LAKELAND, Fla. — At the Lakeland Bassmasters' annual banquet on Dec. 8, the club honored Jim Hooven, who is leaving his post as club president after 31 years.
Michael "Nick" Nicknadarvich, who is taking over as president, presented Hooven, 71, with a letter of gratitude and a lifetime B.A.S.S. membership, awarded to him by B.A.S.S. Hooven will continue on as the club's membership chairman.
The first Lakeland Bassmasters meeting Hooven attended left a lasting impression that drove him to change the dynamics of the club.
“There was a big argument and it ended up being a fight behind the hotel," said Hooven of that fateful night 31 years ago.
Three months later, Hooven took over as president of the club. Under his leadership, the club expanded from 14 members to more than 100 members and became the largest federated bass club in the world. “We organized the meetings to where there was no arguing, bickering and hollering,” Hooven said. “We added educational programs that new members were afforded in-house information on how to flip or throw crankbaits or spinnerbaits.”
Hooven strived to make the meetings enjoyable. “My philosophy for 30 years has been that once a month a man leaves his wife, children and his TV programs to come to a bass club meeting to enjoy camaraderie with friends,” he said. “If that doesn’t happen, he not only stops coming to the meetings, he also stops fishing.”
The longtime club president kept many club anglers fishing throughout the years. He notes 11 club members have become B.A.S.S. pros, including 2012 Bassmaster Classic champion Chris Lane and his brother, Bobby.
“Jim made it a joy to go to the meetings and made people want to be a part of the club,” recalled Chris Lane. “He made the club what a bass club should be and that is why it is the largest federated club in the world. Jim always has a great attitude and can really handle situations as a president should be able to, no matter what the situation. When he made a decision, that was the decision.”
B.A.S.S. Nation director Don Corkran marvels at Hooven’s accomplishments, especially because the average size of Nation clubs is 14 members. “When most bass clubs get 15 or 20 members, then there is dissension in the ranks and they end up splitting,” said Corkran. “That happens all the time. Yet because of Hooven’s leadership, he has been able to hold that club together. Lakeland Bassmasters has survived solely because of Jim Hooven’s leadership. There is not another example anywhere in the (Nation) system of a club that is that big and survived."
Corkran also credits Hooven for keeping the Florida B.A.S.S. Nation alive when he took over as state president during the split of the Federation.