FORT CAMPBELL, Ky-The air was humid and thick, the water made a gentle swaying motion as it lapped at the edges of the boat, all that was heard was nature's serenade and the sharp, muted swish of fishing line flying across the water and the gentle splash as the lure broke the river's surface.

U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Paul Brillinger, a geospatial analyst with Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division, won First Place-Biggest Bass, Aug. 17, during Operation Weekend Pass held at the Clarksville Marina, Liberty Park at Clarksville, Tenn.

"It was a really nice and special experience for me," shared Brillinger. "I am pretty excited about it, and overall it was a really good day out on the river."

Brillinger was awarded two official titles at the conclusion of the competition.

"I won first place for having caught the biggest bass of the day and I won second place overall," he continued.

"When we officially weighed my fish, I couldn't believe that it came in at 6 pounds, 9 ounces."

With the win under his belt, Brillinger briefly detailed his journey to this accomplishment.

"Sometime prior to the day of the event, I received an email from my [noncommissioned officer in charge] asking if I would be interested in participating because of my known interest in the fishing hobby--I fish a lot with my wife," explained Brillinger. "I thought--absolutely-- and I didn't hesitate to agree to participate."

"When I got there in the morning, I registered and then all the participants were briefed on the tournament rules."

The competition's rules included details regarding sportsmanship, safety and scoring.

"We had to wear a life vest while the boat was in motion; we had to return with our fish alive for the weigh-in and we were to enjoy our time and have fun," tells Brillinger.

"That morning, we headed out onto the Cumberland River and started casting our lines. The water was murky due to the rain over the previous couple of days, which was accompanied by expected debris as a result, but we hunkered down and were optimistic."

"After a few hours, it started to rain. We, my fellow boat mates and I, had had a few false alarms--snags on branches--but we hadn't caught anything. We were starting to get a little discouraged and frustrated."

To Brillinger's surprise, his luck turned a happy corner.

"I felt a tug on my line, fully expecting it to be another branch, I started reeling my catch in," Brillinger detailed with a grin. "It hit me that this was a legitimate catch."

"I turned to the others guys and told them--Hey, I got one. Everybody was kind of like--Nah, it is just another branch--but sure enough I had caught a whopper."
"Man, if only I would have been able to catch one more fish," he laughingly added. "I probably could have cleaned house."

Though the thrill of bagging the largest sized bass was a highlight for him, it was also appreciated what these types of events provide to active duty Service members.

"Not only do these hunting and fishing events show Soldiers that people in our communities care about us as military members, it also provided an opportunity for the lower enlisted to be able to go out and have some wholesome, safe fun," said Brillinger.

"We hope the days we provide these events, will give our active duty military the opportunity to unwind and enjoy a fun day with their friends, as well as new friends they make on these trips," stated Debra Talley, the president of World Class Events & Outdoor Adventures, Inc., which coordinated the event.

Brillinger was one of many attendees of Operation Weekend Pass.

"We had 38 participants this weekend at Clarksville with 19 volunteer boaters," said Talley.