Federation Nation: The heart of BASS

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Every healthy organization has to have people who don't mind going unnoticed. It needs people who are willing to work behind the scenes and do the vital tasks that everyone takes for granted.

Such workers are the roots of organizations. Underground and unseen, but without them there is no life.

The roots of BASS are the Federation Nation members.

The Bassmaster Legends on the Arkansas River this week has been a prime example. The Arkansas BASS Federation Nation has been all over the river, helping in just about any and every way.

"BASS asks us to come in and help because we know the river," said Bobby Davenport, the Arkansas BASS Federation Nation president. "If you don't know what you're doing out there, you can tear stuff up in a hurry."

They have helped with driving trucks, getting boats into the water, driving camera boats, and have had guys assisting at every weigh in, and they are doing it all for free.

"These people love it enough to give their time," Davenport said. "I live in Stuttgart, and anytime I need help in a different city, I've got some guys ready to jump on it."

Davenport said that just this morning they were providing 15 camera boat drivers, 10 people helping to get the boats in water, and they will have more guys at the weigh in this afternoon in the Statehouse Convention Center.

One of the members who has been helping out this week is Orland Henderson. Henderson said he had no problem giving his time, and has reaped a few benefits from his association with BASS.

"It gave me a chance to be an observer and ride with the pros a couple times this week," Henderson said. "I learned a lot about bass fishing by just watching them."

Henderson has volunteered at both weigh ins (Thursday and Friday), and he'll be driving a camera boat out on the water today. He said he is driven by a love for the sport.

"I'm sure when you were growing up you had heroes," Henderson said. "Well, I'm old enough to be your daddy, and these guys are my heroes."

But it's not all glory and glamour with the biggest names in the sport. The roughly 700-member Arkansas chapter of the Federation Nation, which is an organization that covers 47 states and six foreign countries with more than 20,000 members, is working year-round in the state to help wherever help is needed.

"We're involved in youth programs, casting for kids and conservation as well," Davenport said. "We also clean up on the river. We just do whatever people need us to do."

As for the fun that they've had this week and the predictions on who will win, apparently a heart for bass fishing in Arkansas doesn't come without a certain bias.

"Rook [of Little Rock] is going to find the fish," Davenport said. "Short [of Mayflower, Ark.] shouldn't have trouble either. I think the local guys are definitely going to be at the top."