National Guard Fishing Program
What is it?
The National Guard Fishing program is centered on the Forest L. Wood (FLW) professional bass fishing tournaments. The FLW competition is an eight-month long tour of competitive fishing that consists of over 240 professional fishing tournaments. It includes Bass, Walleye, Redfish, and Kingfish tournaments, which appeal to a variety of outdoorsmen and touches nearly every state across the nation. In 2007, approximately 90,000 participants competed across the country. All projections for 2008 show that the sport is continuing to grow and will continue for the foreseeable future.
The fishing tour is a family friendly, multi-event nationwide program designed to give visibility to the National Guard, provide recreational activities for National Guard family members, and to assist National Guard recruiters. The National Guard is participating in both the Western Division (California, Nevada, and Washington) and the Eastern Division (Florida, Alabama, New York, and Georgia).
National Guard Fishing utilizes the National Guard Youth Challenge Program as well. During the tournament season the Youth Challenge Cadets are given the opportunity to come and be a part of every tournament. During the tournament each cadet is given the opportunity to work sponsor displays, make color guard appearances, and gain recognition in the local community for the program and the benefits that it can have on today’s youth.
What has the ARNG done?
The National Guard has been participating in the Forest L. Wood (FLW) professional bass fishing tour all around the nation with seven sponsored anglers, seven sponsored co-anglers, seven ranger fishing boats, and a National Guard Fishing Simulator at 200 high schools.
The National Guard has recently completed its second year with the tour which continues to increase the growth of the Guard as well as contribute to the continued growth and success of this wonderful family inspired sport. The 2007 season, the National Guard Fishing Program had a return of investment (ROI) of 18 enlistments per FLW Tour event and generated over 3500 qualified leads.
The National Guard Fishing Program has contributed to the support and development of FLW youth initiatives. In 2006 and 2007 FLW Youth Fishing Programs doubled and now have chapters in almost every state across the nation. FLW Outdoors is an active and dedicated partner in getting America’s youth involved in fishing. The National Guard Junior World Championship is the most prestigious youth fishing event in the country. This televised event involves youth 11 through 18 years of age and allows them to compete for scholarship grants on behalf of the National Guard. FLW Outdoors is also the fishing program partner of Boy Scouts of America and the BSA’s Good Turn for America program. Scouts nation-wide have earned the FLW Outdoors Master Angler patch. In addition, FLW Outdoors on behalf of the National Guard has provided funding and publicity for state and local youth derbies, outings, and education projects through The Bass Federation, a 30,000 member volunteer organization.
FLW Outdoors is an active and dedicated partner in conservation. By conducting over 240 fishing events nationally each year involving over 93,000 participation slots, FLW Outdoors promotes clean water, proper fish handling and release, and proper stewardship of our resources. As a direct result of FLW Outdoors partnership with the Fish American Foundation, over $2 million in funds have been raised and distributed directly to local conservation projects approved by the American Sportfishing Association. In addition, FLW Outdoors on behalf of the National Guard has provided funding and publicity for state and local conservation projects such as lake clean-ups, habitat improvement, and local access ramps through The Bass Federation, a 30,000 member volunteer organization.
What continued efforts does the ARNG have planned for the future?
The 2008 season will feature the introduction of FLW Fantasy Fishing and a 2 million dollar Forrest Wood Cup. We plan to upgrade our Family Fun Zone (FFZ) display by anchoring it with a new multiple activities challenge called the National Guard Ultimate Warrior Challenge. High School students will be recruited by local National Guard recruiters days prior to the FFZ and will compete for prizes. The course is designed to have four stations which will challenge the students both mentally and physically as well as test their coordination and concentration. The skills necessary to complete the challenge are directly related to skills that future Soldiers will need in the National Guard. Every tournament is dedicated to a local National Guard unit and each state is given the opportunity to highlight what they have to offer. The State is given the ability to bring in static displays, equipment, and local soldiers to represent their units. In addition, every National Guard boat will carry the honorary unit’s crest during the tournament.
For the 2008 season, the National Guard will sponsor seven anglers and seven co-anglers of which one angler and two co-anglers are Active Duty Guardsmen.
Why is this important to the Army?
Each FLW Tour, Series, and championship event is finished with a Family Fun Zone (FFZ) where the final weigh-in for the top 10 anglers is featured. At the FFZs all of the sponsors and vendors for FLW Outdoors can set up displays and attractions for the people attending the final weigh-in to enjoy. The National Guard’s Family Fun Zone is always a highly visible and attractive display, featuring various exciting elements designed to attract crowd attention to promote the National Guard, as well as generate potential leads for the National Guard.