BASS Times: Serving country and community

FORT CAMPBELL, Ky.— SSG Mark Pierce knows a thing or two about service. As a career Army man, he knows about service to his country. As a serious bass angler, he knows about service to his community.

Currently assigned to Fort Campbell, Ky., Pierce is within easy driving distance of Kentucky Lake and Lake Barkley. The opportunity has not passed him by. When he's not working on base, he can usually be found bass fishing on one of them.

And, his bass fishing has been successful as of late. He's won or placed high in a number of tournaments, and last November, he competed in the Federation Nation Championship, and he was just a few pounds away from a Classic berth.

Pierce is proud of that, to be sure. But when he talks fishing, he talks kids and charity. As an avid member of the Montgomery County Bassmasters, he dedicates much of his time to fishing with kids and raising money for the needy.

In the spring — April to be exact — his time is dominated by the Night Stalker Tournament. It typically raises more than $10,000 for the Night Stalker Foundation, an organization that provides financial and emotional support to families of the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment, based at Fort Campbell.

"It's a pretty big deal. We raise the money from entry fees and the generosity of local businesses. But I can't take credit for it; it's the creation of my friend, Brian Henley. He used to be in the Army, but now he's a rep for Mustang Survival and gets to travel to the Elite Series," Pierce said with characteristic modesty mixed with obvious jealousy over Henley's job.

In November, the same group of men organize and manage their annual Food Basket Tournament. The proceeds from this event are donated to local food pantries to help the needy make it through the winter.

"We like to think we help our communities," said Pierce, referring to the fall event. "They help us, so why shouldn't we help them? Sometimes people need a hand."

A couple of weeks later, the Montgomery County Bassmasters get together and collect cash and toy donations for the Salvation Army.

And, if all this wasn't enough, on Thursday evenings from May through August, Pierce, along with several friends, holds an open tournament where anyone without a boat or who wants to learn to bass fish can go out on the water with an experienced bass angler, compete in a fun tournament and learn the ropes.

Asked about the future, this Illinois native said, "I don't know. I like the Army and what I'm doing now, but to tell you the truth, I've got the fever bad. All I want to do is fish — anywhere, anytime, anyplace."