Come May 23, Seward is going to put a much more enjoyable twist on the term “combat.” The 7th annual Combat Fishing Tournament there gives military servicemen and women a chance to battle a giant of the sea – a Resurrection Bay halibut.
Keith Manternach is the co-founder of the Armed Services Combat Fishing Tournament – an event he started with boat captain Bob Candopoulos of Saltwater Safaris in Seward. The event originally was meant to give 30 or so of the lowest-ranking military men and women (generally E1s through E4s) a day of fishing that they likely otherwise would never be able to afford. Now, it’s got a reputation across the United States.
“Ours is clearly the largest event of its kind in the country,” Manternach said. “We get phone calls from other groups, asking how can they do it?”
The event now serves 250 to 275 military men and women who coordinate with their base commanders for that one special day off, Manternach said.
“We can’t get much bigger than we already are because there are only so many boats in Seward,” Manternach said said. “If we could serve more, we would.”
The Combat Fishing Tournament has become a much-anticipated event in Seward, too, as shop owners open their doors to the military, and the American Legion Post 5 puts on a banquet to help honor the young men and women.
“It’s all part of Armed Services Week,” said Erin Lemas of the Seward Chamber of Commerce. “People look forward to it.”
For Manternach, the event is all about thanking the military.
“People don’t have to worry about a missile coming through the side of their house or worry about going to the grocery store and getting blown up by a bomb,” he said. “We live in an incredible country, and the guys who come down for this tournament are the ones who are on the ground, following orders to keep us safe.”
Manternach said the event is only possible through cooperation with the Armed Services YMCA of Alaska and the city of Seward.
“They’ve been behind this event since Day 1,” he said of the YMCA. “And the way the community steps up and gives us door prizes is unbelievable – gas cards, meal vouchers, lots of art, jewelry, guns, guided bear hunts and guided moose hunts. Everybody gets to go home with a little something.”
Armed Services Combat Fishing Tournament
The 7th annual Armed Services Combat Fishing Tournament is set for 6 a.m.-4p.m. May 23 in Seward, followed by a banquet dinner put on by the American Legion Post 5. Donations for door prizes, ranging from art to jewelry to guided fishing/hunting trips to cash, are welcome. Contact Keith Manternach at 575-1637, Armed Services YMCA of Alaska at 552-9622 or visit Thankthem.org.