The single-word utterance of an excited fisherman echoed across Fort Stewart’s Metz Pond on Saturday morning. Someone caught a “whooper,” a fish so big it causes the angler who catches it to shout “whoop!”
The cry rang out at 10 a.m., an hour before weigh-in for the Trophy Bass Tournament sponsored by the Directorate of Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation at Pond 26, known for being the “trophy pond.” Fishing was slow and the big ones were reluctant to take the bait.
“Normally, when you fish this pond, the minimum size fish you can keep is 24 inches, and you have a limit of two fish,” explained Bill Coony, FMWR outdoor recreation supervisor and event coordinator. “Today, we’re allowing them to keep a maximum of five fish at least 12 inches long. Of course, after the weigh-in, they’ll be released.”
Cast after cast, the dedicated anglers tried everything to get one or more trophy bass to go after a crank bait or artificial worm. The fish just weren’t cooperating.
Coony said of the 46 fishermen who signed up, only 38 showed up at daylight to begin fishing.
A few anglers, like Kirby Kump of Pooler, did their best to attract a big one by fishing from the shoreline. Spc. Juan Alverez, 92nd Engineer Battalion, brought the entire family.
His wife Tairy stayed extra busy trying to fish along the shore while watching their 2-year-old son Jenniel, who was eager to participate in what his parents and sisters, Janelys, 9, and Jenelys, 11, were doing.
“I’ve only been fishing for two years,” Alverez admitted. “I started fishing when I was stationed here. A friend of mine got me started at it. I went out and bought all the gear, and the first time I went fishing I caught a 26-inch bass. I was hooked. Now though, I’m just here to see the smiles on my daughters’ faces. They love doing this.”
Cousins Harron and Ricky Lee of Pembroke had their best success trolling along the shoreline. In fact, Ricky caught the third-largest bass (3.06 pounds) and took second place overall with 7.63 pounds.
During weigh-in, Robert Keel’s big ones brought him a third-place overall finish, but he was quickly bumped out of the top spot by Ron Welch’s 8.98 pounds. Tony Grantham brought in the largest fish, a 4.18-pound whooper. He took fourth place overall.
Felix Arroyo, who had the second-largest fish at 3.32 pounds, came in fifth.
Because no youths turned in any fish, a drawing was held to determine the youth winner. Dylan Welch, 11, won the drawing and was able to take home a portable tackle bag as his prize. Several door prize winners took home fishing rods and chairs as well as flashlights and knife-sharpening sets.
“I want to thank you all for coming out today,” said Jim Reed, FMWR outdoor recreation maintenance supervisor. “I also want to thank Bill Coony for putting this event together. Our next fishing event will be a kids’ fishing tournament in June at Pond 30.”
Coony added that FMWR also is planning a family fishing day at Pond 30 in September and two managed deer hunts on the base this fall.
For more information about fishing or hunting opportunities at Fort Stewart-Hunter Army Airfield, call 435-8209.