NORTH EAST, MD —The 3rd annual Marines Helping Marines bass tournament was held May 21, on the Upper Chesapeake Bay. The Nauti Goose Restaurant, located at the Anchor Marina complex in North East, Maryland hosted this event along with the Cecil County Department of Tourism.
The event for wounded Marines was put together by a two-man team of former Marines, Joby Poster of Saylorsburg, PA and Eric Kowal of Wind Gap, PA.
An outstanding 37 teams participated in this event which included about 15 wounded Marines who were wounded in Afghanistan and or Iraq. Five participants were both double amputees above the knee and one was a single leg amputee. Other injuries included traumatic brain injuries and blindness from explosives caused by improvised explosive devices.
Injured veterans from Walter Reed and Bethesda hospitals participated with professional anglers as a two-man team in a fundraising tournament that benefits the Marines Helping Marines Foundation which helps fund weekend retreats for wounded veterans in outpatient care and assists military servicemembers and their families in time of need.
Every team who entered this event was a winner regardless if they caught fish or not because part of their entry fee went to the Marines Helping Marines organization. Poster and Kowal were able to collect $2,340 for the non-profit organization after participating anglers were paid their winnings.
“We could not have done any of this without all our supporters and partners. We had ten people from the Stroudsburg area make the trip to Maryland to volunteer their time, along with the dozens of other volunteers,” Kowal said.
The Hollywood Casino in Perryville, MD hosted a pre-tournament dinner for the Marines on Friday night. As they entered the facility they were greeted by respectful applause by both patrons and staff of the casino.
Each Marine was paired with a top bass tournament angler in the Mid-Atlantic /Northeast region including BASS and FLW professionals including Dave Wolak, Pat Golden, Brian LeClair, George Acord, Joby Poster, and Jack Rinkers. Any two-person team could enter the tournament.
Bassmaster Open pro, Mike Kaminskas also took out a wounded Marine as well as former Marine and now professional angler, Joe Kowalski, who also took out a wounded Marine veteran.
After a quick briefing following registration the 37 teams were launched at 6:00AM sharp. Adding a unique twist to the standard team tournament was the opportunity to weigh in a big bass during three specific hours of the tournament. The heaviest bass weighed in during each of these periods would win the lucky team a generous sponsor award.
Poster and Marine, Larry Draughn who is one of the double amputees, won the first hourly award with a largemouth that weighed 3.18 pounds. That bass won Larry and Joby a St. Croix Legend fishing rod courtesy of Susquehanna Fishing Tackle. They were also fortunate enough to claim the second time frame with a real nice bass that weighed 4.23 pounds. They received an Optimum Marine battery as a reward.
Jack Rinkers and Marine, Jon Rist, also a double amputee, won the final hourly prize with a 2.14 pound bass. Watching Jon masterfully skip a 10” plastic worm under the docks into the smallest of areas left no doubt he could compete on tour with the “big boys.” The team received a $500 gift certificate toward a Power Pole anchoring system. They promptly sold the certificate following the awards ceremony and graciously donated the money to the Marines Helping Marines organization.
A multitude of prizes awaited all of the teams following the competition, including several amongst the Marines themselves. Soon the winners would be revealed as the first flight was scheduled to arrive back to the weigh-in station at the Nauti Goose at 1:30 PM.
The growing throng of spectators was treated to incredible sounds of the Pennsylvania band, “Gone Crazy”. They performed renditions of several Top 40 and classic songs that had the crowd dancing and singing along, all which heightened the excitement in anticipation of the weigh in ceremonies.
After the teams had arrived safely and on time at the Nauti Goose, a tribute to the Marines was offered by the Harford County Young Marines under the direction of Young Marines Staff Sgt. Nicholas White. They presented colors as the National Anthem followed by the Marines Hymm was played. Very few dry eyes were visible in the huge crowd.
The scales were declared open and the teams who were fortunate enough to catch at least one bass began carrying them to the weigh station. Each team was permitted to weigh in a limit of five large and smallmouth bass that must measure at least 15” in length. In addition, our injured Marines were allowed to weigh in a small bass and a large bass as awards would be presented to the winners in each of these categories.
Several beautiful largemouth exceeding 5 pounds were carried through the weigh-in line which included two 100 gallon tanks with aerated systems designed to circulate water in order to keep the bass alive.
As the final team finished weighing in their bass, the tournament organizers began the task of calculating the results including all of awards to be presented.
During this period the wounded Marines lined up to be the first to partake of the magnificent BarBeQue compliments of the Nauti Goose. On the menu were burgers, hot dogs, pulled pork BBQ, crab cakes, and all of the sides and fixin’s you could imagine. This was also the perfect opportunity for contestants and spectators alike to take advantage of purchasing uniquely designed military apparel from Devil Dog Graphix.
Mare Marine displayed a new Bass Cat Pantera II which drew lots of interest from the entire crowd. Rita’s of North East, MD was on hand providing their signature “Rita’s Ice” desert to the parched crowd. They were generous to contribute 100% of their proceeds to the Marines Helping Marines organization.
The many sponsors of the tournament donated tons of quality prizes which included fishing gear, baseball tickets, sunglasses, apparel, and more. Pro Angler Dave Wolak masterfully oversaw the duties of the raffle and everyone left happy.
The anticipation mounted as the final results were ready to be announced. Local PA Pro Bill McDonaugh and injured Marine partner Seth Stanford finished the competition with the lowest weight but were rewarded handsomely for their efforts. They received a new St. Croix Legend rod courtesy of Susquehanna Fishing Tackle for recording the lowest weight of the tournament. Mare Marine representing Bass Cat Boats presented Seth with a check for $250 for catching the smallest bass weighed in by a Marine.
Retired Marine, Jamie Andries, paired with pro Jason Strozier and was the Marine who weighed in the largest bass, also good for $250. Jamies’s bass weighed 5.77 pounds.
Pro angler, Joe Kowalski was paired with Marine, Shawn Dial the competition’s sole single leg amputee. They had a great tournament weighing in five bass that totaled 16.21 pounds. As the second highest finishing Marine, Sean won a brand new Nintendo Wii entertainment system complete with accessories generously donated by Cecil County Tourism and the North East WalMart.
Jason Strozier of Camber Corporation, one of the event sponsors, and Jamie Andries were the highest finishing “Team Marine” with 16.74 pounds. As the winning Marine Jamie is the lucky recipient of a one week vacation in Cancun! Tournament organizer Joby Poster announced that they were hopeful that enough money would be raised from the raffle to provide airline tickets.
The Big Bass Pot was optional and some teams chose not to enter perhaps because they had not located any big bass in practice. John Vanore and Ryan Bauman captured the second place Big Bass Award of the tournament with a giant 5.63 largemouth bass. They pocketed $145 in cash.
Donald Haskins and Marine partner Brandon Long, also a double amputee bagged the lunker of the tournament, a 5.76 pound bass that was fooled by a Jackall Flickshake. They were awarded $290 and had a great day on the water.
With 37 teams participating in the tournament, three places were paid via a 1-in 10 payback format. Finishing just out of the money with 18.78 pounds were Mike Browning and Ernie Leiphart. They experienced a breakdown during the day and, per tournament rules, Ernie and their fish caught a ride back with another tournament competitor.
Their luck was not all bad, however as they won two free passes to The Bass University, generously donated by touring bass pro Pete Gluszek. The Bass University offers everyone a chance to meet with top professionals who not only open up and share information on tackle selection, lure presentation, and techniques, but also allow one-on-one interaction with the attendees. This is a cherished prize!
Finishing overall in 3rd place were George Short and Tommy Turner who carried a giant limit of 5 bass to the scales which weighed 19.64 pounds. George and Tommy collected $500.
The team in second place finished just ahead with 19.91 pounds. Tony Osborne and Jason Hash had an excellent day on the Upper Chesapeake and for their efforts won $900. Bob from Mare Marine representing Bass Cat Boats presented Tony and Jason an additional $250 as the highest finishing team participating in a Bass Cat boat. That gave them an overall payday of $1150. In a very honorable gesture, Tony and Jason donated $400 of their winnings to help pay for Jamie’s airline tickets to Cancun! Classy move, guys!
Claiming victory was the only team to exceed the 20 pound barrier. John Vanore and Ryan Bauman carried a huge bag of bass to the scales. The digital numbers finally rested at 21.27 pounds, more than enough to declare them champions. Counting their second place big bass prize, John and Ryan’s winnings totaled $1805. They graciously offered to donate $600 to Jamie’s airline fare purchase also.
Also, a big “shout-out’ goes to Walt Ross who rescued 2 tournament boats in distress, towing them back to the marina, and Danny Rodriguez and Eric McNulty who gave Mike and Ernie along with their fish a ride back to weigh-in. Thanks also to Nauti Gooses’ own Anthony Harvey who skillfully handled the measuring and weighing of the bass.
A tournament of this magnitude could not have been accomplished without sponsor support. Marines Helping Marines wishes to thank Sandy Turner and Cecil County Tourism for promotional efforts that were second to none. They are always a class act when it comes to hosting tournament events on the Upper Bay.
Appreciation is also extended to, but not limited to Susquehanna Fishing Tackle, Anchor Marina, the Nauti Goose Restaurant, the Mariner Magazine, Camber and Jason Strozier, Hollywood Casino, Mare Marine, and Bass Cat Boats, Bass Pro Shops and Cabela’s.
Plans are already underway for the 2012, 4th Annual Marines Helping Marines tournament.