During the 22nd annual American Bass Anglers Military Team Bass Championship, military fishermen will be fishing for bragging rights and a trip to fish the legendary lakes created by bass fishing icon and owner of the Trophy Bass Retreat, Ray Scott.
Any active duty military or Coast Guard member, Department of Defense civilian, retired military member, honorably discharged veteran, military family members at least 16 years old and Department of Defense contractors can participate. Angling teams of two people pay $150 per team to enter, if the team registers today. The entry fee will rise to $175 on Friday. Anglers can also enter an optional big bass pot for $30 per team with the hope of collecting cash rewards for landing lunkers. Each team may weigh in up to five bass per day. Registration is open and can be done at www.militarybassanglers.com or via phone at 1-888-203-6222.
After three days, the team with the largest bag will win a three-night/four-day fishing adventure to Ray Scott’s Trophy Bass Retreat. The legendary trophy bass lakes will offer two lucky anglers the opportunity to fish in the wake of presidents, first ladies and fishing superstars like Kevin Van Dam, Rick Clunn, Roland Martin and Bill Dance — all amidst 200 acres of live oak, Spanish moss and whitetail deer — courtesy of Early Times Kentucky Whiskey.
In addition, one lucky person will win a seven-day vacation to any destination in the world served by the Armed Forces Vacation Club in a drawing. Other high placing tournament finishers will receive cash prizes based upon the total number of entries.
The actual tournament will begin on Wednesday, May 2 at first safe light. The public is invited to attend the weigh-ins, which begin at 3 p.m. each tournament day at the Smith Lake Dam Launch Area.
“We are very excited to host the American Bass Anglers Military Team Bass Championship and to invite the country’s most avid military bass anglers and their families to our community,” said Linda Lewis, president of the Chamber of Commerce of Walker County. “The direct economic impact alone of these events makes this a wise investment to our area.”
In addition to the tournament, the BAMA Girls USO Show Troupe, made up of former Miss Alabama winners, will entertain anglers during a free show at 7 p.m. on Monday, April 30 at the Community Health Systems Activites Center in downtown Jasper. The public is invited to the free, patriotic event.
“This will be the third tournament for myself and Chief Petty Officer Bob Hughes,” said Jason Ray, a Senior Chief Petty Officer in the U.S. Navy. “We fished Dale Hollow, Eufaula and now Smith Lake. I grew up fishing on the Ohio River and other lakes and rivers throughout Kentucky. My father and I always fished together and still do every chance we get. I’m looking forward to the camaraderie and, of course, the competition of the tournament. It is always a blast to meet other members of the Armed Forces, no matter what branch, and discuss the passion of fishing and also take time to relax and reflect. This is the greatest tournament going.”
Ray and his wife, Stephanie, and their three children (Haley, Nathan and Nicholas) are stationed at Point Loma, Calif. They are originally from Louisville, Ky.
Fishing in his first Military Bass Anglers tourney is U.S. Marine Corps Staff Sergeant Joseph Cusimano, who is stationed at Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek-Fort Story, located in Virginia Beach. Cusimano, who calls Ragley, La., his hometown, has fished his entire life.
“My earliest memories of fishing are with my father and my grandmother who took me quite often,” he said. “I’m excited over fishing on a brand new body of water I’ve never been to. It will certainly test my skills as an angler. I don’t think there is a word in any dictionary to define how pumped I am to fish this event.”
Cusimano’s wife, Orathay, served 14 years in the Navy, where they met. They have three children: 13-year-old Tristen, Charlease, 7, and, the youngest, Joseph Jr., who is 3. Joseph grew up in Lake Charles.
For Major Mike Rasco participating in this tournament will give him the opportunity to return home and fish on waters he fished as a boy. Growing up in Birmingham, he grew up fishing Lay and Smith Lakes.
“My dad was also the first person that ever took me fishing. One of my greatest experiences has been to take my father-in-law on some of these events and exposing him to multi-day tournaments. This will be my fourth MBA event, and I am so pumped and looking forward to catching spotted bass. This time will be special for me as I get to spend time with my family.”
Rasco, who serves as Battalion Executive Officer at Fort Polk, La., and his wife, Merry, have three children - Audrey, 7, Mattie, 4 and 18-month-old Fisher.