“Because American Bass Anglers’ roots began in the military, we are proud to be a part of this program,” said Debra Talley, ABA national marketing director. “Because of this rich heritage with the military, all of our members are excited to be a part of the Operation Rod & Reel program and have a chance to say ‘Thank You’ to those service members. This is the second large event we have supported in 2012. In July, Jim Zaleski, Director division 58 in Kansas, and Becky Minor, Director division 126 in Missouri, hosted another great event taking out 30 soldiers, airmen, and Marines from Wichita’s McConnell Air Force Base”, said Talley. “I think by doing these events it goes a long way in showing how American Bass Anglers, and specifically in this case, division 58, is setting the bar for community and civic responsibility and commitment to our sport and ABA’s military roots as an organization”, said Zaleski, who is also the Director of Tourism for Labette County, KS. "Our anglers were very excited about doing this and in having the service members do well," said Minor. "You know the ABA started out in North Carolina more than 30 years ago when some military personnel there formed a fishing team. So we are always excited to have these guys come and fish with us. We always have a good time”, she concluded.
“Early Times Kentucky Whisky also has a lot of rich heritage and strong tradition with the military,” said Therese Bird McGuire, Brand Manager for Early Times. “Many servicemen and women are already fans of Early Times and we want to give thanks back to the people who have supported our brand and who have served our country. Early Times has been committed to the sport of fishing for more than five years through our sponsorship with ABA and via our Early Times pros, Kevin Rake, and Billy Appling. Through the launch of Operation Rod & Reel, Early Times is proud to bring these two passions together in a way that gives something back to our community and country.”
Any active duty service member 21 years old or older, regardless of rank or branch, may sign up on a first-come, first-served basis to participate in Operation Rod & Reel. Those who sign up will fish in either an American Fishing Tour or Bassmaster Weekend Series tournament, two competitive fishing trails run by ABA, at a place and date to be determined.
In the tournament, the military member will fish with an experienced bass angler. The service angler will not pay any tournament entry fees. In addition, each service person who participates in the program will also receive a free membership to ABA and a tackle package worth about $200, which includes rods, reels, lures and other tackle needed to fish a bass tournament.
“I was paging through my American Bass Anglers magazine when I saw the ad about Early Times Operation Rod & Reel, and showed it to my wife”, said tournament angler, Kevin Miller, who fishes the Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Weekend Series in both the New York and Virginia Divisions. “I want to do something like this here in Pennsylvania”, Miller told his wife, Jody. “She and I agreed we could get enough boaters from both the Bassmaster Weekend Series anglers, the American Fishing Tour anglers, and other great friends that fish in clubs here in Pennsylvania. I knew Lake Wallenpaupack would be terrific this time of year, and to share it with the servicemen/women makes it that much better. This is gonna be a wonderful day of fishing, followed by a cookout, and a lot of door prizes donated by local businesses. My wife and I are both so excited that we made the call to American Bass Anglers headquarters and made this happen here in Pennsylvania. And, we’re certainly appreciative to Early Times for doing such a great thing for our military”, concluded Miller.
The Tournament Director for this event will be Wayne Alker, American Fishing Tour Director of Division 9 in Southeast Pennsylvania. “I am very excited about having the chance to get these soldiers out for a day of care free fun”, said Alker. “And, of course, none of this would be possible without the sponsorship of Early Times Kentucky Whisky. As an ABA member for many, many years, I can tell you, we have always cared and supported the troops, and will continue to do so. I hope this event is one in a long line of events held by Division 9 to take our troops fishing”, said Alker.
Building upon a long association with the U.S. Armed Forces, ABA began in 1975 as the Military Bass Anglers Association, an organization dedicated to providing bass anglers in the military an opportunity to compete in tournaments with other members of the military. In the 1990s, MBAA allowed non-military anglers to fish in its events. In 2000, Morris Sheehan, a life member who retired from the U.S. Army, bought MBAA, renamed it American Bass Anglers Inc., and relocated it to Athens, Ala.
Although the organization is open to both military and non-military anglers, ABA and its staff still maintain a strong loyalty to the country’s military and patriotic traditions. While ABA continues to run armed forces events, such as the annual Team Military Bass Tournament, today the organization offers more than 1,000 low-cost tournaments each year specifically designed for weekend anglers. So that anglers may participate in tournaments close to home, ABA holds events in 40 states each year, but also creates numerous opportunities for competitors to progress to more competitive events and fish in national championships.
Since its creation, ABA has run more fishing events for the military than any other national fishing organization. Over the years, more than 10,000 military personal enjoyed spending a day on the water through numerous ABA-affiliated events.
Active duty military members interested in participating in Operation Rod & Reel in other parts of the country can call ABA at 256-232-0406. For more information about American Bass Anglers and its tournament trails, visit www.americanbassanglers.com.