ALBANY — Steven Sutton loved the outdoors — playing sports, fishing and hunting — and now a group of local anglers want to help his family after Sutton’s tragic death a little more than a month ago.
Bass tournament directors Richard Bachman and Marty Milner have organized a tournament for Saturday on Lake Blackshear to benefit the Sutton family. Lance Cpl. Sutton, 23, was killed by an improvised explosive device May 26 while serving in Afghanistan, just one month shy of returning home to Leesburg.
All local anglers are eligible to fish in the bass tournament, which will be held at Georgia Veterans State Park near Cordele. Boats will leave the ramp before dawn and fish until the 3 p.m. weigh-in. Registration is $100 per boat and 40 percent of the entry fees will go to the Sutton family, Milner said.
Milner, who organized the Cromartie Beach bass tournaments in Albany for nearly 15 years, met Sutton several years ago while playing adult league softball and the two struck up a friendship.
“He liked to fish and play ball,” Milner said. “He was a good friend of mine.”
Sutton, a 6-foot-7 offensive lineman in high school, played football for the Lee County Trojans and enjoyed the outdoors, so the fishing tournament to honor him and benefit his family was a natural tie-in.
Milner said he hopes to have Sutton’s father, Gene, at the weigh-in so the tournament earnings can be presented to the family. Rick Wagner, owner of Wagners BBQ in Albany, will donate BBQ sandwiches to the anglers after the tournament. Although he didn’t know Sutton personally, Wagner said it didn’t take much prodding from Milner to help out with the bass tournament benefit.
“(Milner) told me about the cause and that they wanted to raise some money for (Sutton) and I said, ‘I’m in,’” Wagner said. “Those kinds of causes, you can’t do much better than that. I have some family that knew (Sutton) very well (and they said) he was just a fine individual.”
Wagner’s BBQ will provide close to 150 sandwiches for the tournament field of anglers.
For more information on the bass tournament, call Bachman (894-7178) or Milner (364-9287). Milner said anyone can also sign up at Fred’s Bait & Tackle at 100 Philema Road in Albany or at the boat ramp the morning of the fishing tournament.