It is the most well-attended fishing event in Central Texas each year. It is the annual Fishing for Freedom bass tournament, and it will be taking place Oct. 7-8.
Fishing for Freedom is a military appreciation bass tournament. It is a way for the community to say “thank you” to our military for their service and sacrifice. It serves as a way to offer fellowship and assist in building friendships within the Fort Hood community while introducing the men and women of all branches of our military to the joys of the Texas outdoors through a competitive fishing tournament.
It all started over 10 years ago when Mike Mennor, who was at that time the director of Belton Lake Outdoor Recreation Area (BLORA), came to Rick Smith, President of the Central Texas Marine Association to see if CTMA and its members would consider hosting a military bass tournament at BLORA.
CTMA agreed that it was a great concept and the idea developed into what is now known as Fishing for Freedom, a part of Take a Soldier Fishing, Inc., which is a bona fide 501(c)(3) charity.
Over its history, Fishing for Freedom has had over 3,000 military personnel wet a line, with some coming from as far away as Washington, South Carolina, and Florida.
This year, the expected draw is approximately 600 fishermen, including 300 boaters who may be civilian or military. These boaters will escort another 300 nonboaters which are active duty or retired military, and provide them with a platform to fish from.
The stakes are high this year. The two-person team that brings in the heaviest five-fish weight of black bass (largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, and/or spotted bass) will win a 2017 Triton 189 TRX bass boat and 150 horsepower Mercury Outboard motor, with a total package value of $28,800. All teams will receive a goodie-bag of donated items, including Strike King Lures.
Each year, the list of donors and sponsors, most of whom are local, grows. This year’s sponsors include Triton Boats, Mercury Marine, Academy Sports & Outdoors, Line-X of Harker Heights, Texas Boat World, Lend Leasing, Marine Outlet, Strike King Lures, The Directorate of Family, Morale, Welfare and Recreation and Belton Lake Outdoor Recreation Area.
Just putting on the dinner alone is no small nor inexpensive feat. The barbecue dinner is expected to draw over 1,200 people. It will take place Friday evening, Oct. 7, at the Killeen Civic & Conference Center. Doors will open at 3 p.m, fishing and boating seminars will start at approximately 4:45 and dinner will start at 6:30. Guests of participants are welcome at a cost of $10 per person. There will be a Kids’ Zone sponsored by Chick-filA and the Troy Leo Club.
B.A.S.S. Elite pro angler Casey Ashley is scheduled to speak at the dinner. Country singer Craig Wayne Boyd is also slated to participate. There will also be a number of quality, outdoor-related raffle and auction items on the block.
The rubber hits the road at BLORA on Saturday, Oct. 8. Each of the fishing teams will have a starting number based on when they registered. The teams will start at safe daylight, which should be around 7 a.m. Teams may launch at any available open ramps on Lake Belton. Weigh-in will begin at 1 p.m. at BLORA and continue until completed.
There is still time to participate. Both boaters and nonboaters who want to get in on the fun may register by going to www.fishingforfreedom.org.
There is no cost to any tournament participants.