For most bass club members, tournament fishing is serious business.
Take, for example, the local club Jim Stone belongs to.
Totaling 30 anglers, they compete nearly a dozen times a year at lakes and streams across the state. They arrive early to prepare gear, finalize strategy and launch boats.
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They then perform the most important work of the day: they conduct a worship service.
Then they go fishing.
Faith and fishing, after all, is what the Johnson County Christian Bassmasters is all about.
“We have a devotional,” said Stone, a 49-year-old White River Township resident who is in his fourth year as the club’s tournament director. “We meet 45 minutes early at the ramp and have a meeting, and then just go fish.”
Founded in 2002, the JCC Bassmasters started out with a handful of members from Emmanuel Church in Greenwood. In the ensuing years, membership has grown dramatically and includes anglers from various churches from around the county.
Each member, regardless of church affiliation, has two things in common: passions for faith and fishing. The JCC Bassmasters allows them to combine both.
Alcohol, cursing and smoking are not part of the outings. Worship, friendship and angling are.
“I just enjoy the fellowship and the quality of people,” said Rex Harris, a Greenwood resident who’s in his seventh year with the club. “It’s just a good bunch of guys, and everyone gets along fine.
“We don’t have any arguments. That’s what I like about it. Everybody’s just out there enjoying themselves.”
Although most of the Greenwood-based club’s members are experienced bass fishermen, not all are. Experience, in fact, is not a requirement for joining.
One of the club’s main purposes, according to its bylaws, is to “improve our skills as Bass anglers through a fellowship of friendly exchange of expert Bass catching techniques and ideas.” Many of the club’s most seasoned members enjoy teaching the finer points to newer members.
Here’s how it works.
Half of the members own bass boats. Half do not. Members are paired for tournaments by draws. The same anglers cannot be paired together more than twice per season, giving every non-boat owner (called co-anglers) a chance to compete at least once with every boat owner.
“You get to know everybody in the club that way,” said Harris, a boat owner. “When you’re fishing for eight hours, you get to know them pretty well.”
Each member pays a $25 annual dues fee, in addition to $20 entry fees per tournament.
To date, the JCC Bassmasters have conducted six tournaments this season. The club fishes a variety of waterways, including Patoka, Geist, Monroe, Morse and Brookville lakes and the Ohio River.
“All the guys are just really good guys. We have no issues you do at some other clubs,” Stone said. “You don’t have to worry too much about the cheating element or anything like that.”
About the only thing members worry about are fishing conditions.
That, and sharing their faith and having a good time.
“It’s really a good group of guys, with the faith and the competition,” said Todd Taylor, the club’s president. “It’s good competition, not the kind where there’s a lot of turmoil and stuff.
“That’s part of the fun.”
Open to men and women 18 and older, the club welcomes anyone who shares its faith values and loves bass fishing. Current members have a variety of occupational backgrounds, including engineers, electricians, welders, business owners and teachers.
“We’ve got all walks of life,” said Harris, a retired teacher. “It’s a really good club, because a lot of those (bass) clubs you get into, there’s a lot of in-fighting and that kind of stuff. They get pretty serious.
“It’s really a bunch of good guys. You have to be to get in.”
What: Johnson County Christian Bassmasters
What: Faith-based bass fishing club
Who can join: Open to men and women anglers, 18 or older, of all abilities
Purpose, according to bylaws: “We seek to proclaim the saving gospel of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, disciple and mentor men and promote Christian Fellowship through the great sport of Bass Fishing.”