As Jesus walked beside the Sea of Galilee, He saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. "Come follow Me," Jesus said, "and I will make you fishers of men. At once, they left their nets and followed Him." -- St. Mark, chapter I, verses 16-18.
Soft spoken Rick Crews of North Augusta admits to being a competitive bass tournament fisherman and loving it, but the weigh-in scenes were beginning to disturb him.
"I grew tired of all the cussing, beer-drinking and cutthroat tactics," said Crews, who saw mirror-images of what he had been until two years ago.
"There are usually kids in the crowd of onlookers at weigh-ins and I just felt it wasn't the right kind of image for bass fishermen to portray.
"Oh, I was just as foul-mouthed as any until I rededicated my life to Jesus Christ in March of 1996," Crews said.
"Then, I felt the need to organize a bass club and operate it along Christian principles and I wondered if anyone else felt the same way.
"Happily, there were.
"I started talking to Ronnie Robinson, who had been a Clark Hill Bassmasters member when I was, and Colden Storey in August of 1997, and both of them felt as I did."
Eight men showed up at the organizational meeting of the Georgia Christian Bass Association.
Beside Crews, Robinson and Storey, there was Storey's son, Randy, and Wes Lewis, Fred Ready, Richard Grant and Jim Swift.
Now there are 18 members, with the latest Crews' younger brother, Johnny.
"We did away with rules that you couldn't do this or that," Crews said.
"We encourage fellowship and we start our tournaments with a prayer and end with a prayer.
"Tournament winners conduct devotionals at our club meetings, which are held on the second Tuesday of each month at El Villa in the West Town Shopping Center at 7 p.m. We do whatever we can to promote Jesus Christ."
The club has "adopted" Little River Marina as its home marina because owner Pam Bugg shares its Christian philosophy.
"We want to do what God wants us to do and we put God into whatever activity we are doing, including bass fishing," said Crews, who is employed at the Savannah River Site.
"I guess you could say we've become fishers of men, which is what Jesus told fishermen Simon and Andrew on the Sea of Galilee."
Crews said Colden Storey's son-in-law "recently was saved and Colden attributed it to his association with our club. That's an awesome compliment."
Crews, 37, is a native of Bartow, Fla., and an Army brat whose father was stationed at Fort Gordon during the 1960s.
"I remember one of my first introductions to fishing occurred when I was 7 or 8.
"There was a catfish tournament at Fort Gordon and my father entered me. I caught a fish and my photo ran in The Chronicle with the caption, `Little One Catches a Big One.'
"I also remember tying a piece of ordinary twine onto a stick, tying on a safety pin and using bits of bread to catch bream from a private pond near home."
His second wife, Angie, whom he married four years ago, "has been very supportive of my fishing since Day 1. My stepson, Ryan, 11, also enjoys fishing and is a member of our club.
"She also rededicated her life to Christ and we're members of Mt. Zion Baptist Church in Trenton, S.C. Since we've done it, God has been good to us."
Crews said the Georgia Christian Bass Association is planning on holding an open team tournament in the future in conjunction with Middlebrooks Baptist Church of Aiken.
Meanwhile, the club's next tournament is on Halloween -- Oct. 31 -- out of Little River Marina. More information is available from Crews at 279-0756, or Robinson at 863-3621.
Bill Babb is the outdoor editor for The Augusta Chronicle and can be reached at 706-828-3304.
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