Thomas
Thomas
Hanover’s Wes Thomas has been a seriously good bass fisherman for parts of five decades and later this week he’ll be recognized and honored for that lifetime of achievement in the sport.

Thomas, 66, a farmer, businessman and pro angler from the Saluda area, will be among three inducted by the Indiana Bass Federation Hall of Fame on Saturday in Indianapolis.

The Hall of Fame, now in just it’s fourth year, is a selective and prestigious group for sure. The inaugural class in 2014 included none other than Ranger Boats founder Forrest L. Wood and the three classes to date have honored just six individuals and one family.

“This is a very humbling honor,” said Thomas, whose fellow inductees in 2017 include fellow angler Kenny Bortein of Lawrenceburg and Ted Novicki, owner of Ted’s Aqua Marina in Indianapolis. “This is something that I can reflect back on for years to come.”

Thomas, one of the charter members of the well-known and active Chelsea Bass Masters Club, said making it into the IBF’s Hall of Fame is about more than just being a solid tournament angler. He said it’s about people who have had an ongoing positive impact on the sport and the Federation and that makes this a truly special honor.

“It’s about longtime service — and not just fishing accomplishments — but service to the Federation and helping to promote the Federation and bass fishing in Indiana.”

Back when Thomas and a few of his bass fishing friends formed Chelsea Bass Masters in 1978, the Federation as just in its early stages and bass fishing and bass anglers lacked the organization that now makes possible multiple tournament trails, clubs and local events.

“We were farmers and businessmen and factory workers who liked to fish but we all had jobs and never seemed to plan anything,” Thomas recalled. “We’d just try to go fishing when we’d get a day off work but had a hard time finding the time. We decided we were never going to get much fishing done like that. We needed to be better planners so we formed the club, applied for our national charter and established a calendar of events and that’s the way Chelsea got started.”

Over the past 39 years, the club has served an average of about 22 members yearly including Thomas and fellow charter members Larry Hostetler and Lloyd Lauter. The Club not only organizes tournaments and points races but also raises funds for charities, provides outreach and events for youths and raises awareness of the sport.

Thomas did all that plus ended up fishing a lot more seriously than most of his Chelsea members, eventually hitting the bigger tournament trails and landing sponsorships like Fuji and National Guard and endorsements within the sport like Ranger Boats and Evinrude.

Thomas has solo fished and team fished events ranging from local derbies to televised championships all across the country and along the way he’s talked to hundreds of clubs, appeared at boat and industry shows, county and state fairs and youth groups promoting bass fishing with a laugh and a smile and a few nuggets of wisdom for the next or first time those he meets get to wet a line.

Thomas said he loves to fish — and especially bass fish — but the ability to share that love and knowledge during the appearances and workshops is perhaps more rewarding because you grow and spread the sport you love by bringing new people onboard all the time.

Just like the Hall of Fame will bring Thomas onboard Saturday.

The induction will take place during the Indiana Bass Federation General Membership Meeting at the Indianapolis Boat, Sport and Travel Show at the Indiana State Fairgrounds on Saturday.