Feature Article: Heroes on the Water

A gathering to help heroes

BY PAUL LEBOWITZ/WON Staff WriterPublished: Apr 18, 2018

SAN DIEGO — It’s good to give back. Why not have fun while doing it?

That was the spirit that infused the fifth annual Mission Bay Classic kayak fishing tournament benefitting the Southern California chapter of Heroes on the Water (HOW). More about that later. First, the giving mission.

HOW is dedicated to taking US military members and veterans kayak fishing. First responders are welcome too. It’s as simple as that. The volunteers that staff the chapter — none of whom take a salary — ask no questions. Except three, your name, have you fished before, and whether you are ready to have fun.

kayakerslinedthebeachKAYAKERS LINED THE beach at Santa Clara Point Saturday for the 5th annual Mission Bay Classic kayak fishing tournament. The Classic is a fundraiser for the San Diego chapter of Heroes on the Water. The event raised more than $13,000 to take US military members, veterans, and first responders kayak fishing. WON PHOTO PAUL LEBOWITZ

“We’re just a bunch of fishermen who share a love for the water. We all know what the water does for us. It calms us. Our guests need that peace,” said Michael Weist, the chapter president. They and their families get it from HOW SoCal once per month, year-round. It’s pretty basic. A little how-to, the use of loaner gear, a tasty BBQ lunch, and an invaluable day free of worries.

The Mission Bay Classic is HOW SoCal’s biggest fundraising event of the year, one Weist calls “a real lifesaver.” It guarantees the chapter can keep moving forward. The Southern California chapter is self-sufficient. They take no money from the national organization, which recently celebrated its tenth anniversary. There are 80 chapters across the country, but none as large or as active as HOW SoCal.

One hundred forty seven anglers signed up for the Mission Bay Classic, now in its fifth year supporting HOW SoCal. The tournament is hosted by Andrew Allen of OEX / For Allen, it’s a personal mission. He’s the son of a US Army officer. “I have great respect for the sacrifices those in the military make. It’s a small way of showing my appreciation,” he said.

repeatwinnerdannyREPEAT WINNER — Danny Jones of Beaumont with the 4-pound, 7-ounce calico that backstopped his three bass limit. WON PHOTO PAUL LEBOWITZ

Back to the tournament. On Saturday, April 14, the action got underway with a shotgun start. Kayak anglers scattered into every corner of Mission Bay, and even outside on the inshore reefs. The best three bass would win, weighed live on the water then released. Kayak fishing tournaments like this date back over 20 years.

Last year’s champion Danny Jones of Beaumont repeated with three calicos caught outside weighing 9 pounds, 2 ounces, backstopped by a beautiful 4.7. “All the fish came off the same spot on a red crab pattern bait that I poured,” he said.

Second place went to Derwin Chang of San Diego, who weighed in three calicos for 8 pounds, 12 ounces. “It was all about the pre-fishing. We discovered the fish were hanging on the shallow reefs. They were spitting up tuna crabs,” he said.

Brian Loydd of Encinitas stayed inside the bay to finish third, where he fished up three spotties weighing 4 pounds, 10 ounces. He used a venerable Berkley Frenzy crankbait that hasn’t been available for over 10 years — a killer Mission Bay bait if you can find one.

Between entry fees, raffle ticket sales, and a generous $5,000 donation by the Geo Group, more than $13,000 was raised for HOW SoCal. All of that money will stay with the chapter. To sign up for one of their events or as a volunteer, search for “Heroes on the Water SoCal Chapter” on Facebook.

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