Advertised locally and by word of mouth, the event drew vets of all ages and branches of the U.S. military. Some had served in Vietnam, others in Iraq and Afghanistan. One had proudly served in World War II. Many participants rode in together that morning on a bus from the Hampton Bays VFW, an organization whose mission is to support the military and assist veterans and local youth. Volunteer and former sportfishing captain Pat McCarthy participated for the second year in a row, taking a group out on his 380 Outrage. A longtime customer of Hampton Watercraft, Pat has purchased three Boston Whalers from the dealership over the years. He jumped at the opportunity to help in the tournament. “It’s such a special event to be a part of,” he says. “I love supporting the VFW, and I appreciate this chance to give something back to our veterans.” Before heading out, the group was given a rundown of the eligible species. First-place prizes, they learned, would be awarded to the heaviest fish in each of seven categories: Striped bass, porgy, fluke, black sea bass, weakfish, bluefish and sea robin. Located toward the eastern end of Long Island, Hampton Bays made for a terrific jumping-off point: The anglers were free to fish Shinnecock Inlet and Shinnecock Bay, and could head as far out into the ocean as they pleased—provided they were back before weigh-in closed. “It’s a perfect spot for a tournament,” says Hampton Watercraft & Marine Event Coordinator Megan Buckley. “The teams can fish two different bays and the ocean.” Once the rules were established, the anglers made their way down the docks in groups of three to six, huddling close to discuss strategy with their crew members. Their flag-adorned coolers, donated by Boston Whaler, were the last thing to disappear from sight as they entered the fog shrouding their vessels.
vol. 9, issue 2
One by one, the boats slipped out of the marina through the peasoup air, captains and electronics on high alert. Some of the teams made their way to secret spots on the bay, while others ventured offshore. One crew traveled all the way to Montauk, covering more than 30 miles in search of prime hunting ground. Fortunately, the fog was short-lived: Within an hour of departure, the clouds had lifted to reveal glassy water and bluebird skies, treating the group to truly perfect weather conditions. Michael Aguilar was among the volunteers to offer up his Boston Whaler and his fishing knowledge for the day, hosting four veterans