WAHIAWA, Hawaii (Aug. 23, 2012) -- More than 50 wounded warriors joined volunteer boat skippers from the local community, and participated in the first of its kind Freshwater Team Fishing Tournament on Lake Wilson, here, Aug. 5.

Sponsored by local businesses, churches, and fishing clubs, the tournament was the first of its kind for the Pacific Regional Medical Command's Warrior Transition Battalion, or WTB, stationed at Schofield Barracks.

The tournament was organized by Chris Baires, a former Soldier and now single parent of a toddler while his active-duty wife is deployed.

"Just seeing the sacrifice (my wife) had to make, and the sacrifices a lot of these Soldiers make, made we me want to do something for them," Baires said.

Before approaching the WTB with his plan, Baires, a member of the Hawaii Freshwater Fishing Association, presented the idea to his club along with Imua Wahiawa Freshwater Anglers and other local businesses to solicit interest in sponsoring the event.

"I brought them the idea of the tournament, with teams (so) we could make it competitive," Baires explained. "From what I (could) see, (the Soldiers) loved it. There were some Soldiers who didn't catch anything, but I think just being out on the water was great for them."

Baires' hard work paid off. After more than three months of planning, Maj. Kirsten Graf, operations officer, WTB, commended the organizers on its success.

"I think the fishing tournament went great," Graf said. "Some of the Soldiers caught some really decent sized fish. It seemed that everybody had a great time, and it's something that we want to make an annual or semiannual event."

For those who did hanapaa (or hook a fish), peacock bass was the prize fish. With a lake record of nearly eight pounds, the day's catches, between three and four pounds, still brought smiles and plenty of excitement.

"It was a big experience, because that is the first time I've done fresh water fishing," said Sgt. Frank Lessary, WTB, and a Kalihi native, who ended the day with several peacock bass. "I've fished in the ocean all my life. Fishing in fresh water was very fun."

Other fish commonly found in Lake Wilson's 300 acres of reservoir include tilapia; bluegill; red devils, which are an invasive cichlid; shad; channel catfish and plecostomus, more commonly known as plecos.

After each team's fish were counted and weighed, lunch was served courtesy of members of the Wahiawa Christian Church, and then the day's winners were announced and prizes awarded.

Snagging first place overall were Pvt. 1st Class Eric Holden and Skipper James Newton. Second place went to Staff Sgt. Daniel Moncada, Staff Sgt. Manuel Chavez-Martinez, and Skipper Lance Saneishi. Third place went to Staff Sgt. Frank Lessary and Skipper Russ Wheeler.

In the Side Category, bringing in a 2.5 pound catfish brought first place honors to Spc. Antonio Vera, Staff Sgt. Eli Gibbs and Skipper Jeff Choi.


Before heading to Lake Wilson in hopes of reeling in the big one, log on to Hawaii's Department of Land and Natural Resources website at http://www.hawaii.gov/dlnr/dar/licenses_permits.html for licensing information and freshwater fishing regulations.