Anglers and vendors from all over East Tennessee descended on Christ Our Savior Lutheran Church Saturday for the fourth annual fishing flea market.
The event lasted 9 a.m.-1 p.m. and included free admission. Fishermen seized the opportunity to buy, sell and trade all kinds of equipment, lures and rods.
“We’ve grown about 15, 20% a year, and the first year we did this we had 11 vendors with folks to sell stuff, and we probably had 80 or 90 people come through,” Butch Durham, event director and Tellico Village Fishing Club member, said. “This year, we had 27 vendors, and we probably had a couple of hundred people come through — it’s hard to keep track when they’re coming and going. We had a lot of activity just among the vendors buying, selling before we opened doors to the public, which we always do. That’s one of the biggest parts of this thing is the vendors themselves buying, selling and trading.”
Ben Bradley makes the trek from Chattanooga every year to participate as a vendor. He sold items ranging from older rods and reels to newer jigs, crank baits and rattle traps.
Free admission and camaraderie with fellow anglers are two of the biggest draws for Bradley.
“I brought everything from vintage lures to newer rods, reels, tackle box, empty tackle boxes,” he said. “The reason it’s so unique is there’s so many guys around here in the Tellico Village area that fish, so I don’t bring the collectible lures versus the fishing lures, so it’s amazing the crowd. It’s free to get in, free to set up and just, you can’t beat it. I’m amazed every year for how many people show up for this. I do not know how he (Durham) advertises it, but he advertises it well. People show up ... I took pictures this morning of the crowd myself because it was just overwhelming.”
Surrounded by three fishing destination lakes, Tellico Village continues to see a rise in the sport.
“There’s a trend toward bigger vendors, the guys that showed up with a trailer load of stuff,” Durham said. “We’ve got some guys that make fishing lures, and they come every year. We still have the kind of bread and butter, meat and potatoes is the guy or the gal who has four tackle boxes, three rods, a pair of waders and a net that they don’t use anymore and a little table, so we get a dozen in that category ever year. We probably had about 200 people.
“I’ve joined a couple of fishing-oriented Facebook groups, one that deals with Watts Bar Lake, the other deals with Tellico and Fort Loudoun lakes, and they come from as far away as Sevierville and that other, so we’re reaching out more, geographically,” he added.
Durham originally started the flea market as a way to help widows of anglers.
“I did it after hearing the stories of several widows in our church whose husbands I had been fishing with and had taken fishing, and they’re wondering what to do with all of their husbands’ fishing tackle,” he said. “I said, ‘Don’t throw it away or give it away yet, let me see what I can do’.”
The flea market also serves as a church-wide outreach program, Durham said.
“I organized the first fisherman’s flea market, and we’ve got some of them that are still coming back, but to me, it’s a big social deal because I’ve got a lot of friends in the area,” he said. “But yeah, it’s an outreach, we welcome anyone who might be interested in our church. If they get from the front door back to here, they’ve got to go through the hallways. The posters that represent the different ministries that our church is involved in outside the church, they get a picture of how active our church is.”
Bradley and other vendors plan to come back next year.
“I mean I wish I had more of these during the year, I wish they had a second show,” he said. “This community and this area are really supportive of this. This is one of the most fantastic shows I go to in three or four states, this one.”