Inaugural War Heroes on Water Fishing Tournament Honors 27 Wounded War Heroes

In conjunction with Freedom Alliance, the Southern California Sportfishing community put its heart on display for this first-of-its-kind event

Aug 23, 2018

AVALON, Calif., Aug. 23, 2018 /PRNewswire/ -- On Thurs., Aug. 16th the Southern California Sportfishing community, in conjunction with Freedom Alliance, put its heart on display as it celebrated 27 combat wounded warriors during the Inaugural War Heroes on Water (WHOW) Veteran's Sportfishing Tournament. More than a fishing excursion, the first-of-its-kind event enabled the Southern California and Santa Catalina Island communities to show their respect to those who have sacrificed so dearly to protect the United States of America.

Twenty-seven combat wounded war heroes were celebrated during the Inaugural War Heroes on Water sportfishing tournament, held Aug. 17-19 off the pristine waters of Santa Catalina Island. Held in conjunction with Freedom Alliance, the veterans were hosted by 12 elite sportfishing boats, with owners, captains and crew helping the veterans fish for 10 local fish species, including Marlin and Bluefin Tuna. The Tournament was conceptualized by loanDepot CEO Anthony Hsieh.

The event was conceptualized by loanDepot CEO Anthony Hsieh, who has deep ties to the SoCal sportfishing community. His idea, which began as a humble social media post, quickly caught hold with the fishing community and transformed into the three-day WHOW Fishing Tournament that was held this past weekend. Before the Tournament concluded, discussions were already underway for next year, with 2019's event likely to triple in size for both participating boats and veterans.

"Our goal was to give these brave and selfless heroes the weekend of a lifetime, but as it turns out that's also what they gave to us in return," said Hsieh. "I am confident that every person who participated in this Tournament returned forever changed in a profound way. The event was at turns uplifting and joyful and yet deeply emotional, it was that special."

Said Josh Miles, Director of Military Programs for Freedom Alliance, "The War Heroes on Water event is the model of patriotic Americans making a tangible and meaningful difference in the lives of veterans and their families. Speaking with many of the veterans involved in the event, they all expressed sheer amazement at the outpouring of generosity from the fishing community, boat owners and event sponsors. For many of the veterans, the event was more than they ever dreamed and all left deeply touched. Many new friendships were made this weekend and a unique bond between veterans and complete strangers was forged. For Freedom Alliance, the support of all those involved was beyond impressive. We thank Anthony Hsieh for his leadership, the entire team for their hard work, and the event donors for their immense generosity which supports not only the troops who were at the event but thousands of military families, in addition to providing scholarships for the children of service members killed or wounded in action.  Those who gave their time, money, and efforts to make this event happen stepped into the arena to truly change lives."

The WHOW Tournament festivities began on Thurs., Aug. 16th with a Prelude Reception held at Hsieh's private Newport Beach home. The evening event enabled more than 300 members of the local community to share their immense gratitude with the 27 participating veterans. The veterans were celebrated throughout the evening with hand-crafted, locally-sourced food and beverage presentations, live entertainment, boat displays and patriotic pageantry, all while overlooking the beautiful Newport Harbor. A charitable silent auction held during the reception raised more than $80,000 in additional donations, a significant amount above and beyond the thousands that had already been donated to help bring the Tournament to fruition.

The following day, the veterans boarded 11 elite sportfishing yachts, with Hsieh's Bad Company 144, the largest sportfisherman in the world, joining to serve as home base and to provide continued support throughout the Tournament. The group journeyed to the pristine waters surrounding Santa Catalina Island, which are considered the origins of modern day sportfishing, and to this day remain the epicenter of some of the best fishing in the Southern California. There, the captains and crews spent the day sharing their knowledge of the waters, the native fish species and the techniques they use to lure and catch the local fish. Friday concluded with a colorful celebration aboard Bad Company 144, with country singer Colton James performing songs from his latest album as the veterans, Captains and Crew gathered to review the Tournament rules and dine on locally sourced delicacies.

On Saturday morning, the LAPD Color Guard boarded the host yacht Bad Company 144 to display the colors as Colton James sang the National Anthem. All participating yachts, along with many boats from nearby Avalon Harbor, surrounded the 144 to watch the festivities. As the last refrains of the National Anthem echoed across the water, the War Heroes on Water Fishing Tournament began in earnest.

For the next two days, the veterans fished with their local experts in an attempt to catch Calico, Rockfish, Halibut, Yellowtail, Yellowfin Tuna, Bluefin Tuna, Dorado, White Sea Bass, Marlin and Swordfish. Each species earned qualifier points based on size and weight. While the event was designed to be a friendly competition, prizes were awarded to the anglers who scored the most points in each species; the angler with the highest overall qualifier points; the angler with the highest overall weight points; high overall angler and high overall team.

At the conclusion of the Tournament, the veterans and their teams had caught 208 qualifying species with a total of 1,287 lbs. of total qualifying weight. The teams caught: 92 Calico, 88 Rockfish, 1 Yellowtail, 1 Yellowfin Tuna, 8 Bluefin Tuna and 15 Dorado.

The winners of the WHOW Tournament were:

  • Anglers Scoring Most Points in Each Species:
    • Calico: Adam Emfield, Team Wild in Sac
    • Rockfish: Steven Valdez, Team Bullpen
    • Yellowtail: Brian Meyer, Team Wild in Sac
    • Yellowfin Tuna: Carlos Torres, Team Gambler
    • Dorado: Vinnie Cunningham, Team Bad Company
    • Bluefin Tuna: Vinnie Cunningham, Team Bad Company
  • Angler with the Highest Overall Qualifier Points:
    • Vinnie Cunningham, Team Bad Company
  • Angler with the Highest Overall Weight Points:
    • Kaleb Weakley, Team Bad Company
  • High Overall Angler:
    • Vinnie Cunningham, Team Bad Company
  • High Overall Team:
    • Bad Company

The Tournament concluded on Sunday evening on Hsieh's Bad Company 144 with a dramatic closing ceremony that included a flyover by three vintage WWII planes and a send-off performance by Colton James. The veterans were celebrated with delicacies created by Chef David Trailor, including many dishes that featured freshly caught fish from the weekend's event. In addition, all of the participating veterans were provided coolers filled with iced or frozen fish from the Tournament to take home to share with family and friends.

Said Tournament Director Rod Halperin, "We could not be more proud of all of our supporters who helped us make the event happen, and could not be more grateful to these veterans and the many thousands more who willingly put themselves in harm's way to protect our freedom. These are America's finest and it has been our honor to serve them. We can never thank them enough, but we will continue to do our best to show our appreciation for what they have done for our great country."

Individuals interested in learning more about next year's War Heroes on Water Tournament can contact Tournament Director Rod Halperin at To make a monetary donation, please visit Thanks and special recognition goes to those who generously donated to the 2018 WHOW Veteran's Sportfishing Tournament. To view a current list of those who are joining in to honor America's greatest asset—our military—please visit

About Freedom Alliance 
Freedom Alliance is a charitable organization which provides help and support to wounded troops and military families. Freedom Alliance has awarded more than $13 million in college scholarships to the children of military heroes killed or disabled in military service and spent millions more helping wounded veterans and military families with outdoor recreational therapy trips, Heroes Vacations, care packages for deployed troops, mortgage-free homes, all-terrain wheel chairs and much more. You can learn more about Freedom Alliance at and

Media Contacts:
Rod Halperin | (714) 293-3290


Freedom Alliance (PRNewsfoto/loanDepot)

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SOURCE loanDepot