Saltwater fishing is a complicated and demanding sport, especially when it is undertaken on a do-it-yourself basis. Most people who participate in this activity do so as a result of growing up in a coastal community where fishing is a tradition.
Unfortunately, Atlanta is 277 miles from the nearest body of saltwater – and can hardly be classified as a coastal community. In the past, learning about saltwater fishing involved a lot of reading, asking questions, and a lot of painful trial & error. Under these conditions, it can take years for someone to become proficient enough at the sport to really achieve a sense of enjoyment and satisfaction.
This was the situation that faced Leon Brown, an Atlanta public relations executive, when he purchased his first sea-going boat in 1984. Although he had grown up fishing the inshore water around Panacea, Florida, Leon had little experience in deep water fishing and boat handling. It soon became evident that reading, asking questions, and trial & error left a lot to be desired as far as really learning about the sport. His frustration grew. Leon knew that there had to be others in the Atlanta area who shared these frustrations, simply because of the volume of saltwater tackle sold in the area. He began to wonder what would happen if he were to get all of these people together to network information about the sport in an atmosphere of fun and camaraderie. Thus the idea was born for the Atlanta Saltwater Sportsman’s Club.
With the promotional help of the two largest saltwater tackles stores in the Atlanta area, the first meeting of the Atlanta Saltwater Sportsman’s Club was held at the Century Center Hotel in April of 1987. Attending that meeting were 80 Atlantans with one thing in common: a love of saltwater fishing and a desire to learn more about it through networking with others who shared their interest in the sport.
The basic groundwork laid at that meeting still guides the ASWSC today. It was decided that the best way to promote and learn about fishing is to fish. For this reason, the format of putting on “just for fun” tournaments was adopted. This accomplished the goal of getting people out on the water in the relative safety of a group environment.
The first tournament (Destin, FL) was scheduled for a weekend in July of 1987. Leon Brown, who had been elected president, thought we would be lucky to get 10 boats and 40 people to show up. Instead, we had 17 boats and 78 people in attendance. Many fish were caught and friendships were formed that remain strong today.
Later that same year, another tournament was held at West Palm Beach, Florida. The next year, six tournaments were scheduled, including one at Walker’s Cay in the Bahamas. This represented a giant step for a group of landlocked ocean lovers from Atlanta. Twelve boats made the Gulf Stream crossing to the small Abaco island in July of 1988. At this tournament, the first blue marlin and yellowfin tuna were caught in a club event. The Atlanta Saltwater Sportsman’s Club had arrived. Today, the ASWSC is the largest inland saltwater fishing club in the U.S.A.
Since then, tournament destinations read like a sport fishing travelogue with events being held in places like West Palm Beach, Islamorada, Key West, Duck Key, Fort Pierce, Homasassa, Destin, St. Augustine, Apalachicola, Steinhatchee, Pensacola (all in Florida): Orange Beach, Alabama; Savannah, Georgia; Georgetown, South Carolina; Venice, Louisiana; and Bimini, Bahamas. The basic format of each subsequent tournament has remained the same as the first one in Destin: we fish only for fun, with winners receiving awards and accolades – never prize money. We encourage family participation; we promote conservation; and we put safety first. Junior angler participation is also an important focus.
In addition to club-sponsored tournaments, many members fish “on their own” in a number of world class destinations, including Costa Rica, Mexico, Australia, the British Virgin Islands, and many others in the US and around the world.
One of the reasons the ASWSC was formed was to create a forum for members to learn about saltwater fishing. To this end, the club has – since the beginning – held monthly meetings that feature an informative program related to the sport. Those meetings are held at 7:00pm on the second Tuesday of each month (February – November) at Winfield Hall, located at 3890 Satellite Blvd, Duluth, GA.
Contrary to what many may believe, saltwater fishing is not the only way to have fun. To prove this, the ASWSC has promoted and sponsored many ‘salt-free’ events over the years. Every December there is an ASWSC Christmas Party – an event which is eagerly anticipated by members as well as guests. Additionally, the club sometimes sponsors picnics, swap meets, striper tournaments (freshwater), camping trips, and cruises. The ASWSC has proven to be a year-round, all-weather organization. The ASWSC is also involved in promoting conservation and the preservation of recreational sportfishing.
Since the beginning, the Atlanta Saltwater Sportsman’s Club has continued to grow and mature. Today the club is accepted as the foremost authority on saltwater fishing in the Atlanta area. Our future is bright as long as we adhere to the ideals on which our club was founded: