This is the biggest bass fishing event in Central Texas, bar none. It is the annual Fishing for Freedom bass tournament, and it will be taking place on October 23-24.

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 to 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 then the director of Belton Lake Outdoor Recreation Area, came to Rick Smith, President of the Central Texas Marine Association, to see if CTMA would consider hosting a military bass tournament at BLORA. CTMA agreed and the idea developed into what is now known as Fishing for Freedom, a part of Take a Soldier Fishing, which is a bona fide 501(c)(3) charity.

Over its history, Fishing for Freedom has seen over 2,700 military personnel wet a line, with some coming from as far away as Washington, South Carolina, and Florida to do so.

This year the expected draw is approximately 600 fishermen, including 300 boaters who may be civilian or military. These boaters will escort another 300 non-boaters who 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 will win a new Triton Boat and Mercury outboard motor with a total package value of $29,700. All teams will receive a goodie-bag of donated items including commemorative hats, T-shirts, and fishing tackle.

Each year the list of donors and sponsors, most of whom are local, grows.

Just putting on the dinner alone is no small nor inexpensive feat. The barbecue dinner is expected to draw 1,000 people. It will take place Friday evening, Oct. 23, at the Killeen Convention Center. Doors will open at 3 p.m; fishing and boating seminars will start at 5 p.m. and dinner will start at 6:30. Guests of participants are welcome at $10 per ticket. There will be a Kids’ Zone, too. Elite pro angler and winner of the Bassmaster Classic in 2014, Randy Howell, is scheduled to speak at the dinner. Bassmaster Elite angler Gary Klein is also slated to participate.

The rubber hits the road at BLORA on Saturday. Each of the fishing teams have a starting number based on when they registered. The teams will start at safe daylight, which should be around 7 a.m. on Oct. 24. 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 non-boaters who want to get in on the fun may register by going to www.fishingforfreedom.org. There is no cost to any tournament participants.

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