Ricky Crews' love of fishing runs deep, and tournament competition just sweetens it.
But about five years ago the "cussing, fussing and fighting" got to him. And he wasn't the only one.
He found that friends Ronnie Robinson of Martinez and Colden Storey were also looking for a way to combine a love of the sport with their faith. Since fishermen compete in teams of six, they decided to run newspaper and radio ads in hopes of hooking three more like-minded souls.
"The first meeting we had eight. It just started growing from there," said Mr. Crews, who made the Georgia team in the Bass Anglers Sportsman Society competition in 1992.
Now, 22 fishermen are affiliated with the Georgia Christian Bass Association, the club they formed four years ago. A 4-by-8-foot sign alerts patrons at the Little River Marina, 4271 Old Lincolnton Road in Leah, that it's the club's home base.
Club members fish in tournaments about once a month, mostly around Thurmond Lake, though they also go other places. The association started a youth division last year.
Members gather at El Valle restaurant in West Towne Shopping Center on Washington Road on the second Monday of the month. As in the tournaments, they start and end with prayer. In between they talk fishing. "The fellowship is what is awesome," Mr. Crews said.
The next meeting is to be at 7 p.m. Monday.
Dues are $10 a month. Money stays in the club and is used to buy Christian literature.
Anglers get points for attending meetings, not just catching the biggest fish. The club also is part of the Bass Anglers Sportsmen Society federation, but members take a relaxed attitude toward the rules. "We call them guidelines," Mr. Crews said.
They trust that fishermen will make a good-faith effort. "There is competition, but not cutthroat competition," he said. There's a 2-ounce penalty for breaking rules, but nobody's tried to weigh in a short fish or any fish over the 5-count limit.
Inviting others to fish with them has also proved to be a good way to witness to others and share their faith, he said. "We are one club trying to use fishing to promote Jesus. Sometimes you feel guilty - I love it so much."
There's something about being outdoors and fishing on a lake that is relaxing and enjoyable, Mr. Crews said.
People don't have to be good at fishing to enjoy going out, he said. "We are breaking down that barrier."
For more information, call 279-0756 or visit the B.[filtered word] Web site at www.bassmaster.com.
The Georgia Christian Bass Association will meet at El Valle restaurant at West Towne Shopping Center on Washington Road at 7 p.m. Monday. For more information, call 279-0756.
Reach Virginia Norton at (706) 823-3336 or firstname.lastname@example.org.