ALEXANDRIA, Va. – Members of 10 B.A.S.S. Nations collected 1,226.09 pounds of soft plastic baits during 2017, while participating in Keep America Fishing's Pledge to Pitch It program. Clubs in Illinois, Kentucky, Minnesota, Maine, Ontario, Texas, Georgia, Oregon, Virginia and West Virginia have reported so far.
Even better news is that 17 state Nations signed on to participate, with Jackall Lures providing lure packages as prizes for added incentive. With Missouri, Oklahoma, Connecticut, South Carolina, Nebraska, New Mexico and Massachusetts yet to report, that means final quantity and weight of baits collected should be considerably more.
"What really puts this weight into perspective is when you hold a single Senko, ribbon-tail worm or craw in your hand and realize how little each weighs," said Maine Conservation Director Dustin Barber.
With most lures weighing from 1/4 to 3/8 ounce each, that's between 60,000 and 75,000 baits that participants prevented from entering our waterways and littering our shorelines.
"The Pitch It campaign is all about creating awareness and ultimately changing behavior," said Gene Gilliland, B.A.S.S. National Conservation Director.
"Our goal with the program is to encourage more anglers to properly dispose of soft plastics by tossing them in the trash, using lakeside collection tubes or bins, or providing them to recyclers – whatever it takes to keep them out of our waters.
"This past year's cooperative project between the B.A.S.S. Nation and Keep America Fishing's Pitch It campaign was a great example of anglers and industry partnering to attack a problem."
Strategies for collection varied from state to state, and often used baits were remolded into new ones. In some, clubs competed against one another. In others, baits were collected at tournaments. In Kentucky, effort was directed at youth involvement, with plans to involve adult clubs this year.
"Anthony Roy, our high school coordinator, contacted all the high schools to let them know about the campaign and ask the schools to bring their plastics to the state championship," explained Karl Schreiber, Kentucky's conservation director.
Gilliland added, "A key element in many of the B.A.S.S. Nation programs that I was very pleased to see was the involvement by youth – the Junior Bassmaster clubs, as well as high school and college fishing teams. Getting these kids tuned in to the problem and letting them be part of the solution is a great learning experience, one they will carry with them as they continue in their fishing careers."
From the 10 Nations that have reported thus far, Minnesota leads the way with 286.9 pounds, followed by Maine with 236.3 and Ontario with 210.3. Starting in 2012, Minnesota has been a longtime leader in the effort, collecting lures at tournaments, boat ramp recycle bins, and retail partners, thanks mostly to the efforts of Mickey Goetting, former state conservation director.
Up in Ontario, Conservation Director Jason Baruncz reported that four clubs completed the Pledge to Pitch It challenge, with the Ottawa Valley South Bassmasters compiling the greatest weight, with 62.63 pounds.
"The Ontario B.A.S.S. Nation was very proud of this campaign and the efforts from all clubs," he added. "The Ontario B.A.S.S. Nation is keen to keep this momentum going in the coming years."
In Texas, meanwhile, the Southeast Region with 11 clubs and 200 members, amassed 150 pounds of baits. Ron Gunter, region conservation director, said baits were collected at tournaments and monthly meetings of club presidents.
"It has been an honor for the Southeast Region of the Texas B.A.S.S. Nation to have participated in this valuable program, and the region has made it a point to include doing all that it can to continue collecting soft plastic baits and to disseminate the need for all anglers to follow suit," he added.
Over in Illinois, where 138 pounds were collected at the state's qualifying tournament, President Ralph Sweat has found the most creative use for used baits. He molds them into fish for award plaques. One that he donated to an auction to benefit the Bass Fishing Hall of Fame in Springfield, Mo., brought $220.