Numerous surveys confirm that ‘catching’ is actually fairly low on the list of reasons why people go fishing. Ironically, five guys who fish for a living came to understand that better than most last week.
In an effort coordinated by Bassmaster Elite Series pro Marty Stone — top North Carolina pros Dave Wolak, Dustin Wilks, Jeffrey Thomas, Britt Myers and Stone himself, took five U.S. Air Force Airmen fishing – and by day’s end – ‘catching’ – finished way down the list compared to the fellowship and full doses of respect shared between the two groups of professionals.
It all started last year when now retired U.S. Air Force Airmen Fritz Boudreaux befriended Stone as a hunting and fishing buddy. In an effort to share yet another great outdoor experience – Boudreaux sent Stone soaring in an F-15.
But there was more to it than that, explained Stone. “Fritz was granted one last wish as a retirement present from the Air Force – and rather than do something for himself or his family – he made sure I got to fulfill a dream by arranging a ride for me in an F-15. Obviously, his generosity humbled me beyond words, and I’ve been wanting to do something to repay him ever since,” explained the 4-time Bassmaster Classic qualifier.
So with the more-than-willing support of the four other pros, Stone formed five two-man teams, and collectively the 10 guys spent the day fishing at Sharon Harris Lake. And of course, because the competitive juices never stop flowing, a friendly $25 ‘big bass’ side bet was put up for grabs. Team Toyota Tundra angler Dave Wolak and his partner, USAF Technical Sergeant Jeff Vicars, eclipsed any hope others had of winning by dragging in a 10-pound 3-ounce monster on a 10” YUM Big Show worm.
“Any day involving a 10-pounder is a good day,” said Wolak. “But the coolest thing was that I made a new friend with a guy who happens to support the F-15E flying mission as a medic at Seymour Johnson AFB. Jeff and I had a lot in common. He really loves to fish, and we both love personal fitness, so we were reciting quotes from the P90XÒ work-out video series, laughing out loud, and experiencing the soul-soothing thing that fishing really is,” added Wolak, the 2005 Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Rookie of the Year.
Vicars admits an increased addiction to the sport since his day on the water with Wolak. “The day was a dream come true for me. For starters, seeing a guy catch a 10-pounder is a rare thing, but Dave and I shared so much in common that I now consider him a friend. You could say I’ve become even more addicted to the sport. I log on to all the bass fishing websites to read about his career, and I’m following him on the web this week while he’s at the Bassmaster Elite tournament at Lake Oneida,” said Vicars, who fishes from a 14’ aluminum boat of his own.
Numerous times during the day, “this is the greatest day of my life” was heard from the mouths of the five Airmen – a statement that indelibly reminded the bass pros of how privileged their own stressful job really is.
By day’s end, five U.S. Air Force Airmen escaped the intensity and stress that comes from providing on-target, on-time, airpower for America. And five full-time bass pros were boldly reminded that not all missions are about the catching.