ALEXANDRIA BAY — Every hour, anglers were docking their boats and hauling in what they hoped were their prize-winning bass to the weigh-in point at the first Fishing for Freedom Bass Tournament held Saturday at Bonnie Castle Resort.
“It’s lively, enthusiastic, a little bit competitive, but it’s all in good spirit,” said Karen M. Clark, president of the Fort Drum USO.
Proceeds from the event benefit both Carthage Area Hospital and the Fort Drum USO and give veteran and active-duty military an opportunity to fish on the river.
The nationally televised tournament was organized in part by the Army Bass Anglers and was proposed initially by Carthage Area Hospital’s Fort Drum liaison, George DeVita. More than 83 anglers cast their lines on the St. Lawrence River from 8 a.m. until the final weigh-in at 2:30 p.m. to the sounds of music by Plattsburgh’s Movin’ On.
Mr. DeVita said organizers hope to make the fishing tournament an annual event.
“This is a great event for the community — a way to celebrate our military members,” he said.
Proceeds from the event will help purchase an enhanced security system and an intubation system for the Emergency Department at Carthage Area Hospital, as well as an EZ-IO, which provides a medical professional immediate vascular access to the central circulation.
“We’re hoping to use the money to help purchase better emergency equipment,” Mr. DeVita said.
Mrs. Clark said the fundraiser couldn’t have come at a better time for the USO.
“We run on volunteers and donations,” she said. The USO resources of food and toiletries for returning solders need restocking after about 17 units returned to Fort Drum in June and July, Mrs. Clark said.
On Friday night, the weekend event kicked off with live auctions, a barbecue and meet-and-greets with “World Fishing Network” stars Cody Robertson and Chad Potts. Kimberly Munley, the Fort Hood police sergeant who confronted 2009 Fort Hood shooter Nidal Malik Hasan, spoke to the tournament guests.
The anglers had to bring in the captured fish for the hourly weigh-in and were given cash prizes for the heaviest six fish. First place received $400, second place $300, third place $200, fourth place $150 and fifth and sixth place winners $100. At the end of the day, the event organizers announced Jamie Monica brought in the largest fish at 4.66 pounds. Mr. Monica won $500 and a 2014 Polaris Sportsman WV850 H.O. valued at $15,000 and donated by Waite Toyota and Waite Motorsport.
Chad Potts, president of Bass Champs, said his organization has arranged bass tournaments all around the country from his home in Texas. He said this is the first of what he hopes are many Northern New York tournaments.
“We do about 30 events every year, but this one is especially for the military members from Fort Drum or retired military,” Mr. Potts said. He said the proceeds will go toward a good cause to support the community.
Cody R. Robinson, CEO and founder of the Army Bass Anglers, said “a lot of energy and effort goes into making sure the fish are taken care of.” The fish are put into tanks with a special chemical from SureLife called “Please Release Me” and later released.
“It’s about hour four now and we’ve got about 24 smallmouth bass in the holding boat,” Mr. Robinson said. “The fish go into the live well tank where they can stay calm, then they’re brought on stage and measured to make sure they meet state size regulations and then we put them back into the holding boat to calm down before they go back in the river.”
Mr. DeVita said it’s a combination of the entrance fees, about $125 for civilians and $60 for active and retired military, and the proceeds from the live auctions that will go to prizes and the USO and hospital.
“About 50 percent of our entries were civilians and 50 percent were military,” Mr. DeVita said. “Of the 50 percent military, about 30 percent were able to join other boats if they didn’t have their own. Next year we want to expand on that and provide rides for more military members.”