The eighth annual Fishing for Freedom bass tournament is in danger of a last-minute cancellation due to closed boat ramps at Fort Hood’s Belton Lake Outdoor Recreation Area.
Locked gates at all U.S. Army Corps of Engineers-controlled lakes are blocking access to boat ramps across the country and Belton Lake is no exception, according to a statement from Fishing for Freedom organizers.
“We are doing all we can to get the ramps open,” said Rick Smith, board member for the nonprofit. The group is working closely with corps officials to get permission to allow volunteers to man the ramps, Smith said, though no decision has been made.
The event, scheduled to run Oct. 18-19, is designed to “honor our military and allow boaters to get to know military families,” Smith said.
There are currently 378 service members registered, said Cliff Brown, a fellow board member and retired warrant officer.
“The tournament keeps me connected with the soldiers. More than half of the registered soldiers are wounded warriors, and 57 of them are Purple Heart recipients,” Brown said.
If all goes as planned, the tournament will kick off with a celebratory barbecue banquet Oct. 18 featuring an appearance by professional angler Shaw Grigsby, host of ESPN’s “One More Cast.”
The fishing tournament will begin the following morning. Boating pairs will compete to win a Triton fishing boat worth $25,000. The top 20 places all receive cash prizes.
Organizers are still registering boaters, who will pair up with active-duty or retired military to fish in teams. There is no cost to enter. Registration can be completed online at www.fishingforfreedom.org or by calling 254-699-9151.
The decision on whether to move forward with the tournament will be made Tuesday, which is also the final day to register.