Fishing for Freedom--2013 Patriot's Challenge Open Bass Fishing Tournament to be held September 21

Its early morning, and the air is cool and crisp, at least for East Texas standards. The dawning sun rays begin to shine a glimmer of hope on the quiet water, surrounded by tall pines, but amidst those pines, a symbol of freedom, which makes this day possible, stands out, flying in the breeze--one that is red, white, and blue. To celebrate that freedom, it's time to honor, remember--and fish. The 2013 Patriot's Challenge Open Bass Fishing Tournament will take place Saturday, September 21, at Jackson Hill Park and Marina, located in Broaddus, on the northeast side of Sam Rayburn Reservoir. A Pre-Tournament Meeting and Fisherman's Cookout will be held 4:00 p.m.-7:00 p.m. Friday, September 20, and breakfast and opening ceremonies will begin at 5:00 a.m. Saturday, with the official takeoff at 6:00 a.m. Final weigh-in will be at 3:00 p.m. Saturday, and a champion announced at 4:00 p.m. All are welcome to compete and 100 percent of tournament profit goes toward local programs benefitting military heroes of past and present. The tournament offers three divisions--the Patriot's Division, with a $200 entry fee per team, and the Heroes' Division (at least one participant must be on active military duty or a veteran), with no entry fee, and high school and youth teams may also enter for a $50 registration fee. A guaranteed $2,000 in prizes, pending on number of entries, awaits the winning team in the Patriot's Division, and a guaranteed $1,000 in prizes will be available for the Heroes' Division team winners, regardless of number of entries. High school/youth teams that pay to enter in the Patriot's Division, are also eligible for the $2,000 cash prize. The prize money may be big, but the benefits are even bigger, and while the event lasts just one day, the results can last a lifetime for some. Terry Sympson, owner of Jackson Hill Park & Marina, and the tournament coordinator, said that the event and its benefits are the "biggest bang for your buck," whether you are active duty military, a veteran, or a patriotic family member or friend. He first began the tournament just a few years ago as a way to honor, thank, and help both active duty military personnel and veterans, as well as their families. He said, "We want to touch the lives of people. We help do something that will change your life or change your outlook. What we do, is something that no one can touch. The biggest benefit they receive is being in this kind of environment. Being in nature has a tremendous effect on people that is far greater than anything else you can do for them." Doing local, small events, and being able to treat people like family is key to the success of his mission. "Our philosophy is when we do something we want to see it go directly to someone and see it go local. That's what charity is about," he said. Proceeds from the tournament benefit the Outdoor Freedom Network, a local program dedicated to providing a greater understanding, appreciation, and access of the natural resources in Deep East Texas and Sam Rayburn Lake. Put more simply, the goal is to bring people together to enjoy the outdoors--especially those that are in need of an escape, whether it's an at-risk kid or military personnel. "What we can do, what the outdoors does, is it can take someone on that brink and help change their attitude," he said. The outdoors awaits, but access, whether for financial or physical reasons, isn't always within reach for many. That's where Sympson comes in. "Our heart in what we want to do is reach guys where we get the bigger impact to help someone who hasn't had the opportunity or access to do this kind of thing before," he said. To accomplish this, the Outdoor Freedom Network also strives to offset the cost of room stays and guided fishing tours for active duty military, veterans, and their families, when visiting Jackson Hill. Also benefitting from the proceeds of the tournament is The Wounded Warrior Association of East Texas, an organization designed to empower and help assimilate returning combat soldiers back to civilian life, and the Honor and Remember Campaign, an organization that honors those who have made the ultimate sacrifice through military service. To Sympson, family and the outdoors are two of the most important things in life, and combining them, can lead to some extraordinary lifetime memories, but more importantly, can be good therapy for an even better quality of life. He has always had the heart to help, it wasn't until recently that he realized why he had the heart to help military heroes specifically. Sympson grew up never quite understanding why he could never truly connect with his father, a disabled World War II veteran, and he lived with this question lingering in the back of his mind throughout his life. It wasn't until just a few years ago, when Sympson was working with a group of soldiers, all suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, that he made the connection. His father, too, had suffered from PTSD. This new found realization, enabled him to connect better with the soldiers and it increased his desire to help those who have also been affected. It finally made sense. According to Sympson, when soldiers talk about their experiences and each other--that's what helps. That's the therapy--getting them out on the water, and away from whatever troubles may be in their lives. Providing these opportunities and random acts of kindness has touched the lives of hundreds since 2006, when Sympson first took ownership of Jackson Hill and he began his mission for local charity. While the tournament takes a lot of work from a dedicated group of volunteers and sponsors, according to Sympson, the payoff is simply being in nature, sitting around a campfire, seeing soldiers relax with their families, or watching a young child catch their first fish. These are the moments he's hooked on, and it's these moments that can help change, or even save, a life. Interested anglers may register up until the morning of the event. Terry Sympson can be contacted at [email protected] or at 936.872.9266. Tournament information and entry forms can be found at or

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GOOD. Water stained; 55-58 degrees; 3.33 feet low. Fishing remains the same as we head into another cold front. Bass are good on Carolina rigs and crankbaits in the points, ditches and drains. Crappie are good on live minnows, then jigs after the live bite subsides. You will find them in creeks and river channels. Catfish are good in shallow to 15 feet of water, moving towards the creeks. Report by Lynn Atkinson, Reel Um N Guide Service.

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