Eight teams of anglers ventured out on to Milford Lake Sunday with hopes of being crowned the 2nd Annual United Way of Junction City/Geary County Bass Tournament champion. The high winds blew across the lake all day make the waters rough with some whitecaps in the middle of the large lake, forcing competitors to hone their skills to harvest the best numbers.
In the end, the Army Bass Anglers — retired Sgt. Chris Kirkley and CW2 Roy Page, 2nd General Support Aviation Battalion, 1st Aviation Regiment, 1st Combat Aviation Brigade, 1st Infantry Division, brought home the prize money with two fish weighing in at 4.82 pounds.
“It's awesome to come out support a good organization like United Way,” Page said. “I really appreciate you guys having this tournament for us, letting us come out, it’s great day. Man it was rough — water was rough, wind was rough, weather was tough, tough fishing. But, all around, had a good day of fishing — not too bad at all.”
Army Bass Anglers are a military support organization that is filled with prior service and currently service Army men and women with the sole purpose of raising awareness and giving back to other nonprofit organizations like: Returning Heroes Home, Warrior Canine Connection and more, Page said.
“It's a lot of soldiers that support organizations that support soldiers,” he said. “So, it's a full circle thing. Our motto is 'Support, Defend, Fish,' and that's what we do. We support each other, we support organizations. We've all defended the country in some way, shape, form or fashion, whether prior or currently active duty like myself. And then, we just love to fish. We love the outdoors and we use the outdoors as a conduit to help each other — to help other soldiers.”
Nathan Kozlowski, tournament organizer, said he was pleased with the number the turned out despite the weather conditions.
“I had a couple other boats that texted me earlier this week and asked me if we were still gonna hold it because the wind conditions predicted,” he said. “I think without the wind, that we probably could have 15-20 boats today. But the wind. When you have 40 mile per hour gusts, not many people want to get out and fish in it.”
The team of Jordan Beck and Rueben Breaux pulled in the largest fish in the competition, winning a side pot in the process, with their single fish weighing in at 3.53 pounds. The total was also heavy enough for a third place finish on the day.
Terry Blackwood and Meagan Eubanks finished second with their two fish weighing in at 4.25 pounds.
“It's always good to have new winners,” Kozlowski said. “It keeps people involved. If it's the same person winning over and over, people usually don't come out fish no more. So it's always good seeing someone else win.”
While finding a hot spot for bass can be tricky on a calm day, the motion of the waves in the wind and the changes in temperature over the week added another layer to the complexity of the equation.
“It's all about finding them,” Kirkley said. “When it's windy like this, you just got to hit them in the face.”
The biggest obstacle fishermen needed to overcome Page said, was facing the weather down and getting out on to the water.
“I think the biggest thing with windy days, I guess, you can't be scared of the weather,” he said. “You know, sometimes you just have to go to the spots where you know the fish are and you have to be willing to to suck it up a little bit and face tough weather.”
The smiles and laughter around the weigh in station cemented the event as a success, despite the low turnout and weather obstacles. Anglers joked about ones that got off the line or filing a protest about a fish’s size and weight.
In the end, while four of the eight boats turned in fish to be weighed, it was the United Way of Junction City/Geary County that were the winners as money from the event will benefit their responses to community needs.
“I'm so happy to raise anything that we can,” Kozlowski said. “It gets some publicity out for United Way and at the same time (we) get to raise a little bit money that goes back to United Way and help out the community.”
There was some chatter among the anglers about the type of fish caught with walleye being named by several teams. When questioned if he would consider adding a walleye tournament, Kozlowski joked that he was not much of a walleye fisher, more of a wiper fisher, but didn’t dismiss the idea totally. He does plan to hold a third annual event next year with hopes of seeing more success for the locals and the United Way.
“I just want to say thank you for everybody that came out and attended and hopefully see you next year,” he said.