This election year, just as those before it, I found myself reflecting on the last four years. That's not uncommon. I believe most of us found ourselves in the same boat. Another four years and "still" chasing that elusive 12-pound bass and, oh, yeah, another presidential race.It's important to look at where the Federation has been over the last four years in order to be able to plan for the future. Just four years ago, the state youth directors started attending the Federation Championship with their state presidents. Held in conjunction with the Federation Championship each year are a host of leadership conferences, sponsor meetings and the CastingKids semifinals. Before this year, the Federation Championship was arguably one of the most important events a state youth director could attend as a representative of his or her state. But that changed dramatically in 2004!Now, only four years since the first time BASS started inviting the youth directors to the Federation Championship, I found myself sitting down with Don Corkran, Federation Director, to discuss yet another option. We started talking about how "Classic Week" is such a special family experience. With the addition of the Junior Bassmaster World Championship and the expansion of Bassmaster Family Fest it became apparent that we needed to find a way to bring the youth directors to the Classic. The Classic is already a weeklong marathon, but to have the biggest youth events conducted by BASS on a national level without the youth directors in attendance, just didn't make sense. We wish we could bring the youth directors to both the Federation Championship and the Classic, but that just isn't economically feasible — so we set out to find the best solution. In a joint effort with the Bass Conservation Department, we think that we have found the "perfect" solution.
Working with Chris Horton, Conservation Manager, and Noreen Clough, Conservation Director, we decided to poll the state and divisional leadership and see what kind of feedback we would receive. Now, several months later, we have collectively decided that the youth directors will no longer come to the Federation Championship and will now be invited to the CITGO Bassmaster Classic. The Conservation Directors will now come to the Federation Championship on odd-number years (starting in 2005) and the Bassmaster Classic on even-number years (2006), when the State Fish Chiefs are invited.This adjustment makes good sense for several reasons, but most importantly, it allows the youth directors to participate and assist with the Junior Bassmaster World Championship and the Bassmaster Family Fun Fest. They also will be able to experience the Bassmaster CastingKids finals, and in between the events of the week, we will continue to host our national leadership conferences as we have in the past. Perhaps the best part of all is, the individuals who helped children reach these events will now be able to see them compete at the pinnacle of their accomplishments and, by the way, there's also a tournament called the Classic going on as well. Obviously this will change the way we conduct some of our business as it relates to both weeks, but with some simple adjustments, this should prove to be better for the entire Federation program.There's no doubt that we have come a long way in four short years. With progress like the last four, I'm looking forward to sharing news as good as this the next time our country has a presidential election. Maybe by then I'll be fortunate enough to also look back and say, "It sure was fun catching that 12-pound largemouth!"