Held at Shute’s Branch on Old Hickory Lake, the outing is for children who might otherwise not get the opportunity to go fishing.
“That’s what it’s all about,” said club president Bob Sandlin. “We want these kids to get a chance to go fishing and have fun. It’s as simple as that.”
Bait, tackle and assistance are provided by club members and volunteers, and prizes – ranging from bikes to trophies – are awarded to every youngster who participates.
“Getting a prize makes it more interesting for the kids,” Sandlin said. “But the real ‘prize’ is the simple enjoyment of fishing and the excitement of catching their first fish.”
The Friendship Fishing Club was founded 30 years ago and has around 35 members. There is a $50 membership fee, most of which goes to support the Kids Picnic and Fishing Tournament.
The club, founded by area fishermen who share common interests and values, holds a series of competitive tournaments through the year. Non-members are invited to participate.
“We’re all good friends who enjoy fishing together,” Sandlin said. “We’re competitive, but we don’t get carried away. We fish for fun, and for a good cause.”
Sandlin, who joined the club about 12 years ago, said, “I had been doing a lot of bass fishing, but I wanted to start crappie fishing and wasn’t sure how to go about it. I met some local fishermen who took me crappie fishing, and through them I became involved with the Friendship Fishing Club.”
In addition to the annual club membership fee there is a $30 entry fee for each of the club’s 13 annual tournaments, with participation optional. The entry fees are returned to participants in the form of prize money for biggest weigh-in and biggest fish. The payouts in each tournament are based on the number of entries. One recent tournament’s big fish paid $365.
“We have enough prize money to make it competitive and interesting, but not enough to create tensions or make to TOO competitive,” Sandlin said. “Nobody is going to fish our tournaments to get rich. It’s all about fun and bragging rights.”
The tournaments are held on various area lakes, including Percy Priest, Old Hickory, Tims Ford, Kentucky Lake, Guntersville and Center Hill.
“We enjoy fishing different lakes,” Sandlin says. “For a few years when gas was high, we cut back on some of the travel, but now we’re starting to branch out again.”
The club is open to male and female anglers of all ages.
“We’ve had members ranging from 74 to nine,” Sandlin says. “There’s no age limit. If someone wants to join, they’re welcome.”
For information about the Friendship Fishing Club, its tournaments, or the Kids Picnic and Fishing Tournament, contact Sandlin at 615-887-0394.