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Fishing For Freedom 2009

Kevin VanDam

Quantum pro staffer Gary Klein and a former Army point man teamed up to win the 6th annual Fishing for Freedom bass tournament held recently on Texas' Lake Belton.

Klein was one of more than 200 bass anglers from across the Lone Star State who volunteered to take active duty or retired military men and women fishing in this annual tribute to America's real life heroes. Central Texas Marine Dealers Inc., in cooperation with the United States Army MWR at Fort Hood, Texas, hosted the event.

"Fishing for Freedom is one way that our community may say thank you to those who have, and continue to put, their lives on the line for our country," said Cliff Brown, owner and general manager of Texas Boat World in Killeen, Texas. "Our desire is to offer a guided fishing experience to every interested soldier."

Rick Smith, president of the Central Texas Marine Dealers group and owner of Marine Outlet in Temple, Texas, added, "The only thing a soldier needs to participate is the desire. Texas’ bass fishermen, along with community, state and national sponsors, provide the resources."

In the event, each military participant is paired by drawing with a seasoned bass angler who has volunteered his or her time, boat, fuel, equipment and expertise. The 2009 tournament attracted a record-setting field of 230 registered boat entries, among which were 114 that carried a soldier partner.

The 114 teams weighed in a total of 232 bass for a cumulative weight of 464 pounds. Klein and partner Clayton Carver, a retired 1st Calvary Division soldier, topped them all with their five fish limit weighing 15.6 pounds. The accomplishment earned the team the tournament’s top prize, a $19,000 Triton bass boat with Mercury outboard.

"This was a wonderful experience," Klein said. "I'm so humbled to be in the presence of this group; I mean, they’ve sacrificed so much for us to be able to live the way we do in this country."

"Clayton was a great fishing partner. I can only imagine what he's been through in his two tours to Iraq. He is a true American hero."

Carver, 28, has aspirations to become a professional bass angler. It's a goal he set after recovering from a rocket-propelled grenade that exploded against his vest's back plate while in Iraq in 2006. The injuries led to his medical discharge from the Army.

Klein was pleased to have the opportunity to help Carver jumpstart his fishing career with the coaching lesson on the water and the resulting prize earnings.