“Angling is extremely time consuming. That’s sort of the whole point.” — Thomas McGuane, angler, novelist, screenwriter and director of films.
Tom got that right, but fortunately seniors who’ve left the working world behind have all the time they need to take up the hobby anew or dedicate more time to a lifelong fishing passion.
The later describes Rod Martin, vice president of the Clearwater Senior Bass Club. He’s been bass fishing for decades, caught his first 6-pound largemouth at age 10 and 50 years later landed an 18.9-pound fish, that for a time was the 38th heaviest largemouth on record.
Martin, who retired from California to Florida in 2014, is crazy for the sport and his club, which a while back was “just a regular bass club,” but morphed into a club for seniors as its longtime members began to get into their golden years.
Competitiveness was dialed down a bit and instead of a “young man’s tournament money club,” it became more about good times and camaraderie, said Martin, who also manages the website, www.clearwaterseniorbassclub.com. As it states on the home page, “Clearwater Senior Bass is about fishing and friends…”
“It’s not about prize money,” said Martin, who said one could win every pot his club has for its monthly tournaments and it wouldn’t cover his or her expenses. “It’s about fun and friendship and getting together.”
Bill Poirier, the 75-year-old secretary and treasurer of the club, said clubs like his are ideal for seniors looking for a healthy, wholesome activity and opportunity to socialize. The group is seeking new members now, as it currently has just five boating and four non-boat-owning members. For tournaments, non-boaters are paired with boaters. He’s hoping to pick up a couple of new boating members as if the club runs short of boats, some members might not be able to fish.
The monthly excursions are on the third Saturday of the month. Lakes fished are in the central Florida region. Some members arrive at the lake a day or two ahead to pre-fish and everyone buddies up on for their motel stays. The club is geared for seniors, but there is no age restriction, he said, adding the baby of the club is 46 and still working.
Tournament days last 8 hours, so anglers have to be reasonably fit, particularly events held in the summer heat. Anglers should and have enough mobility and balance to to move around safely in a rocking boat.
Martin put in long, hard weeks before he retired and likes to push himself at the tournaments, but it’s up to members to decide how hard they want to go at it.
“It takes me two days to recover from a tournament, but I love it and I’m one of those guys who used to work 100-hour weeks.”
At the end of the year, the club holds its “Classic” tourney, which is a two- or three-day affair. Club meetings typically are held over country-fried steak diners at a Cracker Barrel or another restaurant near the lake. New members pay a $30 initiation fee and it’s $35 to fish a tournament, some of the money going into a prize pot.
New members of any skill level are OK with Clearwater Senior Bass, said Poirier, adding the group recently took on an inexperienced angler who is still learning. The club even got him a rod and reel to use.
While experience is not a requirement, one thing is, said Poirier.
“We all have a love of fishing,” he said. “You’ve got to have that.”
There all types of fishing clubs along our stretch of coast, from small bass clubs to mega-member saltwater fishing groups. A good source of bass clubs can be found at www.bassonline.com. A popular club dedicated to inshore and offshore saltwater fishing is the New Port Richey-based Fish On Fishing Club, online at www.fishonclub.us. The Palm Harbor Saltwater Meetup group can be found at www.meetup.com. The South Pasco Bassmasters (www.southpascobassmasters.com) meet in Land O’Lakes. For fly anglers, there’s the Suncoast Fly Fishers, online at www.suncoastflyfishers.com.
Joining a club is a great way to learn or improve angling skills, as many hold regular seminars led by pros and other angling experts. A club also is a good way to learn the local angling landscape for those who have recently relocated to the area.