Military personnel and fishermen from across the southeast participated in an icebreaker for the 12th Annual Military Appreciation Bass Fishing Tournament at Sports USA, May 3. The event, hosted by Warriors on the Water, allowed service members and anglers to get to know each other before participating in the tournament on Friday.

During the icebreaker, service members ate dinner at tables with the boaters who would take them out on Jordan Lake for the tournament. After dinner, Warriors on the Water dedicated the 2017 Big Bass Award to Master Sgt. Mark McCowan, a Special Forces Soldier who passed away in February.

McCowan participated in past Warriors on the Water events and won a tournament the organization held last fall. Warriors on the Water organizers stressed the importance of the award, given to the team that catches the largest bass.

“Know that you will be receiving an award that not only honors a husband and a father, but a Soldier who lived the warrior ethos, and also, yes, a fisherman,” said Hillary “Gus” Luton, vice president, Warriors on the Water.

Professional anglers participating in the tournament expressed their appreciation for Fort Bragg Soldiers.

“America is in good hands because we’ve got the best in the world that we’re strapped to, all of you, and if it weren’t for you guys, we wouldn’t be able to do anything in this country,” said Shaw Grigsby, professional fisherman. “I’ll never be able to do enough to thank you for what you do to protect us.”

Soldiers said they looked forward to the tournament.

“I’m just excited to get out on the water with these guys. I’m grateful they are taking the time to do this,” said Brant Lucier, a Fort Bragg Soldier.