It was a little more than four decades ago that Quertermus moved to Georgia from the Midwest after accepting a teaching position at University of West Georgia. When the avid outdoorsman noticed a boat in neighbor David Leverett’s garage, it sparked a conversation that spawned the formation of the Carroll Bassmasters.
“So I begged him to take me fishing. And he said something about — B.A.S.S. was off and running for several years by that time — and he says, ‘Well, they have affiliated clubs in the state.’ He said he had a friend that had one in Alabama. But he said, ‘I think I’ve got some guys here that would be interested.’ So that’s how the original nine of us got together,” recalls Quertermus, who has served as club president the past three years.
And what originated as a group of nine charter members in 1973 has grown to 30 now, with the Carroll Bassmasters celebrating its 40th anniversary this year.
The anglers — both young and old — recently met to reflect on four decades of sport and present the club’s annual awards for the 2012 season.
After the original nine members formed the club early in 1973, word quickly spread and membership tripled by the end of that calender year. Just as the club has evolved through the years, so has the sport, most notably the equipment and technology.
“So it’s a continual learning process. You have new ideas, new approaches come along all the time. You’ve got to get good at several ways. You can’t just be good at one thing. Eric (Morris) won this year because he’s very versatile,” Quertermus said. “You can’t just deal with one kind of technique.”
Kenny Bryan, a member since 1974 and program director in 2012, credited joining the organization as changing his life for the better. He said one of his favorite aspects is the age bracket differences, where young and old compete together.
“When you can get an all-volunteer organization to still be operating after 40 years and still have fun and get along, I think that’s fantastic,” Bryan said. “We’ve seen a lot of young people get involved in the sport, get active in it and do good. I’ve seen a lot of men get in it and it’s helped them in their lives. But at the same time, we all had a good time with it.”
A lot of clubs akin to Carroll Bassmasters have come and gone through the years, and Bryan credits strong character at the top as the primary reason this particular one is still going strong after all these years.
“There were a lot of clubs back in the ’70s and ’80s that no longer exist and didn’t last long, but this club has held together. It had good leadership through all the years. Early on, they learned — establish the rules and guidelines,” Bryan said. “It being a club that you have to be asked to join and kind of voted on, we can kick the riffraff out.”
The maximum number of members the club can hold is 36, and it’s stayed consistently around 30 through the years.
One of the clubs newer members, Morris, earned the high-point championship in 2012, but he’s got a long way to go to catch Donald Stitcher — a charter member — who owns a club-record 12 high-point championships.
And while the awards and bragging rights keep things fun and competitive, Quertermus said it all goes back to the friendships and bonds that are formed through the years.
“It’s a wonderful outfit. It’s a great way for people to learn to bass fish. They don’t have to be really good to get in. They just have to want to learn how,” Quertermus said. “They don’t even have to have a boat. We don’t like to have a lot of guys without a boat because it gets to be a little of a problem, but we do take members without boats. We find out that if they’re in for a year or two without a boat, they end up getting a boat anyway.”
Quertermus said his only regret was leaving the club for a period of time before rejoining in 2006.
“That was a huge mistake I made getting out of it to do some other things. I just didn’t have time to fish competitively. But I felt the need to get back in when I was single again in 2006,” Quertermus said.
Bryan noted that another neat thing is the number of younger guys coming out and wanting to join the club in recent years.
“There for a while, we had so many old guys that the young guys wasn’t getting in. But now we’re seeing the younger ones start coming in and they’re kicking butt, too,” Bryan said. “We’ll see more and more of them come around now.”
And after 40 years, Quertermus is excited about what the future holds for the club he helped create and holds so dearly to his heart.
“It is really super being a charter member. I was new down here at the time and I was excited to be in Georgia because not only to teach at the university, but to bass fish. I really got in with a bunch of great guys and formed a great club, obviously, which has survived 40 years and is going strong. A lot of clubs have come and gone in the state in those 40 years. Others have struggled and have had to combine with other clubs to stay alive. But we’ve hung on there and done well over the years,” Quertermus said.