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"It's a brotherhood."--Eddie Champion, co-founder of the Atlanta Rod Benders Bass Club.

(Photos courtesy: Atlanta Rod Benders Bass Club)

First, it's the classy yellow jerseys that grab your attention. Who are these guys? They must be some kind of professional team--always dressed sharply and each one approachable with a friendly demeanor. But that's only the beginning.

When you get to know the Atlanta Rod Benders Bass Club (RBBC), you realize that they have formed an unequalled legacy among the state's bass clubs. In fact, I think the model that co-founders Eddie Champion and Mike Bowens created in 1988 might just be the greatest bass club in America.

Atlanta Rod Benders co-founder Eddie Champion (right), shown here with Rory Johnson, Executive Director of the Lawrenceville Boys and Girls Club, a recipient of the Rod Bender's commitment to community service.

"I had no idea where it would go way back then [in 1988], but I will say this: it's a great club," said Eddie. "I'm proud of it. It's a brotherhood and you feel that the minute you come through the door."

"We've been involved with kids from the very beginning and now we're even more involved because of the rise in high school bass fishing," said Eddie.

The Rod Benders currently has about 40+ members, and Eddie attributes much of their success to being willing to change.

"We're now taking on younger anglers, by design. We need to do that. We are not just trying to improve ourselves, but also our industry."

These guys are about so much more than fishing. They epitomize all that is good about our sport--not just the professional way that they run their club and tournaments, but the way that they comport themselves both on and off the water.

This is from their Mission Statement: To stimulate public awareness of bass fishing as a major sport. To offer our State Conservation Department our organized moral and political support and encouragement. To promote full adherence to all conservation codes and to demand adequate water standards. To detect and report any polluter and call public and political attention to this crime. To improve our skills as bass anglers through a fellowship of friendly exchange of expert bass catching techniques and ideas. To promote and encourage youth fishing and a love for this great recreational sport.

How many clubs do you know that have their own mission statement? Yes, they are serious about their club and who is invited to join them (in fact, everyone goes in for a probationary period). Their by-laws include everything from behavior expectations on (and off) the water to finding ways to giving back to their community.

Ronnie Garrison, the award-winning outdoor journalist and long-time Map-of-the-Month reporter for Georgia Outdoor News, says these guys are for real.

"I've done several articles on them," said Ronnie. "They are really good people." Ronnie knows about bass clubs, as he's won multiple club championships over the past thirty years.

And he's not the only well-known personality raving about the Rod Benders Bass Club. Jim Mathley, better known as "Jimbo on Lanier" is probably Georgia's most well-known fishing guide, says the Rod Benders are a terrific organization.

Jim noted that the Rod Benders generously sponsored all the high school anglers who came to Jimbo's EXPO back in January.

"I’ve been fortunate enough to be associated with the Rod Benders for several years," said Jimbo. "In that time I’ve found them to be the most considerate, forward thinking, and compassionate group of men I’ve ever known."

The Rod Benders were out in force in January's EXPO, adding to a what was a classy, professional EXPO enjoyed by anglers of all ages. It will be back again next year and you'll find the Rod Benders there in force. Jimbo summed it up this way: "Simply put - The Rod Benders define Classy!"

The Rod Benders are proud of the derbies they have had for kids, many of whom had never been fishing. Those are held, bi-annually, at the Charlie Elliott Wildlife Center off I-20 near Madison. That activity came about as a partnership between the Rod Benders and the State of Georgia's Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

This partnership, which has been in place for more than twenty years, is just one of many. Of course, the Rod Benders' reach goes well beyond that.

According to Rod Benders' director of marketing, Dale Hill, it's about giving back, particularly for young people who are going fishing for the first time. They have worked with Boys and Girls Clubs, particularly with Rory Johnson, the executive director of the Lawrenceville (Ga.) Boys and Girls Clubs, as well as the Boy Scouts and many other community organizations, including high school fishing teams, raising money for scholarships and encouraging kids to spend more time outdoors.

Rod Benders director of marketing, Dale Hill, has elevated the club's visibility through partnerships, communication and community service.
Dale Hill with a couple of West Point keepers.

"One of the good things about the Rod Benders is that we are a special, diverse group of guys. We have a lot of different skill sets, and we decided that we were going to try and make an impact and grow our visibility in the industry and especially with kids," said Dale, who has been with the Rod Benders for 20 years. "We all had an early report with DNR. Plus, they already had some kids programs established so we've had a wonderful relationship with them.

And it's not just the youngsters that the Rod Benders are working with. They also helped to create the nation's first bass club at a Historically Black College and University.

There are several "Morehouse Men" among the Rod Bender's members, who helped establish Morehouse's first collegiate fishing team.

"We put this college team together at

Morehouse College back in about 2012 and it was the first of its kind in the country, and now they have proliferated across all the universities," said Dale. "At the time, one of the sponsors was KB Custom rods, and owner Kevin Brotz built custom rods for each of the 10 members of that Morehouse team. Jim Austin, a legendary, well-known, local angler, went on to become head coach of the team. Establishing that team was a benchmark that we were really proud of. I keep in contact with a few of them and they are doing great in their lives" continued Dale. "Plus, they are still bass fishing. It's one of the true high points for us."

Carlos Mixon is now in his 2nd year (post-Covid) as president of the organization, and he says it's this common commitment that drives this special group of men.

Carlos Mixon, also known as C-Mix, is in his second year as the Club's president.

"Yes, we love to fish. We love to have fun and do all these things. But we also try to be pillars in our community," said Carlos. "People want to come to be part of the Rod Benders and part of that is what we do in the community. It's not just a singular thing, for people who say 'I just want to come and go fishing', that's why we have the by-laws, it's more than just fishing. The foundation that Mr. [Eddie] Champion and Mr. [Mike] Bowens laid [back in 1988], we are still all about that foundation that is helping us grow to the next level," continued Carlos. "We want to make fishers of men as well."

"It's really something to see a kid catch his or her first fish and hold it up for a picture and also know that the Rod Benders are there to help," said Carlos.

Dale Hill described a time when kids were following the Rod Benders around the Walmart at Lake Eufaula. "These kids knew us. They were following us around and wanting our autographs," Dale said. "It was very humbling. That shows you the power of imaging, seeing something done professionally, seeing an organization move in a certain kind of way and we never lose sight of that."

Rod Bender Mike Murphy's early fishing was alongside his grandmother.

"She used cane poles and would get up Saturday morning and go fishing," said Mike. "I was always one of the grandkids who wanted to go with her."

"My dad was in the military and I didn't get into bass fishing until we moved back to my home state of Georgia," Mike continued. "I started buying fishing gear and I was fishing [from the] bank at the time. I was walking around Bass Pro Shops one day and I saw 'Hercules' [the Rod Benders nickname for 10-time Angler of the Year, Roy Phillips] in that yellow jersey. He said you'd be a great candidate for the Rod Benders. So I got in touch with Mr. Champion and he invited me to a meeting."

"I fished as a co-angler, then I bought a boat my second year," said the Claxton native. "Once I got that 'flu', getting bit by that 'bug' of fishing, joining these guys was one of the best things I've done. I wouldn't trade it for the world."

Dale Hill, the marketing whiz behind the rise of the Rod Benders brand, says he started out as a co-angler. "I owned a small bass boat but I never had it on big water. Fishing as a co-angler was like going to graduate school in how to set up a boat and how to fish big water. It was a great lesson."

Michael Porter, a Rod Bender who worked for 25 years as a Dekalb County Police Officer said he used to catch pan fish and had a little Jon boat.

He was also shopping for gear one day [in Academy Sports] and ran into another Rod Bender (Kenneth Rountree) and "...we chatted it up."

Michael continued, "This was on a Friday and he said 'Hey, the bass club would be a great place for you. We're having a meeting on Sunday and you should come'!" So, I attended that meeting and ended up fishing a tournament the next Saturday. That was 6 years ago and I've been here ever since."

"I got my first boat during Covid, but for me, the camaraderie was so important, especially being a former police officer, and I missed that after I retired. Now I found another group of guys who will always be there for me, said Michael. "You cannot beat this type of bonding with grown men anywhere."

And for the Atlanta Rod Benders Bass Club, it's not just for the men who fish their 15 or so tournaments a year--it's a family affair.

The great women behind these pros are known, appropriately, as the Lady Benderetts, who are themselves engaged in many worthwhile community causes. "They feed people during Christmas times, handing out boxes of food and also holding a successful coat drive," said Carlos, whose wife, Dr. Angela Mixon, is president of the Benderetts.

"I've been involved with many charitable events over the years," Angela told Georgia Big Sticks.

Last year, the Benderetts, led by Angela and her team, worked through the Mercy Seed Resource Center, part of the New Mercies Christian Church to provide families with Thanksgiving meals.

"We do food boxes on Thanksgiving every year working through New Mercies,"said Angela. "These food boxes are huge and we try to tailor the gifts for the individuals."

Angela said the Lady Benderetts also go to nursing homes and senior centers, which she always finds rewarding, including one in the Tucker area.

The Lady Benderetts and Rod Benders, working with Mercy Seed Resources of New Mercies Christian Church, fed more than 30 families this past Thanksgiving.Gwen Johnson, Jeanene Williams, Karimah Murphy, Angela Mixon, behind the Benderettes are, Rod Benders: Michael Porter, Mike Murphy, David Rhodes, and on the right are Rod Benders Rory Johnson and Sean Jordan.

"I have a friend who is a singer and another who is a musician," recalled Angela. "We also had 'tickets' for the events and we put together some food boxes for 70 residents. We were singing songs that we had arranged and asked them what their favorite songs were. We were all in tears just to see the look of happiness on the resident's faces and how they were clapping their hands."

"We also have a Rod Benders Family Fun Day, for our own families and friends," said Angela. "We collected school supplies and people donated book bags for the kids from pre-K all the way up to high school."

Angela also said they have worked with local women's and children's shelters.

"This year, we worked with women's and children's shelters, and we engaged the Boys and Girls Clubs to help. We know we gave out at least 30 coats."

Dr. Angela Mixon, president of the Lady Benderetts.

Angela, who grew up in Wilkinson County "down below Macon" and recently got her doctorate in public health, has a 30-year background in healthcare and pharmaceuticals. She has also been a public health advocate for Autism for the past two decades.

It's a group effort, she said, with the Rod Benders and the Lady Benderetts.

So, does Angela get out on the lake to bass fish?

"Yes, didn't Carlos tell you that?", she said with a laugh. "We did a tournament last year in Mississippi and I actually did better than Carlos," said the Lady Benderettes president. The women behind the pros often fish in charity tournaments together.

Angela's husband, Carlos, said the Club fishes about 10 tournaments before summer--but it builds toward a final showdown for Angler of the Year.

Carlos Mixon, who joined the Rod Benders 11 years ago, says "... it's more than just fishing."

'The really cool thing is our Classic," he told Georgia Big Sticks. "We take the Top 10 anglers and don't disclose the location of the lake until right before the tournament," said Carlos.

This group is always there for each other. Co-founder Eddie Champion asks the proverbial question "How many Rod Benders does it take to change a tire?" The answer: "All of them," laughs Eddie, "because they will all stop to help you change that tire!"

These guys are not just great fishermen and community minded, at least two of them are building huge followings on social media.

Ryan Johnson, whose YouTube fishing podcast, Money Bass, has 10,000 subscribers, airs every Tuesday at 8 p.m. live stream You can check it out here.

Ryan Johnson's "Money Bass" podcast deals with all things bass fishing, including the controversy around FFS.

"Lately," Ryan told Georgia Big Sticks, "I've been following some of the hot topics, and I've had well-known pros Randy Blaukat and Ben Milliken on debating the issue of forward-facing sonar (Blaukat being a very vocal critic and Milliken a huge proponent of the technology, as those two exchanged barbs on the show Bass After Dark.). Ryan's show is listed as one of Randy Blaukat's Top Ten favorite podcasts, which is quite an honor coming from a great pro who has fished professionally for more than 40 years.

The other Rod Bender becoming a social media sensation is Michael Porter, who teams with his wife Mia on a site called BassNBoujee.

"We just put out a video two or three times a week and we have about 1,500 followers on our YouTube Channel, BassNBoujee," said Michael. Michael's wife Mia is national sales director for Mary Kay.

If you want to enjoy a very funny (and talented) couple, you've got to tune in (one episode dealt with Mike driving his truck and Mia giving him grief about leaving his wallet in there from the fishing tournament that past weekend (what angler can't identify with that marital conversation--I was laughing out loud at the looks Mia was giving him)!

Mike & Mia, as Bass&Boujee, have become stars on YouTube, Instagram and even on Tik Tok, where they have a quarter of a million followers. Mike also won last month's Rod Benders tournament with Mike Murphy!

"It's just a part of my everyday life," says Michael. "And my kids say 'you guys are so funny you need to be on Tik Tok," laughed Michael. So, not only did they show up on Tik Tok, but they've built a following of more than 270,000!

Marketing director Dale Hill says social media exposure is extremely important. "It gives us a whole different level of versatility and visibility in how we present ourselves and expose or represent our sponsors, which is critical.

"We have a great appreciation for our sponsors, and many have been with us for a years" said Dale. "In particular, Boyd Duckett and his company, Duckett Fishing have been long-time partners with the Rod Benders. Boyd is not only a great businessman and a pioneer of growing our sport, but he's also a first-class individual.

"We are especially grateful to those sponsors highlighted on our website, including Duckett Fishing, J.J's Magic, Seaguar, Jimbo's Guide Service, GET Bit Outdoors and E3 Sport Apparel."

The Rod Benders will be back this weekend, working with New Mercies Christian Church in Lilburn with the Mercy Seed Resource Center. Their work on behalf of others has become legendary.

Check out the Rod Benders Bass Club at You will quickly see what makes them so special.

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Coming up in our next post: How a stranded Georgia angler was rescued at

Guntersville by a former Bassmaster Classic winner. You won't believe this story!


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