Editor’s note: This story came from a content conference B.A.S.S. had with key partners in the Little Rock studio of Bassmaster LIVE. Here are two more stories from that week: Abu's Andrew Wheeler, Mustad's hooks guru.
Throughout his years of competitive bass fishing, Gene Eisenmann didn’t do it. He just never felt right poking a metal cull tag through a fish.
“As a fisherman, I couldn’t physically do it,” he said. “I’m very spiritual, and every time before a tournament, I would pray with my co-angler to have success, safety and to treat the fish the way God would expect us to treat them – that isn’t poking a hole in them.”
All his time fishing Bassmaster Opens and FLW events, Eisenmann found other tactics to make culls. He even came up with ways to mark fish that didn’t hurt them. But with so many close culls, he did want to be able to put fish on the balance beam to get every gram, but still not leave a hole.
“It was always on my mind, and no one was addressing it, so I finally said the heck with it, I’m addressing it,” Eisenmann said.
A friend who found a locking grip mechanism at a hardware store actually got Eisenmann thinking, then he actually began working on a system.
“If it doesn’t lock, people will say they’re useless,” he said. “If this could just click down with a push of a finger, I could develop something that could work.”
Eisenmann, who sold HydroWave to T-H Marine before becoming that company’s director of marketing, said he discovered a kindred spirit there in Greg Buie, vice president of sales and marketing.
“I found out Greg was big into conservation,” Eisenmann said. “I told him I have this design for a non-penetrating culling system. He said they’d been working on it too and wanted to see it. Greg took his concept, and some of my ideas, and prototyped it.”
The latest features are found in the T-H Marine G-Force Conservation Cull System, complete with six tags and balance beam. Convincing all the anglers to switch over is another feat to tackle.
“Conservation is hard. People say this is a little harder to use,” Eisenmann said. “We will look at this 10 years from now like we did the livewell. ‘I can’t believe we used to put fish in coolers.’ We’ll be, ‘I can’t believe we used catfish stringers for our most precious resource.’
“Conservation is not an easy task, but it’s something we have to do.”
B.A.S.S began requiring non-penetrating clips for its college and high school competitions on Jan. 1, 2017, and it is now also requiring them for all Elite, Opens and Nation events in 2018.
“I think our development of this was truly a personal mission, not a profit mission,” Eisenmann said. “Too many of us believed in the conservation part of it. We just wanted to solve it. But the responsiveness of B.A.S.S. meant the world to us. Because they acknowledged you are doing the right thing, it validated our thoughts.”