Bass anglers take military veterans fishing
The local Wisconsin Alliance of Bass Tournament Anglers (WABTA) just finished its best tournament despite the payouts not scratching the surface for their highest purse. Didn’t matter, this event wasn’t about cash. It was about getting wounded military vets on the water to escape, even for just a few hours, whatever scars they have from time in active duty.
The event took place on Pewaukee Lake and had one of the largest weights of any tournament the circuit has held at a six-bass limit of 29.33 pounds.
The vets came from The Wounded Warriors in Action, which gets vets, particularly those with emotional, mental and physical wounds that need healing, in the woods and on the water.
Ryan Chuckel, of Delafield, took seventh with his WWIA partner and Purple Heart recipient, Matt Tennessen.
“What an honor to spend time with a vet who gave so much for us,” he said. “My partner had gone through one year of his life in Afghanistan that will affect him for each and every day for the rest of his life. I’d like to think we both forgot about our problems for at least one day.”
Chuckel said it was a great experience in educating his partner on tournament bass tactics.
“He caught on real fast,” he said. “We caught some really nice bass, including a smallmouth he landed that was almost 5 pounds.”
Tennessen, of Kaukauna, said that his time on the water was awesome.
“There’s no pill you can take to help you heal like I did on the water that day with Ryan,” he said.
Tennessen thinks that the tournament format is great for WWIA and predicts the WABTA event could end up being a yearly gig for the group.
“You could just tell the guys really wanted to be there for us,” he said. “I learned a ton about bass fishing and did techniques I had never heard of.”
Lt. Dylan Abler, of Sussex, served from 2008 through 2009 in the National Guard, and was awarded a Bronze Star and Combat Action Badge, while on tour.
“I had grown up hunting and fishing but consider myself a much better hunter than angler,” he said. “The amount of knowledge these guys have for bass fishing is amazing. There is so much more that goes into tournament angling than most people realize.”
Abler’s said the event helped rejuvenate him.
“I had to step away from the military for a while to gather myself,” he said. “When I was alerted of this event from Matt, it seemed like just the right thing to get me back to helping vets.”
Abler said that while many vets hunt or fish, most don’t participate in all aspects of hunting and fishing. This is something he wants to change.
“I am way more at home in a treestand than in a bass boat,” he said. “But I want to reach out to vets to contact the WWIA to get them to try different activities. Maybe they have never turkey hunted before? Why not try it? In fact, I think it is better to try out new activities than stick with the same old ones. The guys at WABTA are a class act and showed us a really good time.”