For the second year in a row the North Georgia Crappie Anglers (NGCA) and Veterans 3 Guns teamed up on Saturday, Sept. 28 to host the Fishing with Military Heroes fishing tournament on Lake Lanier. The event was open to veterans of all conflicts and services and the NGCA provided everything needed to fish from boats to rods and reels.
After last year’s successful debut, event organizer Josh Thornton saw the opportunity to grow the event and reached out to a variety of community groups in an effort to allow as many people as possible to participate in this year’s tournament.
“We didn’t want to turn anybody away,” Thornton said. “We had 109 veterans participating, with about 20 on a waiting list, and 35 boat captains to take them out on the lake.”
NGCA president Woody Malone was impressed with the turn-out as he supervised the fish weigh-in at Bolding Mill Park where the veterans gathered for a BBQ lunch catered by Jim N’ Nicks BBQ.
“Just look around this place,” Malone said as he gestured towards the pavilions filled with people. “This is so much bigger than last year and, hopefully, next year it will be even bigger.”
Veterans 3 Guns, a Dawsonville based non-profit dedicated to preventing veteran suicide, has been a primary sponsor for the event for both years and representative Paul Van Oudheusden attributed the success of this year’s tournament to a very simple reason.
“Vets talk to vets,” Oudheusden said. “We had such good success last year, so this year I believe there was a lot of encouragement between them to come out this year.”
All three men also believed that the biggest reason for the increased turn-out was the involvement of the Wounded Warrior Project out of Atlanta, although outreach Sarah Barnett was quick to give the credit back to the members of the NGCA.
“Woody and Josh brought this to my attention, and they did the bulk of the work,” Barnett said. “but I did see this as an excellent opportunity for vets to socialize in a group that understands what they have been through.”
“Sometimes veterans isolate themselves,” Barnett continued. “This gives them the ability to come out and engage with the community.”
In addition to providing logistical support and transportation, the WWP also furnished every participant with a commemorative hat and t-shirt, as well as the plaques that were handed out to the teams that brought home the biggest fish in a variety of categories.
Although the contest was centered around crappie fishing, with awards for the largest single fish and the heaviest seven crappie awards were given for the largest striper, bass and catfish.
The big winner of the day, was Garfield White who captured the award for biggest crappie, 1 pound and 2 ounces, and, along with his team of Karl Friedrick, Nicholas Crayton and Don Williamson, also took home the award for the seven largest crappie with a total weight of 6 pounds and 4.2 ounces.
“This is only, like, my second- or third-time fishing,” White said. “We were fishing from the dock and I got really lucky. I dropped it in, and it got on the hook right away. It was the first one I caught.”
For more information on Veterans 3 Guns and their mission to prevent veteran suicide visit their website at www.veterans3guns.org.
For more information on the Wounded Warrior Project and the services they provide to post 9-11 veterans visit them at www.woundedwarriorproject.org.