The team of Greg Lahr and the U.S. Air Force’s Phillip Henderson lured in a weight of 18 pounds, 14 ounces to top all competitors at the 7th Annual Warriors on the Water Military Appreciation Bass Fishing Tournament Friday at Jordan Lake, near Holly Springs, N.C.
The team of Tony Armstrong and Zachary Allison won the Staff Sgt. Robert J. Miller Big Fish Award after snagging a largemouth bass that weighed in at 7 pounds, 0.2 ounces.
The big fish award was named after Staff Sgt. Robert J. Miller, U.S. Special Forces, who was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions in Afghanistan in 2008.
Lahr, along with Warriors on the Water president, Hal Abshire and Bob Montgomery, is one of the tournament’s co-founders. He said he was pleased with the way the tournament has grown, despite the fact that it was originally supposed to be a day of fishing for less than 10 servicemembers, who recently returned from a deployment in 2005.
“We started this thing out the first year, thinking we were going to take six Soldiers out and we ended up with 50 and now we’re up to 150 every year. Along with about 75 or so volunteers, it just gets bigger and better every year.
“We’re just going to keep running this thing. We’re going to try to get a couple of big names from the fishing industry, maybe Kevin Van Damme will come back again and we’re going to run it the same that we do here and I guarantee it will be just as good,” Lahr said.
Lahr and Abshire said they recalled the joy that it brought the initial group and they all decided to do it again the following year. Each year the event expanded until the decision was made to limit it to 150 servicemembers and their boaters, Abshire said.
“That’s something we would’ve never believed. This was supposed to be a one-day tournament, but it’s hard to believe that it has grown as big as it has and how far people are coming now, to be a part of this,” Abshire explained. “It’s just unbelievable right now, what people are doing.”
“I think this one went even better than previous ones. We have the sponsors, who help as sponsors, but they’ve been here to help as well. The volunteers have been here and they’re working even more. They know what to do and no one has to tell them what to do, they’re pitching in and it’s unbelievable. Everyone is becoming old hands at this. It’s really, really working great right now,” he said.
Abshire explained that one of the volunteer-sponsors flew in from Texas just to be a part of this year’s Warriors on the Water tournament.
“I think it really speaks volumes of the event itself because everybody knows what the theme is. The theme is not about us, it’s about the military men and women and I think you get this group of dedicated people that we have right now, it couldn’t go as strongly if they didn’t believe in what they were doing,” he said. “I think that’s the big thing — they all believe in what they’re doing and that really helps so much. It’s that strong, patriotic theme behind this, which is to thank the American men and women who are fighting for our country.”
Each year, more anglers, some of them professionals travel from around the country just to be a part of Warriors on the Water, Abshire said.
Bass Pro Randy Yarnell participated in his fifth WoW tournament and he said he plans to continue that tradition.
“I’ve been enjoying it every year and every year, it’s a little different. My wife and I will continue to come as long as they allow us to keep coming,” he said.
“Just giving back to the fellas, to the ladies, to the service people who give their lives and livelihood to the country to give us a chance to do what we do and what we enjoy, our hat is off to them. Anything we can do for them, we will do,” said Yarnell, who hails from the Harrisburg, Pa. area.
Yarnell was partnered with Sgt. Jeremy Lewis, a Soldier assigned to Fort Bragg.
This was Lewis’ first Warriors on the Water tournament.
“I had a blast, Randy’s a great guy and I am thankful to be here,” he said. “I would like to do it again next year, if I can get in.”
According to Abshire, the volunteers always make a huge difference in the event and the list of individual volunteers continues to grow.
“We’ve had volunteers come from as far as Pennsylvania and Texas. We’ve had fishermen come from as far as Indiana, Pennsylvania and all the way down to the tip of Florida. It’s been awesome,” Abshire said.
He explained that the total number of fishing teams has been capped at 150 because it’s easier to manage.
Abshire said his theory, when it comes to Warriors on the Water is, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”
“You know, the smiles say it all. Especially the ones what have never ridden on a boat before and then they say I can’t wait to go again,” he said. “Just to catch the smiles on their faces is why we continue to do this.”