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August 19, 2019

Jacob friede/lakeland times

Chad Schwan, left, and R.J. Waite hold up some of the bass that helped them win the fourth annual Vets on Water Bass Tournament on Lake Tomahawk.
Jacob friede/lakeland times

Chad Schwan, left, and R.J. Waite hold up some of the bass that helped them win the fourth annual Vets on Water Bass Tournament on Lake Tomahawk.
8/10/2019 7:30:00 AM
Natural Reaction
Fishing team finds bass and forms bond
Jacob Friede
Of The Lakeland Times

It takes skill, knowledge, and the ability to read a body of water to win a bass tournament. It also helps to have a good partner in the boat.

Chad Schwan and R.J. Waite had all of that going for them at last Saturday's fourth annual Vets on Water Bass Tournament held on Lake Tomahawk. And they cleaned house.

The team not only took first place with a total weight of 13.95 pounds for five bass, they also brought in the biggest bass of the tournament, a 6.2-pounder.

With such an epic performance on the water you might think the two have been fishing together for years, but in fact, other than pre-fishing the day before, they had only fished together once.

They were randomly selected at last year's tournament to fish together, which is the way the Vets on Water tournament works.

"What we do is we have boaters that are bass fishing tournament guys who tournament fish all the time," tournament director Kris Hanes said. "And if they have not fished our tournament before they draw a random parter. A random veteran. Veterans sign up. Boaters sign up. They're paired together randomly. If they're returning we keep them together from the previous years."

Schwan and Waite took third place last year. In staying together for this year's tournament they were able to top that performance and the field of 16 boats.

On Saturday, it was feast or famine for them.

"We'd basically kind of have like a flurry of fish, 10-15 minutes, and then we'd go an hour, hour an a half with nothing," said Schwan, a Marine Corps veteran from Stoddard. "That's basically how it went all day from our first spot up until about three o'clock and then kind of that last hour was pretty slow. Every hour, hour and a half we'd have a 10 to 15 minute window and we'd probably catch almost 10 fish. We caught 20-30 fish today."

Their success on the water, however, was not the most telling evidence that fates were on their side.

It was the friendship they formed. Since being randomly paired together last year, the two have formed quite a bond. They stayed in touch and eagerly awaited this year's tournament.

"Before that we'd never met," Schwan said. "Definitely made a great friend out of it for sure. We were looking forward to this since we left this area last year. I wasn't missing this. I took vacation to be up here."

Waite, an avid tournament angler from Adams, was equally excited about this year's tournament and said his experience fishing with Schwan left a lasting impact last year.

"I actually told my wife on the way home, best damn thing I've done in a long time," Waite said.

And though Waite is the more experienced tournament fisherman, it was Schwan who brought in all the big fish on Saturday.

"He beat the hell out of me," Waite said with a smile. "All three of his fish were bigger than my two. And I'm supposed to know what I'm doing. And he crushed me."

He'll get a chance to redeem himself, as both men plan on returning to defend their title for next year's tournament without a doubt.

In a short time Schwan and Waite have become a tournament winning team, and their bond is the top prize, and though they met by chance, Waite says there's nothing random about it.

"I think some of that is God, I really do," he said. "There's destinies that all people meet."

Jacob Friede may be reached at or

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