BURLINGTON, Conn. – When Dean Rustic first accepted the position of Connecticut B.A.S.S. Nation (CBN) conservation director in 2013, he candidly admitted, he was "intimidated" by the wealth of knowledge that other state directors possessed.
"I barely knew the difference between fanwort and a Wiggle Wart," joked the member of the Mohawk Valley Bass Casters.
But the brotherhood that is B.A.S.S. quickly brought him up to speed.
"Noreen (former National Conservation Director Noreen Clough) had a great way of assessing a person and helping him find his strengths and how to use them for the benefit of conservation in his state," Rustic said. "Together we laid out a plan for me to get more involved with our state's fisheries department. It is through this plan that we have made gains in promoting bass fishing and the B.A.S.S. conservation agenda.
"I have been able to lean on Gene (current national director Gene Gilliland) for more information about working with state agencies. I have been blessed to work with both of these fine conservation directors."
And that partnership has paid off handsomely for bass anglers in Connecticut, as the CBN is working with the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) to place fish habitat in urban ponds, with funding provided by a grant from the Shimano/B.A.S.S. Youth Conservation Initiative.
"These ponds are designated as family friendly shore fishing areas and are promoted on the DEEP website and through the local towns," said the computer consultant and father of one. "The fish structures are placed at areas close enough to shore for kids to reach them with their spincast rods."
Additionally, CBN members serve as aquatic resources instructors for the agency, educating families about fishing and resources available in Connecticut. They also helped pressure the state to remove a barrier that was blocking access to a mile-long canal off the Connecticut River.
In the future, they hope to work with DEEP to improve conditions at the two busiest launches on Candlewood, the state's largest lake. "Besides the conditions of the launch areas, there are no courtesy docks and neither launch has support for handicap boaters and anglers," Rustic said.
In addition to serving as state conservation director, he also has been president and tournament director for the club that his late brother, Jim, convinced him to join in 1992. Three years ago, Rustic accepted a position he knew little about as a way of honoring his brother.
"When we would do youth fishing days and our annual Toys for Tots Drive, Jim was there," he remembered. "He wanted to share his love of fishing with everyone."