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Fishers treat veterans to day at the lake

Posted: April 22, 2012 5:48 p.m.
Updated: April 22, 2012 5:48 p.m.

From left, Veronica Buddy, her husband, Dennis Budd of the U.S. Army, and his assigned fisherman John Fike each hold up a fish they caught on Sunday.

A peaceful sunny day fishing on Castaic Lake was a welcome respite for veterans all too familiar with life in the war zone.

The inaugural Wounded Warrior Project pairing veterans with experienced fishermen for a day of bass fishing on the upper lake was a hit Sunday with about 20 boat teams taking part.

"It's so peaceful out there. That's what I liked," said Dennis Budd who served in Iraq with the U.S. Army in 2003. "It's just a real relaxing feeling to be out there."

Budd and his wife, Veronica, drove from their home in Moreno Valley to be at the lake's West Ramp by 6 a.m. Sunday.

At 2 p.m., they and the other Wounded Warrior vet/fishermen teams returned for the official weigh-in.

Teams had a chance to weigh their five best fish.

The veteran and fishermen of the winning team each received a plaque and a $200 gift certificate.

The fish had to measure 13 inches with their mouths open in order to qualify to be weighed, said tournament spokesman Ray Leyerly.

The Budds placed third with a combined fish haul weighing just over 9 pounds.

The Wounded Warrior Project - with the help of the Top Stick Tour group, the County Of Los Angeles Department of Parks and Recreation and the Friends Of Castaic Lake - asked for support from the local bass fishing community, and on Sunday, they got it.

And while more fishermen than veterans turned out, all reported having a great time.

"We were disappointed we all didn't get a chance to take out vets," said bass fisherman Mike Iljin of the Castaic Bass Club. "That's why we came down here. We were all pumped up, ready to take the guys out and show them that we really appreciate what they do."

Once the fish were weighed, veterans and anglers gathered in the sun-dappled shade under trees on the banks overlooking the lake, and dined on barbecued hot dogs and hamburgers.

U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Antonio Solorio of Rancho Cucaumonga, served in Afghanistan in 2006 and 2007 with the 774th Ordinance Disposal Unit when an roadside bomb exploded under his vehicle.

The blast shattered his pelvis and claimed his left leg. It also left his partner, whom he called "the kid," legless.

"We were going in to take care of some rockets that had been left on site, and en route, just before we got to it we found an IED (improvised explosive device). We took care of that one, but a couple of hundred meters up was a second one," he said.

On Sunday, he had a chance to leave land for a while and spend the morning on the lake.

"This was awesome. We had an amazing time," he said of Sunday's event.




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