Friendship Fishing Club says it all

Larry Woody • Apr 26, 2017 at 8:30 AM

Tournament fishing can get pretty ruthless when cash and egos are on the line.

But not with Lebanon's Friendship Fishing Club. The name says it all.

"We're all good friends who enjoy fishing together," says club president Bob Sandlin. "We're competitive, but we don't get carried away. We fish for fun and for a good cause. We hold an annual Children's Picnic and Fishing Tournament for kids who otherwise might not get a chance to go fishing."

The club was founded 30 years ago, and one of the charter members is Lebanon minister Raymond Burns.

"I was fishing bass tournaments at the time, and some of my friends and I decided we'd start our own tournament," Burns says. "We started with about 25-30 members and we've been going strong ever since."

Sandlin says the current membership is around 32, which represents a slight increase after a dip in previous years.

"I got involved about 12 years ago," Sandlin says. "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. It's a great way to meet fisherman from around here who share similar interests and values."

The club has an annual $50 membership fee, most of which goes to fund the Children's Picnic. The annual Picnic and Fishing Tournament is held on Old Hickory Lake on the July 4th weekend. The club supplies tackle, bait and instruction, and trophies are awarded to youngsters in various age categories.

In addition to the annual club membership fee there is a $30 entry fee for each of the club's 13 annual tournaments. Members are not obligated to fish all the tournaments if they don't wish to.

The tournament entry fees are returned to the 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 fishermen entered. 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 says. "Nobody is going to fish our tournaments to get rich. It's all about fun and bragging rights."

The tournaments are held on an array of area lakes, including Percy Priest, Old Hickory, Tims Ford, Kentucky Lake, Gutersville 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," Burns says. "There's no age limit. If someone wants to join us, they're welcome."

That's how friendships begin.

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