By Jeff Nations
Thomas Alan "Snappy" Snapp can't lie. Here lately, the last few weeks especially, he's been feeling that familiar itch to hitch up his boat-and-trailer, head out for the nearest decent-sized body of water, flick that first cast and get to fishing.
It won't be long now for Snapp and his fellow members of the Shenandoah Valley Bass Association. The first tournament, set for March 30 at Egypt Bend on the south branch of the Shenandoah River near Luray, is agonizingly close now.
The weather still might be a bit chilly, but that most likely won't stop the SVBA from hitting the water later this month.
"We had one tournament two years ago, and it was 17 degrees," Snapp said. "I'll never fish another tournament in 17 degrees. It was miserable."
Winchester's Snapp, the SVBA's new president, said the club currently has 64 members, 44 of whom are active in the tournaments. The club holds 10 tournaments throughout the year, running from March through October, and offers a mix of lake and river fishing. Stops this year include Egypt Bend, Riverton, Lake Anna, the Rappahannock River and the Potomac River.
Those can be popular spots for fishermen, but Snapp said the SVBA tries to coordinate with other area clubs to avoid putting too much pressure on any one area.
"It does get a little crowded sometimes," Snapp said. "Normally with the other clubs in our area, when we're scheduling we check with each other to make sure we're not on top of each other."
Annual membership to the SVBA is $20, and the tournament entry fee is $50 per boat carrying one or two anglers. Most opt for the team approach in the SVBA, although that's not a requirement.
"Most of the guys in our club who've paired up are good friends," Snapp said. "They enjoy fishing together and enjoy the camaraderie."
The club was founded in 1998 by Eddie Sager, and is open to anglers throughout the region. SVBA members hail from Winchester to Harrisonburg, and the club even has some members from West Virginia. Many in the club are long-time members, but Sager said the SVBA is always interested in adding new anglers to its ranks.
"We have a great time," Snapp said. "The guys that are in the Shenandoah Valley Bass Association have been fishing together for years. There's a lot of camaraderie going on. It's not a club or tournament fishing where you're going to get rich, not by any means. We got out and have a lot of fun."
This year's slate features six river and four lake tournaments. The eight-hour tournaments have a five-fish limit for the weigh-in, and the SVBA is a catch-and-release group. Payouts go to the top three places based on total weight, with an extra bonus awarded to the biggest bass of the day.
The SVBA also features a cumulative points competition, with the top three teams also receiving a year-end cash prize at the postseason banquet. Corey Carter and Mark Clatterbuck are the reigning SVBA champions.
For anglers not interested in joining the club, the SVBA does plan to offer an alternative.
"We're planning on scheduling two open tournaments," Snapp said. "You don't have to be a member of our club. You just come down, pay your entry fee and you fish."
Sports editor Jeff Nations can be reached at 540-465-5137 ext. 161 or at firstname.lastname@example.org