Which fishing club is right for you?

This is the time of year when you might want to spend some time thinking about your fishing club or — if you don’t belong to one yet — which one you might want to join.

This is the time of year when you might want to spend some time thinking about your fishing club or — if you don’t belong to one yet — which one you might want to join. They’re not all the same, and neither are bass anglers.

Is your club doing what it should be doing for you? Does it meet your needs as an angler? Do you need to make a change? Which club should you join if you’re just getting started?

Before you can answer those questions, you have to determine what it is that you want out of fishing. If your goal is to improve and fish bigger and bigger tournaments, that’s one thing. But if your goal is to simply go to a meeting once a month and go fishing a few times during the summer with your buddies, that’s another thing. Moving up in the sport is very different from enjoying fellowship and camaraderie.

There’s nothing wrong with either goal. One is just as valid as the other. That’s the beauty of bass fishing. You can do it as a professional career or as a casual hobby. It’s important, however, that you know what you want to accomplish with your fishing when you think about a club.

One of the most important things is how they set up their tournaments. If you want to get better, then you probably want a blind draw kind of system. You’ll fish with guys who aren’t as good as you, some who are about the same and a few who are better. And you’ll learn what it’s like to fish when you’re in control of the boat and when you’re not.

If you’re looking for a social event, a buddy system is fine. You can go fishing with a friend, have a good time and come home having had a fun day. There’s nothing wrong with that.

One thing I would avoid is any club who lets guys fish by themselves. It seems to me that you’re asking for trouble when you do that. Temptation is around when you’re by yourself — it’s easier to be good when there are witnesses to your conduct — and there’s always the possibility of unfounded accusations. Either way it can turn out bad.

Another thing I would avoid is fishing for money. I like clubs where you fish for a trophy, a plaque or maybe a jacket, as well as end-of-year honors. I’ll admit, though, that some clubs fish for money and don’t have problems.

But money changes things and it changes people. Maybe that change is small, but it’s still a change. It’s funny what a few dollars will do. I think you’re better off to stay away from it at the club level. There are plenty of other opportunities to fish for money, if that’s what you want to do.

I also like long-established clubs. If they’ve been around for 25 or 30 years, there’s probably a reason for that. Bad clubs don’t usually stay around very long. Another thing I like are clubs that have you attend a meeting, maybe fish one of their tournaments and then let you apply for membership if you fit with them and if they fit with you.

A membership vote is also a good thing. It says that they don’t let just anybody into the club. I’m not talking about conceit here. I’m talking about selectivity. A good reputation can be destroyed simply by hanging around with the wrong people. Make sure you hang around with good anglers who respect the sport and do things the right way.

Another thing you might want to think about is joining a club in which the members have a common interest outside of fishing. Christian clubs are popular with some anglers and so are company or union clubs.

One thing that I definitely believe is that any club you stay with or join should be B.A.S.S. Federation Nation affiliated. You want to stay current on things that affect fishing and make sure you’re up-to-date on the sport. There’s no such thing as standing still. You’re either moving forward or you’re falling backwards. B.A.S.S. will make sure you’re moving forward.

Think these things through this winter. If you’re already a club member, you might want to make a change or stay where you are. Either way, if you think it through you’ll feel better about what you do. And if you’re just getting started, maybe this will keep you from making a mistake that could turn you off to fishing.