FOR 50 YEARS,
Founded in 1938, the Western Bass Club is the oldest bass club in the nation. Although there was one thing missing when the club was developed: bass. That was an easy fix for founder Ed Frederick. In 1939, the club members bought a truckload of 6-inch fingerling bass and distributed them to various waters in the area. Bass caught today in Lake Sammamish, for instance, are descendents of the first bass plant in the state.
Fifty years is quite a stretch to run for any organization. Since the beginning of the Western Bass Club, America has seen four wars, regimes have risen and fallen, and 10 presidents have resided in the White House. All the while, the bass club remained steadfast and consistent.
Demonstrating the club's health today is the fact that the organization grew by 20 members last year to reach 84, and the projects the club sponsors are as popular as ever.
Club spokesman Glenn May says there are several reasons why the group has been able to survive. "We have picnics, bake sales and auctions, and Christmas parties." But, he points out, just having fun is not the essence of survivability.
A lot of the club's efforts today are centered on educating the public about warm-water fisheries and the importance of the species to a fishery's overall health. May also notes members of the club spend many hours at the state capital in Olympia, fighting for sound management of warm-water fisheries, with the hopes of also gaining a hatchery strictly for warm-water species.
May describes the efforts the bass club puts forth as community oriented, not solely for the benefit of the club's ambitions. "Last year we raised $1,200 for the grass carp project at Silver Lake. The carp we got were infertile, so they could not reproduce. The fish are effectively taking care of the milfoil and hydrilla growth in the lake. This was a controversial project, because people were afraid the carp would take over the lake, as has happened in lakes in the south, but that's why we got the ones that cannot reproduce."
Though the group has been around for over 50 years, the Western Bass Club has had its problems. "I think about four or five years ago the club dwindled, but one of the first things they did when that happened was to start putting on potlucks and doing things to keep the members interested in the club." he notes. "One of our more popular events is the big game dinner at the end of the hunting seasons. Members prepare dishes from the game they had taken that season. We get pheasant, deer and elk. The people who may not care for wild game bring in traditional dishes and give them names like wild horned spaghetti."
May also points out that the club strives to share the joy of the sport and all members are obligated to pass on their savvy to new members. And, once in a while, a new member turns out to know a little more about bass fishing than some of the old- timers.
Aaron Echternkamp of Auburn joined the club and then promptly showed his bassing prowess at Lake Sammamish and at Potholes Reservoir. "He really showed us a thing or two about bass fishing, and we really enjoy that," May says.
Another more notable member of the Western Bass Club is professional angler and outdoor television co-host of Fishing the West, Jeff Boyer. Boyer has fished the BassMaster Classic, and also hosts seminars on the basics of bass fishing at sports shows.
May also says the Western Bass Club is oriented for family fun. Anyone can join, because the group wants that family angle. Women, kids and people without boats are more than welcome to join. "I think that's one of the reasons why we do so well as a club."
The Western Bass Club holds no affiliation to national or regional networks. "There are so many bass clubs that are affiliated with B.A.S.S.," May points out. "And I don't think not being affiliated has hurt us as a club. Perhaps it has helped us in the long run."
Competition is strong among the club's members, but rivalries are all in good spirit. There are small prizes awarded at some tournaments, but, for the most part, it's a bragging- rights effort between fishermen.
After 54 years, it appears the Western Bass Club will survive another half century.