More than two dozen severely wounded military veterans will participate in a bass fishing tournament that has become an annual event and one of the most looked forward to events by professional anglers nationally.
On Armed Force Day, Saturday, May 17, two former Marines will continue their yearly tradition of pairing wounded veterans with professional anglers in hopes of lifting each others’ spirits by providing them with a relaxing and therapeutic day out on the water.
The event was created by Joby Poster, a semi-professional angler who served in the Marine Corps during Operation Desert Storm and Eric Kowal, a former Marine who now works as a civilian employee for the Army. The two are natives of north eastern Pennsylvania have been putting the tournament on for six years now.
The 6th annual Marines Helping Marines Fishing Tournament promises to be the largest one to date and will be the first year that a team of wounded warriors will pair up together to compete against everyone else.
Corporal Larry Draughn Jr., is one of the wounded warriors who has competed in the tournament every year since its inception in 2009 except for the fifth annual event. Draughn participated just five weeks after losing both of his legs and two fingers when he stepped on an improvised explosive device in Afghanistan.
Now, Kowal and Poster could not be more proud of their life-long friend. Draughn is now officially a professional bass fisherman and has received major sponsorships through his commitment to the sport, the reason he was unable to attend last year.
Draughn will be back this year and will be paired with the tournament’s first ever female double amputee, Marissa Strock.
“You do not need to have any experience fishing,” Kowal said. “Marissa told me she does not fish, which is why I am pairing her with Larry. They have the same injuries, and if anyone can show her the ropes, it is him. I have 100% confidence that they will be a threat to contend with.”
Last year nearly every Marine that participated was either a single-leg or double-leg amputee. Over the years, a wounded veteran from each of the branches of Armed-Forces has participated in the event.
Professional anglers like Dave Wolak, Pat Golden, Pete Gluszek, Joe Kowalski, Mike Kaminskas and many more all donate their time to giving these heroes the proper instruction they need and possibly help find them a new found hobby.
The equipment the veterans will be using has been donated by various companies to include but not limited to the Hook Up Tackle, Bass Pro Shops, Cabela’s, and Wacky Worm.
Sponsors have come in many forms Kowal said, not just in cash donations.
“We have companies donating potato chips, sunscreen, bug repellant, some donating prizes, and some providing discounts. Every little bit helps,” Kowal said.
Kowal said the veterans get to keep all the equipment they are provided and that they will be receiving gifts for participation as well.
Travel, lodging, meals and gifts for the wounded veterans are being paid for by donations made to this event.
Kowal said “We are trying to give these heroes and their families one weekend out of the hospital so they can meet new friends, have a good time and in the process, help raise funds to benefit other wounded veterans.
Check-in time for the tournament is at 4:30 a.m. and the boats will launch from the Anchor Marina in North East, MD at 6 a.m. and return at 1 p.m. for the official weigh-ins.
A barbeque which is open for all who attend will begin at 1 p.m. at the Nauti Goose Restaurant at the Marina. The cost is $10 per adult, $3 for children. Entertainment will be provided.
There is a quick one-minute video of the tournament at the below link. You can help by sharing
Because there is an 80 boat maximum on the water it is best to pre-register for the tournament. The tournament is open to the public and anyone with a Maryland state fishing license and a boat with a live-well can participate