- Mike Suchan, Outdoors
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PIKE ROAD, Ala. -- Sean DeBevoise of Hamlet, N.C., and Elite angler Gary Klein really hit it off.
The 25-year-old retired Marine Corps sergeant was paired with legendary BASS angler Klein for Hope for the Warriors fishing exhibition outside of Montgomery, where the final 12 are vying this week for the Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year title.
DeBevoise, wounded twice during his three deployments to Iraq, caught seven fish, including the largest of his life, a 5-pound, 2-ounce lunker.
It might not have won the fun day on Lake Cameron in exclusive trophy bass community The Waters, but Klein and DeBevoise bonded and enjoyed their time together.
"We talked more about hunting than fishing," said the soldier who grew up doing both in upstate New York near the Catskills. "That is something we have in common."
The two chatted about rifles and life experiences. Their interest in marksmanship led to lengthy discussions, and the talk bordered on the technical end. Along with making many of his own lures, Klein is handy with ammunition and has a 1,000-foot shooting range on his property.
DeBevoise was a scout sniper with the 2nd Reconnaissance Battalion. He was deployed three times, first to Haiti and twice to Camp Fallujah, Iraq. Medically retired from the Marine Corps in 2009, DeBevoise is attending college to complete his paralegal certification.
On the water, their fishing seemed secondary to the opportunity to spend time talking with someone who shares the same interest. Klein was genuinely impressed with the young man.
"He's a great guy. I'm just humbled to be in his presence," said Klein, who learned that DeBevoise's humvees were twice hit by IEDs and he has been hit by shrapnel and four bullets, including one that penetrated his head.
The injury required a steel plate in his head and paralyzed his left leg. He defied the prognosis that he would never walk again, and gets by with a small brace running along his calf. He swings his leg forward from the hip to walk.
"It makes what I do meaningless," Klein said, "the sacrifices he's made ... to take four rounds. My heart goes out to him to do that for our country."
DeBevoise now lives in North Carolina and regularly fishes a 3-acre pond. He received some tips from Klein on how to manage it for larger fish yesterday evening as they shopped for gear. The 12 soldiers received $200 gift cards at the Prattville Bass Pro Shop and the Elites stocked them up for the day.
Not being experienced with a baitcasting reel, DeBevoise was assured by Klein that he would teach him in about 10 minutes, and that he would catch the largest bass of his life.
"I tangled it up a couple of times," said DeBevoise, who added that Klein's main tip was "just keep your thumb on the reel. Once I got out there and I could swing hard, it made more sense."
He landed his largest bass on a "small, sweet spot on the other side of the lake."
"He threw it all day and learned it ... caught a 5-2. It was awesome," Klein said. "It's a great little lake. These bass are probably grateful that we don't have access to it all the time."
(By the way, after a presentation and lunch, all the Elites and most of the soldiers went out in the afternoon to fish The Waters again, it was that good. DeBevoise topped his morning catch with a 5-9, but Biffle's big 8-3 winning wasn't eclipsed.)
The Hope For The Warriors program was started by three Marine Corps wives whose mission is to "enhance quality of life for US Service Members and their families nationwide who have been adversely affected by injuries or death in the line of duty."
Visit their web site at www.hopeforthewarriors.org.
Sean DeBevoise of Hamlet, N.C., and Elite angler Gary Klein really hit it off.