Having staged a successful tournament at Savannah’s Lake Mayer, the Bass Anglers Plus is casting toward Effingham County for its next event.
The organization will hold a “Take a Soldier Fishing” tournament Oct. 4 at Griffin Lake. The event is free and open to the public.
“They had been doing a fishing tournament in Chatham County, and they want to bring it up here,” county zoning director George Shaw said. “This is the first year of what they hope will go on for many years.”
The group has been hosting fishing tournaments in Chatham and Hartwell, S.C., since 2004, said Bubba Stephens. They started raising money in 2008 for the Make-A-Wish Foundation.
“It’s just a way to give back,” he said. “We have a lot of bass fishermen, and we challenge each other weekly to get out there and beat each other.”
With so many soldiers returning from combat duty in Iraq and Afghanistan suffering from physical and mental or emotional wounds, the group decided to do a fundraiser for veterans.
“So in 2009, I started making a few phone calls,” Stephens said. “In 2009, we looked at liability of taking wounded soldiers from the Warrior Transition Battalion at Fort Stewart and taking them to Hardeeville, S.C., for a showcase and just thanking these military guys and gals for keeping our country free.”
The liability, however, was too great, Stephens said, since some of the high-performance bass boats can travel close to 100 mph. They asked Chatham County to use Lake Mayer for the first event in 2011 and hosted one in April.
“It’s been a huge success,” he said.
For the Effingham County event, Bass Anglers Plus will pair 12 members of the Georgia Army National Guard’s 1/118th Field Artillery Battalion A Battery based in Springfield with experienced anglers for the day.
“We’re going to take 12 soldiers from the 118th and we’re going to spoil them for the day,” Stephens said.
Griffin Lake was chosen because it is a body of water large enough to accommodate the large bass boats. The boats also are big enough to allow its occupants to stand during the several hours they will be fishing.
“Our goal is to try to host it at Griffin Lake. It will allow us to use the big boats,” Stephens said. “You want to be able to stand and walk around. That’s why we use the larger boats.”
The event will run from 7 a.m.-3 p.m., and fishing will cease at 1 p.m. Stephens said they estimated there will be from 100-120 people in attendance, and they don’t want to grow to the point where they are hindering the neighbors and causing problems.
Stephens said they also want to have every soldier from the unit participate, but they can only have 12 at a time.
“So it’s going to take us quite a few years,” he said.
The organization is pushing to have live entertainment and there will be a motorcycle ride from Griffin Lakes Road into the park. Susie-Stephens-Harvey from the National League of POW/MIA Families, whose brother has been missing in action since 1967, will speak to the group. Stephens said her brother’s plane was found two years ago but the government has been unable to investigate the crash site in Southeast Asia.
There also will be events for children and the families on dry land. No alcohol is allowed, and the group does not take sponsorships from alcohol or tobacco companies.
“It takes a lot of effort and participation,” Stephens said. “We’re doubling the effort we put into the event at Lake Mayer.”
Prizes will be awarded and money raised at the event will stay in the area, Stephens said, with proceeds being donated to the unit family readiness group and the Disabled American Veterans of Effingham County. The tournament will be catch and release, for the fish that are caught.
“Fishing is a challenge,” Stephens said. “They don’t call it catching — they call it fishing.”
Take A Soldier Fishing
• When: Oct. 4
• Where: Griffin Lake
• Who: Bass Anglers Plus, Inc., and members of A Battery, 1/118 Field Artillery Battaltion
• About: The event will be held from 7 a.m.-3 p.m., with soldiers paired with experienced bass anglers for a day of catch-and-release fishing. Other events will be held on dry land for families and others.
• For more: visit www.takeasoldierfishing-ga.org.