Each year Berkley offers an award for angler recruitment and conservation. This year the Michigan BASS Federation Nation chapter took home the recruitment award and the Aurora Bassmasters from Ontario took home the conservation award for an ongoing fizzing study.
The Aurora Bassmasters of Ontario, Canada, joined forces with the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR) and Queens University four years ago to conduct an ongoing project that studies fizzing and its effect on the bass population of Lake Simcoe, which is one hour north of Toronto. Simcoe is the sixth largest lake in the Ontario province, covering 280 square miles (179,000 surface acres). It receives more fishing pressure than any other lake in the province.
"It's an honor to receive this award. We've been working hard the past few years and are proud to have gotten recognition," Wil Wegman, Conservation and Media Director for the Ontario BASS Federation Nation said. "We hope this achievement brings this study to the forefront of bass research and brings credibility to fizzing as an effective fish-saving measure."
Wegman's group used tournaments to tag fish for study, and concentrated on fall tournaments when the likelihood of catching a deep fish requiring fizzing is higher.
"We tagged 482 fish, both largemouth and smallmouth, and 39 were recaptured. Of those 39, 29 had been fizzed in the previous year and were still alive. We wanted to give anglers this information to keep in their hip pocket to prove that fizzing does work," he said.
Along with a fizzing study, Wegman saw a chance to test the validity of double tagging fish. Double tagging fish serves as a backup if a tag should fall off.
"We saw the chance to piggyback on the tagging study, so we jumped at it," Wegman said. "We did find that several of the fish that were double tagged did indeed lose a tag, bringing some legitimacy to double tagging."
For their efforts, the Aurora Bassmasters received a check for $2,000 from Berkley, which will go directly to their ongoing study.
The Michigan BASS Federation Nation chapter was recognized as recruiting the most new Federation Nation members, most of which were added to the youth sector.
"Our 'Drive the State membership' effort was a phenomenal success," Paul Sacks, Michigan BASS Federation Nation president said. "We saw the biggest increase in the youth sector, thanks to Tom Boland, who is a school teacher."
Sacks credits Boland's initiative as the determining factor that put them over the top to win the award. Boland would hold monthly meetings in his classroom for the new junior members, teaching them basic angling skills, conservation methods and even featured demonstrations about bass boats and how they work.
For their effort, the Michigan Federation Nation received a Toyota Tundra valued at $35,000 that will be raffled off and $1,000 in Berkley Gulp! baits. The proceeds are earmarked for the chapter's youth and conservation programs.
"Tom had the idea because BASS is already involved at the high school and college level, so he thought it a good idea to get them involved in fishing before anything else," Sacks said. "We're really excited about this. Last year Alabama won it and they got over $40,000 from the truck, so we're hoping to do some great things.
"Thanks a bunch to Toyota, Berkley and BASS," he added.