The 2011 Bassmaster Classic, to be held Feb. 18-20 in New Orleans, will showcase more than 50 of the world's best bass anglers.
It will also draw attention to important efforts to revitalize what the National Wildlife Federation calls a "Vanishing Paradise." B.A.S.S. LLC, which conducts the annual world championship of bass fishing, is partnering with the Louisiana Wildlife Federation (LWF) and National Wildlife Federation (NWF) in campaigns to promote the restoration and protection of Louisiana's imperiled coastal wetlands and reconnect the Mississippi River to its delta.
While the Louisiana Delta is rebounding from devastating hurricanes and a massive oil spill, a continuing and more destructive force threatens the long-term survival of the coastal wetlands, according to Land Tawney, NWF's senior manager for sportsmen leadership.
Levees and navigation projects along the Mississippi River have isolated Louisiana's wetlands from the freshwater and sediment that once built them while allowing saltwater to penetrate far inland, destroying once healthy coastal forests and freshwater swamps, Tawney said.
As a result, more than 2,300 square miles of coastal lands and estuaries, an area nearly the size of the state of Delaware, has washed away or subsided in the last 80 years. An area of land the size of a football field becomes open water nearly every half-hour along the Louisiana coast.
River diversion projects already in place have dramatically improved delta bass fishing since the Classic last visited New Orleans in 2003. LWF's Sportsmen for the Coast campaign and NWF's Vanishing Paradise effort are aimed at gaining federal approval of additional projects to restore the vast marshland. "B.A.S.S. supports these efforts to protect and improve this great fishery that is so important to bass fishermen and other sportsmen," said Jerry McKinnis, an owner of B.A.S.S. "Unless something is done to protect these coastal wetlands, the fantastic fishing we have now won't be around for our children to enjoy."
The LWF and NWF campaigns are being promoted through Bassmaster Magazine, B.A.S.S. Times, Bassmaster.com and other B.A.S.S. media. In addition, LWF and NWF will host Bassmaster Classic Media Day on Thursday, Feb. 17, and will have representatives available to answer questions and distribute information to angling enthusiasts attending the Bassmaster Classic Outdoors Expo presented by Dick's Sporting Goods at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center, Feb. 18-20.
"The best bass fishing and, arguably, even the best saltwater fishing in Louisiana over the past 10 to 15 years has been in the coastal areas near the Caernarvon and Davis Pond diversions," said LWF Coastal Outreach Coordinator Chris Macaluso. "Bringing the river back into those areas has increased the aquatic vegetation, made the food chain healthier and made both the bass fishing and the saltwater fishing much better. The Mississippi River built this delta, and it only makes sense that it needs to be used to restore and rebuild it."
More information about both LWF's and NWF's efforts to involve anglers, hunters and all outdoors enthusiasts in the restoration of Louisiana's coast can be found at www.vanishingparadise.org and www.lawildlifefed.org/coastal.