The Western Bass Club
Ask a bass fisherman where he thinks the oldest bass club in the country is located, and expect the typical answer of Florida, Alabama, Georgia, or Texas. Never in his wildest dreams would he choose Washington State, but he'd be right. The Western Bass Club originated just like many other clubs, out of bass fishermen meeting in tackle stores or on the water and then forming a club to share fishing knowledge and fellowship. But the year was 1938, making this the oldest chartered bass club in the nation. In 1939 the club purchased a tank of six-inch bass fingerlings and released them in various waters approved by the game department. Many of today's bass caught in the state are a result of that initial planting. The club has been instrumental in the growth of bass fishing throughout the state ever since. Structure planting, political lobbying, community involvement, fishing education, fund raisers, inspiring the formation of new clubs, you name a project and this club has likely done it. They have even published their own book, called the Northwest Bass and Panfish Guide, which has been updated with several editions over the years. It contains "how to" articles and features on specific popular lakes written by club members, and lists all the waters in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and Montana known to hold bass or panfish.

Free Fishing Weekend events give young people, as well as adults an opportunity to learn the basics of fishing.
Today the club continues its tradition with various projects and activities. Possibly its proudest and most rewarding achievement of late is its involvement with Free Fishing Weekend. Members present a Pathways to Fishing program for youth and adults alike at Gissberg Ponds. Rods and reels are provided for participants to learn basic fishing skills, and everyone comes away with a "hands-on" appreciation and enthusiasm for the sport. Local television and newspapers cover and help promote the event, and over 100 participants went through the program in 1995. Other community service activities include a holiday food drive for Northwest Harvest, stream clean-ups, handicap access dock construction, and financial assistance to university students studying bass and warm water species.
For the benefit of its members, the club holds five club tournaments a year to accumulate points toward Fisherman of the Year. There's a large tackle swap and lure auction during the March meeting. In the fall there's a dessert auction.

Western Bass Club member Larry Gonczy received the club's Grand Slam Award for catching one of each species above a set weight minimum. He is the first to receive the award in the club's 57 year history.
Both help raise funds for the club treasury. A big bass kitty runs from month to month which is won each month by whoever catches the biggest bass. A "greenslip" contest is another monthly contest to recognize members catching largemouth, smallmouth, walleye, perch, bluegill, and crappie above minimum trophy weight. As part of the greenslip program, the club offers a Grand Slam Award for any member catching one of each species above the minimum. In the history of the club, no one had ever accomplished that feat until last year, when member Larry Gonczy became the first to catch a trophy in all six species.
There's also an Ambassador Program. Veteran members are assigned as Ambassadors to new "recruits", who then take them on "fish-ins" and help them immediately feel like part of the group. Many new members are recruited through an annual club booth at a major Seattle sport show. An excellent club monthly newsletter keeps everyone informed, and often contains detailed articles and lake maps contributed by members.
Much of the club's success is based on its strong family atmosphere, pro-active attitude, and the ability to offer something for everyone. It's all part of a long history of caring for the needs of the resource, the community, and those who love the sport.