HARTFORD, Conn. — Military veterans got to weigh in their fish on the B.A.S.S. Nation stage during the Sports Association’s Tournament of Champions Veterans Fishing Tournament, Sept. 15, 2015, on the Connecticut River.
The B.A.S.S. Nation crew happened to be in Hartford that week for the Eastern Divisional, so Jon Stewart, B.A.S.S. Nation director, offered the use of the B.A.S.S. weigh-in trailer for the veterans tournament.
“Everything was all set up for the divisional, and we were pleased that we were able to let the veterans come across the B.A.S.S. stage and experience that,” said Stewart, who also served as the weighmaster for the veterans.
“Any time we get a chance to do something with the veterans, we jump at that opportunity.”
Tournament organizer Joe Kowalski was appreciative of the B.A.S.S. crew donating the use of the trailer.
“It was really cool of them to do that,” said Kowalski, a retired Marine Corps veteran and member of the Connecticut Black Bass Anglers club.
The tournament, in its fourth year, was hosted by the Sports Association of Gaylord Hospital, in collaboration with the Connecticut B.A.S.S. Nation (CBN), the Major Steven Roy Andrews Fishing Outreach Program for veterans (also run by Kowalski) and Riverfront Recapture.
Helping Kowalski with the tournament were Sylvia Morris, Connecticut B.A.S.S. Nation president and Al Guite. Guite is the secretary of the Connecticut B.A.S.S. Nation and also the vice president of the Major Steven Roy Andrews Fishing Outreach Program.
The event drew 14 disabled veterans paired with CBN members serving as volunteer boat captains.
“They get to experience what I think is the best therapy on the planet,” Kowalski said of the veterans participating in the tournament.
Marine Lance Corporal Justin Johnson, who served for a year in Iraq, agreed with Kowalski about the tournament’s therapeutic value.
“Fishing is my therapy,” Johnson said. “I love fishing, and I love the anglers we get paired with.”
The veterans and their boat captains got to fish for six hours to catch a five-fish limit. The tournament rules required that at least two of each team’s fish had to be caught by the veteran. An awards luncheon was held after the weigh-in.
Veteran Ed Dusick and his boat captain Jerry Hammond won the 2015 event. The other veterans and their boat captains who finished in the Top 5 were John Gendreau and Dean Rustic, second place; Keith Adams and Mike Shay, third; Rob Germain and Keith Delehanty, fourth; and Chris Maschi and Matt Desimone, fifth.