It’s all about the veterans, we want to thank them for their service,” said Jim Goughnour, one of the event organizers.
The tournament begins at safe light, about 5 a.m., and wraps up at 10 a.m. with an awards ceremony and luncheon.
All participating veterans will be given souvenir T-shirts and other awards presented including a “big fish” prize.
“Our goal is to make each boater and veteran feel like a winner at the end of the day,” said Goughnour.
The tournament will be conducted in a unique catch-and-release format that will allow veterans to measure their fish in the boat and immediately return them to the lake.
In most bass tournaments, fish must be kept in a live well and brought to shore for a weigh-in, which sometimes results in fish dying.
In measuring the fish, its girth and length will be calculated.
“This will give a theoretical weight with a photo by the pro in the boat,” Goughnour said.
When fishing, the pros are allowed to give fishing tips and advice to the military veterans.
Among the local pros who have volunteered to participate are Tracy Purtee, Kevin Scott, Buddy O’Donnell, Buddy Randall, Jake Randall, Keith Hunsinger, Creston Carroll, John Brown, Jeff Drake, Larry Hardy, Cloyd Rogers, Frank Love, Dwayne Steel and Rod Nelson.
“All of these great anglers jumped at the chance to take a veteran fishing,” Goughnour said. “We had overwhelming support from Payson and Tonto Basin.”
When Jake Randall volunteered to help out, he told Goughnour, “No way I’d leave at vet sitting on the bank; count me in.”
Most impressive about the pros, Goughnour said, is “they are volunteering their time, skills and boats at their own cost.”
While the Roosevelt tournament is a first in Arizona, North Carolina recently hosted its Seventh Annual Warriors on the Water tournament at Jordan Lake.
Since Fort Bragg is located in North Carolina, there are military veterans standing in line to fish in the tournament.
Warriors on the Water recently expanded to include “Little Heroes” visits at schools near Fort Bragg.
In it, pro anglers who have participated in Warriors on the Water share their fishing experiences with school children, many of whom have a parent deployed oversees.