The Northwest fishing club volunteered at Fishing for Freedom, an annual celebration to honor veterans with a weekend bass fishing tournament.
Fishing for Freedom was hosted by the Leavenworth Bass Club Oct. 5-7 on Truman Lake. This year was the organization’s 10th anniversary. The Northwest fishing club took 10 volunteers this year to the event, two of which participated as boaters.
Fishing Club President Logan Newlin and Tournament Director Nathan Itao both brought their own fishing boats and were able to volunteer as boaters this year. Newlin had one veteran in his boat for the bass tournament, and Itao had two veterans.
Around 170 veterans attended the bass tournament, each veteran was taken out by boat with an experienced bass angler for the tournament portion. Newlin said the start of the tournament was the most memorable and emotional for him.
“They have a boat that they take out there with a big flag in it, and they play the National Anthem while the sun is coming up,” Newlin said. “Some of the lines talking about land of the free, home of the brave, and it’s because of our military. There’s 170 veterans and some guys that are still currently in the military out there, you’ve got one guy in your boat, and it’s because of them that words like that are in the National Anthem.”
Itao said he volunteered because the Leavenworth Bass Club has helped out Northwest’s fishing club multiple times. He knew Fishing for Freedom is always in need of boaters, and he also wanted to show his respect to the veterans for serving the country.
“It was awesome,” Itao said. “I got paired up with two guys. They wanted me to call them by their nicknames. One was Willy because he only had one eye. One was Crispy because he was burned down from his mid-chest to his feet.”
The bass tournament had a five fish weigh-in limit. The veterans in Itao’s boat each caught three bass but did not weigh any in.
“Truman Lake is a hard fishery,” Itao said. “I felt bad because I didn't get them as much fish as I would have liked to. I know my guys had a lot of fun… Here, they can enjoy the nature without getting shot at is basically what they said in the end.”
Between Lewlin and the veteran in his boat, they caught and weighed in three bass fish. The minimum weigh-in length for bass was 15 inches.
“You don’t think fishing could be a way that you could try to give a fraction of your thanks to the people who give so much for us, but through Fishing for Freedom, we’re able to do that,” Newlin said. “These guys aren’t serious fishermen, they aren’t passionate about it, they just want to go and have a good time. Something as random as fishing is a way to give back to the veterans.”
Sophomore Mikayla Olson volunteered at Fishing for Freedom for the second time this year.
“I realized what an amazing feeling it is to give back to people who have given it their all for our freedom, so of course without hesitation I went again this year,” Olson said. “I also just really enjoy getting to know the club members on a new level. Overall, it’s just a really great time and I wouldn’t miss it for the world.”
Itao said the biggest takeaway from Fishing for Freedom for him was the conversations he had with the two veterans in his boat.
“To cover up for all their injuries, they learned to take humor from it. The guy named Crispy for instance, he was blown up in a van at the front entrance of the gate of his camp, and he was thrown 30 feet up in the air and burned from his mid-chest to his toes. He said that five years later he learned that you just kind of have to joke about it and move on with life and nicknamed himself Crispy. These events that they can just turn into humor absolutely amazes me.”