Spirit of JacksonvilleREAD ONLINE
Arkadelphia Bass Club still standing the test of timeOriginally Published October 25, 2012 at 12:00 a.m.
Updated October 24, 2012 at 8:24 a.m.
ARKADELPHIA For more than 40 years, a group of Arkadelphia men has gathered to spend time doing what they love: fishing.
Each month, the Arkadelphia Bass Club’s 18 members come together for a tournament, the location drawn from a bag. Whether it’s DeGray, Hamilton, Catherine or Greeson lakes, the anglers are assigned a random partner for the day, a policy that helps members share boats and knowledge.
“I’ve gotten a lot better since [I first joined],” club member and tournament director Shea Stone said. “It’s fun learning a lot from the older guys, who have so much more experience. I’ve learned about the types of rods and reels for different styles of fishing, and different lines to use.”
The tournaments go from around 7 a.m. to 2 p.m., and when the fishing’s done, they all come in to weigh their catches and total their points for the day. Points are totaled at the end of the year for overall awards.
“Everyone puts in a dollar at each tournament for the big bass of the day,” said Brian Bagwell, a member of the group since the early ’90s. The money may not be much, but it’s enough for lunch. And it’s not about the money.
“We’re set up more to build friendships and relationships than as a big competition.”
The club was organized in 1969, and Bagwell said it is the longest consistently meeting bass club in Clark County. A few founding members are still active, fishing when their health allows. The club now includes members from ages 14 to 78. The youngest is Bagwell’s teenage son, Colby, who’s been a club member since he was 9.
“The club members were kind of concerned at first because of his age,” Bagwell said. “They weren’t sure how he could make a seven- or eight-hour tournament. They found out quickly that he could hold his own.”
Together, Colby and Bagwell fish a few extra tournaments outside of the group to help Colby gain more experience. Colby is interested in doing fishing on an even bigger scale in the future, including Bassmaster-federated competitions.
The club roster also includes several student anglers from Henderson Sate University’s fishing team, like Stone. Others are retired professors, retired and active military personnel, friends from church, and one father and son-in-law team.
“When a gentleman at the church I went to first asked me to come out and fish with them, I didn’t have the means to go out to the lake myself,” Bagwell said. “I took a break with them when I was working in Little Rock, but I’ve been with them ever since. It’s a great way to know you’ll be fishing at least once a month.”
Bagwell admits the group winds up sometimes “spending most of the day talking and catching up,” rather than focusing on making big catches, but Stone managed to nab a 4-pound, 7-ounce bass on one trip.
“I keep coming in second and third a lot,” Stone said, laughing. “I was beat once by just an ounce.”
After tournaments, Bagwell tries to post photos and updates to the Arkadelphia Bass Club Facebook page, which currently has 243 fans. Many of those following the page are from outside the area — some military stationed overseas — who like “keeping up on the things happening here locally,” Bagwell said. “A lot of friends of the page don’t have the opportunities and outdoor areas like we have here, and it’s encouraging for them to see what we’re up to.”
The club takes in annual dues from members to help with a year-end awards banquet and regular community-service trips that include highway and shoreline cleanup.
“We’re open to anyone, though right now we just have men,” Bagwell said.
The club meets at 7 p.m. the last Thursday of every month at the Farm Bureau, 2702 Caddo St., in Arkadelphia. For more information on the group, search Arkadelphia Bass Club on Facebook or email Bagwell at email@example.com.
Staff writer Emily Van Zandt can be reached at (501) 399-3688 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Associate Features Editor Emily Van Zandt can be reached at 501-399-3688 or email@example.com.