Twenty-one members of the Benning BASS Club competed at a club tournament Saturday at Lake Martin in Alabama. George Mendez earned first place weighing in 10 bass at 15.57 pounds.
“My goal was to take first place and I did that,” Mendez said. “There is some tough competition and we have great fishermen.”
Mendez said he wanted to catch bigger bass, but because the water temperature was warm, the bigger bass weren’t accessible.
“Lake Martin is an excellent lake in the winter, but right now it’s too hot (to catch big bass),” he said. Chris Cox took second place with 14.21 pounds, followed by third-place finisher John Brady with 13.66 pounds. Jim Lehman caught the biggest bass, which was 4.13 pounds. This is the 14th tournament the Benning Bass Club has hosted this year.
Club members fish in tournaments in Georgia and Alabama including lakes Martin, Harding, Seminole, and Eufaula.
Currently, there are 50 members, “which is a lot,” said club president Kevin Clarke, but the club is always looking for new members.
Clarke said a lot of the members have been fishing all their lives, but the club is open to fishermen of any skill level. Members range from age 19 to 82. Jack Pines, 82, has been in the club since 1992 and said he has no plans of quitting the sport he loves.
“I am going to fish until I can’t fish anymore,” he said. “It’s fun and relaxing being out on the lake away from telephones and everything else.”
Pines participates in tournaments, but he said he isn’t really concerned about winning. He just wants to fish. Pines said there isn’t a secret to bass fishing. Hard work and learning from others does help though. Dennis Smith, who has been in the club since 1997, disagreed with Pines and said there is a secret.
“There is a secret to bass fishing, but if I told you I would just have to dunk you two or three times,” he said. Smith said he has fished ever since he can remember.
“I was six days old, the doctor slapped me on the butt and handed me a fishing rod,” he said.
In high school, Smith said he would go fishing with his grandfather a lot. He also fished with his mom and dad.
“(Fishing) is my way out — you can just get away from everything for a little bit and you can enjoy it,” he said. Enjoyment may be one part of why Smith likes to fish, but he said he also likes the competitive part, as well.
“It’s you against the fish out there. Most of the time the fish beat you, but you have to find a way to outsmart them,” Smith said.
Smith said he enjoys the camaraderie of the club and likes that everyone shares more than one common interest, including fishing and the military.
Adam Linkenhoker said he appreciates the club is like a family. When his grandfather died, members consoled Linkenhoker.
“My favorite part of the club is the group of guys — they support you no matter what,” he said. And everybody helps one another, he said.
Linkenhoker, who joined about a year ago, said anyone who likes to fish should join.
“If you like fishing — it doesn’t matter if you are professional or just started fishing — this club is for you,” he said.
The Benning BASS Club, which was established in 1972, is a coed club open to military, retirees, honorably discharged service members, DoD civilians, and family members who are 16 and older.
The club has at least two meetings and one tournament each month. The meetings are at 6:30 p.m. every second and fourth Tuesday of the month at Legacy Chevrolet car dealership on Manchester Expressway in Columbus.
The club also has a Junior BASS club open to Benning BASS Club Members’ children’ ages 16 and younger. If interested in joining the club, come to a meeting. For more information, go to www.benningbassclub.com.