• Local angler qualifies for biggest tourney

  • Stoafer to compete in Super Bowl of Bass Fishing.

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  • Katie Peterson | Staff Writer
    When Larry Stoafer was 5 years old, his grandfather took him fishing for the first time and he was hooked.
    “I spent a lot of time with my grandfather,” said Stoafer, an assistant professor of tactics at the Command and General Staff College. “I love fishing and the outdoors and he really taught me a lot (about) how to do those things. Once he passed when I was in my early teens, it was my way of staying connected with him.”
    Stoafer’s love of fishing has endured and Aug. 10-12 he will be in Hot Springs, Ark., to compete in the Fishing League Worldwide 2018 Forrest Wood Cup, the largest competitive fishing event in the United States, but it wasn’t without hard work.
    In 2007, Stoafer joined the Leavenworth Bass Club and really began to learn what it takes to be a competitive fisherman.
    Stoafer competed in the club level bass fishing tournaments for three years before he started to place at the top. From there, he competed in the FLW Bass Fishing League, the regional level, for another three years before joining the FLW Costa Series — the one of six ways to qualify for the cup.
    “It’s evolutionary,” Stoafer said. “It’s really about developing skills and having the equipment and abilities and being able to enter into these tournaments. There is a qualification process to get to the very top level, but you simply do that by working hard at each one of the levels.”
    Stoafer qualified for the Forrest Wood Cup in November 2017 when he finished third at the FLW Costa Series Championship on Kentucky Lake. He will compete against 53 other fishermen — nine from the Costa Series, the 2017 Forrest Wood Cup champion, the 2017 FLW Tour Angler of the Year, the 2018 T-H Marine FLW BFL champion, the 2018 Yeti FLW College Fishing National Championship winner and the top 40 from the FLW series — for the cup and the $300,000 grand prize.
    During the first two days of the tournament, all of the competitors will fish for eight hours per day and bring back their five largest bass to be weighed-in live on the FLW website, www.flwfishing.com. The top 10 fishermen, with the most cumulative weight, will compete the third day for the title.
    In other tournaments, the top 20 percent would receive a payout, but because the Forrest Wood Cup is the main FLW event, every participant will get a payout ranging from $10,000 to $300,000.
    “You had to do something to get there,” Stoafer said. “You had to qualify.”
    Stoafer said he enjoys the tournaments because it feeds his competitive side.
    Page 2 of 2 - “Once you really get connected to something that you love like the outdoors, hunting and fishing, (and) you connect that up with a sport that’s uber competitive, for people like me, it drives you crazy,” Stoafer said. “You get all in and addicted to it because it’s feeding both of those things.”
    For those interested in competitive bass fishing, Stoafer recommends joining the local bass club.
    Stoafer’s enjoyment for fishing isn’t entirely focused on competition. When he isn’t working or competing in tournaments, Stoafer is the fishing coordinator for the Fort Leavenworth Rod and Gun Club. In that role, he plans, coordinates and executes the semi-annual Kids’ Fishing Derby, fishing seminars for Rod and Gun Club members and various fishing tournaments.
    Stoafer is also a co-founder of Fishing for Freedom, a non-profit organization he began in 2008.
    “We came up with that idea, me and a buddy of mine, over a beer one night just trying to figure out how could we do something, because we get so many friends suffering from (post-traumatic stress disorder) and other war-related issues,” Stoafer said. “Both of us have a passion for fishing. For us it really helps, so if it helps us maybe it’ll help other people.”
    Each year, on Columbus Day weekend, Fishing for Freedom brings nearly 150 wounded warriors and veterans to Truman Lake in Missouri and teaches them about fishing. The weekend culminates into a day-long fishing tournament at no cost to the veterans.
    “The only expense the soldiers have is to travel to and from,” Stoafer said. “We take care of everything else for them.”
    For more information about Fishing for Freedom, visit www.fishingforfreedom.us.
    Being a retired Army major after more than 30 years of service and having a wife and three sons currently serving in the military, Stoafer said all of the things he does for the military are his way of giving back.
    “Once you are that deeply connected or embedded to the military, it’s family,” he said. “It’s trying to give back something that I love to enjoy and share that with a community of folks that I’m already very connected with.”
    Despite all of the enjoyment he gets from competitive fishing and sharing his passion for fishing with others, Stoafer said what he loves most is the feeling fishing gives him.
    “It’s that time to yourself. It’s just that solitude, the ability to connect with nature and really appreciate those associated freedoms and the things that we get to do here that’s just so much different from so many other places in the world,” he said. “You and nature and the early morning, there’s no better part of the day. You’re out on the water as the sun is coming up and it’s just you and God, your thoughts and the fish.”
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