An American Veterans Salute
3-Man Bass Tournament
By Billy “Hawkeye” Decoteau

Lake Champlain, Plattsburgh, NY July 19th, 2008: Plattsburgh, New York’s Crete Civic Center entertained several thousand people during its July 19th ‘BASS-BEACH-CRUISE’N-BASH’ weekend celebrations, however none were as well received as the first annual ‘An American Veterans Salute 3-Man Bass Tournament!  “I think it’s the most patriotic heart throbbing event this entire weekend”, said Rick Perry Plattsburgh’s man behind the scenes coordinator.

According to Perry, the planning stages for the ‘An American Veterans Salute 3-Man Bass Tournament’ was quite extensive and time consuming, since FLW Outdoors STREN Series four-day professional bass tournament procedures took precedence on all activities. “The presence of the FLW Outdoors Tournament Bass Trail paired with our active military personnel and our disabled veterans was simply overwhelming! FLW Outdoors Tournament Director Bill Taylor was 100% in support of our event, which included moving the FLW weigh-in stage to the Crete Civic Center,” replied Perry. (It should be noted that the FLW outdoors is the strongest supportive Bass Fishing organization for our military forces.
An early morning briefing introduced New York Army National Guard Commander Lt Colonel Dennis Deeley, a Bronze Star recipient, and Plattsburgh’s Army Reserve Sgt Ryan Williams, accompanied with eight volunteer active military personal bass anglers, to their FLW STREN Series Boat Captains, disabled American Veteran partners along with specific 3-Man Bass Tournament rules.

The words of our National Anthem filled the air of the Wilcox Launch filtering unto the streets of downtown Plattsburgh, as 10 Professional FLW STREN Series Bass Anglers, 10 Disabled Veteran Anglers, accompanied with their 10 active military partners, dressed in camouflaged fatigues representing every branch of service, saluted ‘Ole Glory’ from the decks of their bass boats.
“What really amassed me were the large number of military and civilian personal along the banks that came for the morning take-off, as everyone was bowing their heads in prayer then saluting our American Flag. I stood there hugging my wife as we thanked God for bringing me home safely from Vietnam,” were the tearful words from one Plattsburgh, NY veteran. 
One-by-one boat captains idled their way pass a crowd of cheering spectators, as the ten 3-Man Teams then jumped on plane heading towards their specific area of competition, which was off-limits to the Top-10 FLW STREN Series Anglers. Listening to each angler’s name, rank and branch of service brought tears of America Pride to everyone’s eyes. “I just can’t tell you how much this bass tournament means to my husband after his recent tour in Iraq. He told me, he felt personally honored to be partnered with a disabled veteran angler, let alone a professional bass angler,” mentioned one wife of an active National Guard Sergeant. Adding, “It sent chills down my spine, as my husbands name was announced, it just made me so proud to be an American!” 
Don Gauvin Editor and Chief of Angler Productions television series ‘THE BASS BUREAU………Where the Road meets the Water’ seemed simply blown away with true military compassion as he and his camera crew covered every phase of the tournament. “We have never before covered a more Patriotic tribute to Our American Heroes!” Adding with a smile, “Not only is history being made in the Bass Angling World, but the FLW Outdoors and Plattsburgh’s Mayor Kasprzak have not forgotten American’s Foundational Strengths representing the Freedom we all enjoy in this wonderful country!” With that said, Angler Production cameras focused in on Lake City Choppers Casey Spiegel as a group of Motorcyclist, Muscle Cars and Antique Classic Automobiles prepared to take a scenic tour of the Adirondacks. (

“North End Harley Davidson is just one of the many sponsor displays that will showcase our drive through weigh-in,” said Perry. Walking through the weigh-in area it was obvious Rick Perry and Michelle Powers of the North Country Chamber of Commerce coupled with the dedicated unselfish support from FLW Outdoors STREN Series Tournament Director Ron Lappin and his crew had left no stones unturned. Seating areas were setup opposite the weigh-in stage, antique cars and motorcycles were scattered throughout the Crete Civic Center, while the aroma of food-vendors offerings filled the air dancing to the music of Glass Onion and the Legendary Mero Brothers Bands.

One of the most visited and appreciated booths was that set up by the New York National Guard. Guardsmen surrounded by military support vehicles manned their booth escorting visitors through typical living quarters representing what soldiers’ experience in the field while serving in Iraq. The National Guard also provided an assortment of give-a-way prizes to accompany the games they had setup for children. 
Assigned drivers assembled their tow vehicles in numeric order at the Wilcox Launch as each of the returning ten 3-Man Teams were loaded unto their trailers. Lake City Choppers ( Casey Spiegel saddled one of his unique award winning Harley Softail Choppers following the flashing lights of a Plattsburgh Police escort cruiser. Waving to the crowds of people in route to the Crete Civic Center, Mayor Donald Kasprzak sat at the helm of the Marine USA, Inc ( Nitro 911 CDC lead Bass Boat with active National Guardsmen Sgt. Rick Dumais and Disabled Navy Veteran Chief James Hough.

Chauffeured to the weigh-in stage each 3-man team was greeted with standing ovations, whistles, cheers and American Flag waving family member fans. Although every team worn star spangled smiles, only one team seemed to set the crowd in an uproar as their names were announced. Boat Captain Steve Williams and his son active Army Reserve Sgt. Ryan Williams smiled as tears of American Pride and Honor flowed down everyone cheeks. Paired with Bronze Star disabled Veteran Marc Felio the team weighed in four bass for 9.3 lbs.

As each team crossed the weigh-in stage, the leaders board bounced back and forth, that is until Professional Bass Angler Randy Yarnall (, U.S. Army Lt. Colonel Dennis Deeley and Disable Veteran Army Sgt John Coryea handed FLW Tournament Director Ron Lappin the teams 5-bass limit. When the scales finally settled Lappin called out 14.15 lbs, anchored with a 4.3 lb Lunker smallmouth bass. Yarnall a sponsored member of the Elite RSR Angling Team rifled his teams’ way into first place, overshadowing West Virginia Professional Angler and Bassmaster Champion Dan Welch’s Team by almost two pounds.

With only one team to weigh-in their five-bass limit, Boat Captain and Author of Bass Fishing 101 Lake Champlain ( Dale Brown, Sgt Tony Turner and Disabled Army Veteran Jeremy Renadette approached the scales. Weighing the teams largest bass first Dale Brown threw his fist in the air and the yelled….”Yes-Yes-Yes…All Right,” to Lappin’s official announcement of 4.5 lbs. Brown’s team had secured the Tournaments Lake City Choppers ‘Hog’ Award by a mere .2 oz! Adding four more bass to the scales, the team watched closely as the scale jumped up and down. When it finally settled FLW Tournament Director Ron Lappin called out, “Five Bass all alive for 14.5 lbs.” Brown’s team claimed 2nd Place, dropping Welch’s Team into 3rd Place with 13.2 lbs.

Approaching the awards table to standing ovations Pennsylvania Pro Angler Randy Yarnall and his Championship Team revealed their weightless Senko winning techniques. As each member of the 3-Man Team received Berkley Rod and Reel combinations, Yarnall took the microphone and with teary eyes personally thanked each and every veteran for their unselfish service to our country. Randy then handed teammate Disabled Veteran John Coryea his rod and reel as a personal gift to show Yarnall’s appreciation.
God Bless and Best Bass’n.