Austin Bass Club
The Austin Bass Club was started September 1960 at a meetng of Jackie Hewlett, Murray Muston and George Raven at Mr. Hewlett’s home. They had just returned from fishing Earl Golding’s Texas State Bass Tournament where they had talked to some of the bass fisherment from Waco, Texas about a club that had been formed there.
The first organized black bass tournament held in the United States is recognized as being Earl Golding’s Texas State Bass Tournament and out of this dedication the Austin Bass Club was formed dedicated to this tradition today of Bass fishing.
The Club has three prize trophies that are awarded each year. These are:
Jackie Hewlett Award - Top angler of the Year
Lauren Johnson Award - Big Bass of the year
Ira Stockbrand Award - for those showing sportsmanship and conservation efforts as determine and awarded by the President.
The top Eight members that finish for the year with heaviest stringer get to represent the club at the Texas Association of Bass Clubs State Tournament that is held at the end of September of each year.
The club dues are $40 per member which includes membership into the Texas Association of Bass Clubs. The monthly tournaments are $25 per member that fish and a portion of that money is distributed back to those that fish a monthly tournament. Payouts are determine by the number of members fishing a particlular monthly tournament. Payout for bigbass of the tournament is also paid. Bigbass must be at least six (6) pounds or better to win that pot. Two dollars from the member entry goes to the bigbass pot and if no fish of six pounds or better is not caught than that amount is carried forward to the next tournament.m
The format of the monthly tournaments are team events but for the indiviudal standing, the results are determine by each member weights for its yearly standings.
It probably takes some kind of altered state of mind to decide to form a bass club in 1960 ... before there were any bass clubs.
Remember, this was before "trophy" meant a bass over 10 pounds. It was before real bass boats, trolling motors, live wells and letting fish go.
Heck, it was seven years before Ray Scott had the brilliant idea to unite anglers through the Bass Anglers Sportsman Society, a move that forever transformed fishing in North America.
But two groups of hardcore anglers from Austin and Waco decided a couple of months apart in 1960 to establish a pair of clubs dedicated to bass fishing. Austin Bass Club was born that year. Club members held their 50th anniversary party in February.
"We did it because everybody was fishing," said Jim Sparks, 82, the current oldest member of Austin Bass Club and an honorary charter member of the group. "It was just people wanting to go fishing and then the competition kicked in."
Austin Bass Club quickly grew to more than 200 active members and even split into a second club, Capital Bass Club, in 1966, again before Scott formed BASS.
Although bass fishing had been a big deal, especially throughout the South, the innovations and improvements in equipment and technique that sparked its real ascendancy hadn't kicked in when the thought of forming a club kicked in.
Waco outdoor writer Earl Golding started the Texas State Bass Tournament, the world's oldest organized tournament, in 1955 and bass anglers around Texas couldn't get to the lake fast enough to fish that event. The close fishing associations that came from that annual tournament and from grabbing the latest plastic worm before someone else in town had it finally sparked the formation of the club by Austin legends Jackie Hewlett, Murray Muston and George Raven during a gathering at Hewlett's home.
"We used to camp out because some of the guys couldn't afford a room during tournaments on the road," Sparks said. "We always fished every month. We'd pick a lake and go."
There was no money to buy trophies for the tournament winners since dues for the club were only $2 a year. When the annual cost went up to $5 a year, that helped create the split that led to the Capital Bass Club's formation, Sparks said.
Then Judge Mace Thurman allowed the club members to hold twice-monthly meetings in his courtroom and the ABC members met there for more than 10 years. Through ups and downs in membership and the fishing industry, Austin Bass Club has persevered, always keeping an interest in fishing as its reason for existing.
"We try to stay about the love of fishing," said club member Jim Sunvison. "You have to make a decision: camaraderie or money. Some guys want to go out and fish for money and that's fine. But it's split a lot of clubs."
In the early days, before big-money tournaments began to dominate bass fishing, clubs such as ABC were designed to give anglers a place to go to learn, to talk fishing with their buddies and to see just who was the best in the group. "We used to eat the bass," said Sunvison, who's been a member since 1983 and recently brought his young son into the club. "Everybody showed up with a stringer." There would be a giant fish fry at the end of any event.
Now, with live wells and oxygenated water, anglers are penalized if they have a bass that dies. All the fish go back into the water. And the anglers are better equipped. "We might have 20 rods now," said Jake Jakubowsky. "We used to have two." They use GPS units to find old fishing spots, instead of having to keep them in their heads.
Bass are bigger too. "We're seeing weights consistently go up," said Sunvison. In fact, in February 1961, the club held a tournament on Lake Travis that was won by a team with 14 pounds, 4 ounces of bass. That would be a respectable day of fishing with today's 5-fish daily bag but those two anglers turned in 10 fish, close to a 1.5-pound average. That's small.
Many tournaments today will feature winning daily weights of five fish approaching 25 pounds, testimony to the size of the bass and the increased ability of the anglers themselves. "This club has made us a lot better conservationists," Sunvison said.
The group has started a fish habitat program on Lake LBJ that's helping restore native vegetation to the lake, Jakubowsky said. "It makes you respect the waters we have."
"I drive to the meetings from Granite Shoals," Jakubowsky said, "because these are just great people and for competition and camaraderie."