The Leavenworth Bass Club will host its sixth annual Fishing for Freedom (F3) event presented by The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) local 124, NECA/IBEW Power Partners, and The International Brotherhood of Boilermakers at Truman Lake on 11 and 12 October 2014. Fishing for Freedom is modeled after other fishing tournaments; anglers are paired, there is a blast off at a designated start time, competitors go fishing for a certain amount of time, and at the end of the day a weigh-in is conducted to decide the winners. But that is where F3 and other bass tournament similarities end. F3 is an all volunteer event which pairs local and regional anglers with Global War on Terrorism (GWOT) veterans and wounded warrior participants from all over the United States. This event is all about having a good time in the outdoors in an attempt to give back to these Heroes and show them how much we appreciate their service and sacrifice; but, most of all, it’s the smiles, laughter, cherished memories, and new friendships that endure.
F3 provides everything the warriors need to enjoy the weekend except transportation to Truman Lake. F3 was only capable of providing this opportunity to 30 warriors at its inaugural event in 2009. But thanks to an outpouring of volunteerism and sponsor support in the following years F3 grew to providing over 120 warriors per year this experience from 2011-2013 with over 200 currently registered for 2014. The official F3 activities begin with a pretournament banquet on Saturday afternoon and culminate with a buddy bass tournament and BBQ on Sunday. Every warrior participant receives a rod and reel and tackle box full of tackle from event sponsors. Plaques are presented to the top teams as well as Big Bass and Big Fish awards. Meals are provided for both warriors and volunteers beginning with the Saturday evening dinner, breakfast Sunday morning, and an after weigh-in BBQ on Sunday afternoon. Additionally, our sponsors provide the weekends lodging for all of our warrior participants. This event is only possible because of the over 250 volunteers annually that make it happen. In 2013 these warriors came from all over the Midwest including Kansas, Missouri, Arkansas, Louisiana, Texas, Illinois, Iowa, and Nebraska, .
Warriors begin arriving on Friday afternoon and check-in to their lodging. The banquet and pre-tournament meeting on Saturday afternoon begins the official F3 program. At the pre-tournament check-in warriors receive their gift bags and are paired with volunteer boaters for Sunday’s day of fishing. But that’s not the only highlight of the evening; a great meal is provided by Chuck Wagon BBQ of Warsaw, Mo. A guest speaker provides comments and tributes to the warriors and after some fellowship, entertainment, and raffle the participants head off to make their last minute pretournament preparations.
On Sunday, the warriors and their assigned boaters meet up before daylight for a buffet breakfast provided by Long Shoal Marina. As dawn breaks, the site of wide eyes in patriotic dress adorns a field of eager anglers as the national anthem rings across the water. As the parade of boats pass through the launch point and anglers head out for their day of fishing, the physical and psychological challenges from multiple combat tours are not the thoughts on the warrior’s minds this day. F3 provides these heroes an opportunity to forget about the last deployment or next therapy session and focus on catching fish and having fun.
America’s warriors have made enormous sacrifices to defend our freedom and the Leavenworth Bass Club feels that hosting this weekend for these warriors is the least they can do to say “Thank You.” F3 relies totally on organizations and volunteers to donate their time, money, and resources to provide these warriors with this experience. With up to 200 warriors expected to participate in the 2014, finding boat owners in these tough economic times who can dedicate a weekend to take a hero fishing can be challenging. If you are a boat owner and would like to volunteer to take a warrior fishing or you would like to support the Fishing for Freedom event in some other way, please visit our website at http://fishingforfreedom.us for additional information.