Gary Graham – ROAD TREKKER

Click here for Gary Graham – ROAD TREKKER

Wednesday, July 24, 2019
ICAST – a field of dreams

Stars and Stripes - a miracle maker
The 23rd Annual Stars & Stripes Tournament in Cabo San Lucas, BCS, Mexico raised more than $3.7M for six nonprofits pioneering change for youth in Southern California and Mexico during its 2019 event. Always special, this feel-good event has been sold out each year; since 1997, supporters and guests gather for the four-day fishing and golf tournaments and music festival where over $33M has been raised — more than any other tournament of its kind — benefiting children’s and youth’s charities in Baja and the United States.

MEMORABLE MOMENTS ARE many during the four-day event.

The Sportfishing Tournament began with U.S. Army retired Sergeant First Class Dana Bowman, a double amputee Special Forces Soldier and a member of the U.S. Army’s elite parachute team, the Golden Knights, dropped from a helicopter above and parachuted with the American Flag furling behind him, signifying the start of the day’s fishing.

Then Dick "Dicko" Gebhard, the Tournament Chairman fired a flare from the imaginary line at the front of the fleet as 30- to 72-foot boat engines roar to life and sped for the horizon.

Great weather and challenging fishing awaited the Chileno Bay-based Stars and Stripes Charity Tournament that hosted 48 teams this year. The first day, Friday, the fishing was tough as the teams scoured the local banks for billfish to tag and release or dorado, yellowfin tuna and wahoo to compete in the largest fish categories. Throughout the day calls come into Tournament Control in flurries; when “lines out” was declared, there were fish in all the divisions — multiple tag and release marlin, dorado, (with the largest weighing in at 23.9 pounds), lots of football-sized tuna and a 23-pound wahoo.

Aboard the “Yahoo,” team “Greek to the Max” was eager for their special guest angler, Col. Gregory D. Gadson, a retired Colonel in the United States Army and the former Garrison Commander of the U.S. Army, Fort Belvoir, also a double above-the-knee amputee. Gadson had served in the U.S. Army for more than 20 years as a field artillery officer and served on active duty for Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm, Operation Joint Forge, Operation Enduring Freedom, and Operation Iraqi Freedom. He was eager to catch his first billfish; however, as luck would have it, Friday was not to be his day, nor was it anyone else’s aboard.

AFTER DINNER THAT evening, he briefly described his biggest challenge in Iraq to the audience – the day an IED attack led to the loss of his legs.

After dinner that evening, he briefly described his biggest challenge in Iraq to the audience — the day an IED attack led to the loss of his legs.

However, he is not allowing his devastating injuries to define his life. Instead, he is living his life as a portrait of courage in the face of great adversity. Gadson learned that hard work and determination are key factors in overcoming life-altering setbacks that for most might have been a defining moment.

However, he acknowledged, he refused to be defined by the proverbial “hail of bullets.” That comment moved the audience to a standing ovation as he closed.

The following morning, teams gathered for the final day’s sportfishing competition. Teams were ready to rumble, and as Bowman and the flag floated to earth, and the red flare sailed upward, the fleet again sped toward their own perceived “hot spot” where hopefully fish were lurking. By the sounds on the radio, it was indeed a different day. The hookup calls to Tournament Control were more frequent.

Gadson sat alert in his wheelchair gazing intently at the huge lures bubbling in the wake of the 42-foot “Yahoo.” Suddenly, so suddenly that it was only later that Gadson was able to replay the event back in his mind — a blur flashed behind the lure. A stout rod bent just before the howl of the clicker moved everyone into the cockpit to action, clearing rods while shouting encouragement to the angler.

Gadson was possessed as he clutched the rod with one hand and frantically reeled with the other. The leaping sailfish was also possessed as it greyhounded across the rolling sea. Soon the big fish that had snatched the lure was only a speck on the horizon. Turn by turn the line slowly came back onto the reel as Gadson cranked the struggling fish closer and closer to the boat. He pulled harder, and the billfish leaped high into the air, so close to the boat that the startled team members instinctively backed away from the transom. At last, the mate had the leader in hand and then grabbed the bill of the subdued sailfish. Quickly, the lit-up fish was lifted into Gadson’s lap for a couple of photos before the still lively fish was returned to its home in the water.

The ride back to the dock at Chileno Bay was a victorious one. Not only was this Gadson’s first billfish, as it turned out, it was the only sailfish caught during the two days. But the teams had found fair action during the two-day event, including 47 billfish, 15 dorado, 15 yellowfin tuna, and one wahoo.

The highest release boat was the “Picante 45” with four marlin tagged (and released) with Gray Fish Tags. The largest gamefish of the event was a yellowfin tuna caught aboard the “Caliente” weighing 30.5 pounds. Winners were awarded trophies, cash or donated items from the impressive list of sponsors of the two-day fishing event.

“Without the support of our generous community who attend the tournament year after year, Stars & Stripes would not be a success,” said Stars & Stripes Board Chairman Dicko Gebhard. “We’re grateful to our supporters who come back over and over and help us raise millions of dollars for worthy charities. They truly bring about miracles in the lives of youth.”

QUICKLY, THE LIT-UP fish was lifted into Gadson’s lap for a couple of photos before the still lively fish was returned to its home in the water.

* * *

We hope you enjoyed this article on our no-charge website wonews.com. Of course, this site contains only a small fraction of the stories that Western Outdoor Publications produces each week in its two northern and southern editions and its special supplements. You can subscribe to the print issue that is mailed weekly and includes the easy flip-page full-color digital issues, or you can purchase a digital only subscription. Click here to see the choice.

Reader Comments
Be the first to comment!
Leave a Comment
* Name:
* Email:
Website (optional):
* Comment:

Advertise with Western Outdoor News