Want to get the most out of fishing?
Join a club
by Michael Iaconelli

(Reprinted from the Courier Post, "Hook, Line and Sinker" column, August 2004)

I've been fishing for as long as I can remember.  I started specifically bass fishing when I was around 12 years old.  For the years following, all I wanted to do was go fishing or read about fishing.
But there came a point in my fishing when I felt I had learned all I could on my own.  In 1991, I joined my first fishing club, the Top Rod Bassmasters.  It was the most important thing I've ever done in my life to advance my level of fishing.  Joining a club has made me a better fisherman for many reasons.

Knowledge:  Until you've had a chance to share real ideas and concepts with other fishermen, you have not fully developed your talents.  Before I  joined a club, I thought I knew everything.  Boy was I wrong.
Through club meetings and club buddy tournaments, I started learning little things that greatly enhanced my fishing skills.  New techniques, new knots, new casting styles, new lures and new rigging methods.
I have shaven years off my learning curve just by comparing notes with other fishermen.  The interaction between club members also sparks new ideas that you could never have thought of on your own.

Stepping Stone:  For the angler who wants to have the opportunity to eventually make it to another level of tournament fishing, clubs help you make the jump.  Whether you just want to advance to local and regional tournaments or if you aspire to turn full-time national touring pro, clubs help you make the transition.
I learned all the basics of tournament fishing through my club.  I learned things like time management, proper culling methods, strategy and decision making, and a host of other everyday tournament activities I do now regularly.  The club level is [the] first step in the hierarchy of stages when moving up.

Camaraderie:  Fishing clubs are a great way to make lifelong friends.  I started so many new friendships through fishing, I can't even tell you -- friends I can call any time to go fishing, for advice or for help on anything.
Besides learning about just fishing, I've learned a whole lot more.  Club members have occupations ranging from teaching, to landscaping, to practicing law, to home-improvement specialties.
So now, besides just being a professional fisherman, I have a general knowledge of a whole lot of other things through friends I made in my club.

Community Service:  This is another important facet of fishing clubs.  Most clubs partake in community-improvement activities.  Lake cleanups are one of the most common.
It's a great way to give back to a sport that gives so much to us.  It also spreads the concepts of environmental awareness and conservation.
Getting youth involved is another concept most clubs are real big on.  Clubs hold Casting Kids competitions, kids tournaments and father and son days regularly.  Some clubs have even started youth subchapters, specifically for young kids who want to get an early jump on joining a club.
There are lots of clubs all over the tristate area.  Odds are there's one very close to where you live.  You can pick a small boat club, big boat club or a club for non-boaters.

Two sources I recommend for finding a club are the New Jersey B.A.S.S. Federation and the South Jersey Bass Club Association.  Both of these sources can direct you to a club that perfectly suits your needs.
So, to make your fishing more fun and more successful, try joining a club.  Like me, you might find that it's the best thing you'll ever do to make your fishing better.

(Michael Iaconelli is the at-large fishing columnist for Hook, Line and Sinker.  He won the 2003 Bassmaster Classic.  Reach him at sjfish@courierpostonline.com.)

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