Belonging to B.A.S.S., the “Worldwide Leader in Bass Fishing,” means much more than membership in a global club of bass anglers. Since the early 1970s, B.A.S.S. has taken a proactive response to addressing the nation’s vital aquatic resource issues. In the early years, it meant taking legal action against industries making a toxic soup of the nation’s waterways. Today, the agenda has grown more complex, and B.A.S.S. follows a parallel path in dealing with the issues through its conservation program.
The backbone of the organization is founded on a grass-roots core of members whose passion extends beyond bass fishing. These men and women, young and old, belong to B.A.S.S. Nation clubs nationwide. They are stewards always on the lookout for issues that have local and even national significance.
The B.A.S.S. Conservation program works a “top-down” to “bottom-up” approach in dealing with fundamental issues vital to the future health of the nation’s aquatic resources. From local bass clubs to the national level, where B.A.S.S. works cooperatively with government to develop sound management policy, the protection and enhancement of aquatic resources remain a top priority.
Simply put, habitat is being degraded and is disappearing at an alarming rate. Without habitat, the future of recreational angling and vital links in the aquatic food chain are lost. The issues are complex: erosion, sedimentation and reservoir aging are a few. But there is hope, and B.A.S.S. Conservation has taken a leadership role in the federal government’s National Fish Habitat Partnership. At the national level, B.A.S.S. is proactively involved with federal and state government to enact laws to end the losses while making room for habitat restoration and growth. Specific habitat issues rise up from the local level through the grass-roots network of B.A.S.S. Nation clubs and their state conservation directors.
Aquatic nuisance species
An aquarium owner dumps unwanted fish and plants into the local river, no harm intended. A freighter from overseas pumps ballast water into the Great Lakes, unknowingly setting free harmful fish and organisms. Both scenarios are very real and threaten to destroy or imperil the balance of aquatic ecosystems the size of the Great Lakes, Mississippi River and beyond. As the problem spreads, B.A.S.S. Conservation has joined a growing coalition of concerned policy makers, government agencies and scientists to regulate importation of exotics and stop their illegal introduction to the nation’s waters. At the same time, B.A.S.S. Nation clubs practice the “clean, drain and dry” process to prevent the spread of aquatic nuisance species.
Aquatic vegetation management
Hydrilla and milfoil are unjustly perceived by many sportsmen as ideal habitat for fish and waterfowl. In moderate quantities, the plants do provide habitat; however, when overabundant they become a nuisance to other water users, from boaters to lakeshore homeowners and municipal drinking water suppliers. B.A.S.S. Conservation advocates and facilitates mediation among all user groups while encouraging stakeholders to establish diverse native plant communities. Ideally, striking the balance will benefit ecosystems and users alike.
A fishing trip begins with a place to launch the boat or shoreline to cast a line. Yet access to public waterways has suffered. And finding a boat ramp is the least of the problems. Demands on water supplies, restrictive fishery management regulations or fishing seasons, and horsepower limitations merely scratch the surface of why anglers can’t rightfully gain access to public waters. Through a grass-roots approach with bass clubs affiliated with the B.A.S.S. Nation, angler and boater rights are being heard and secured. The cause is ongoing, with the Nation and B.A.S.S. Conservation collectively uniting to open more access areas through improvement and construction programs at public access areas nationwide.
At the first outbreak of the Largemouth Bass Virus (LMBV), B.A.S.S. Conservation adopted a leadership role to face the issue. The result was a summit attended by leading researchers, state fishery biologists and anglers to exchange developments and implement plans of action. B.A.S.S. and its coalition continue making strides to deal with LMBV, other diseases and fisheries management issues in general. B.A.S.S. Conservation is an active participant in American Fisheries Society committees and other professional associations whose interests focus on fishery management.
Tournament fish care
Early on, B.A.S.S. recognized that bass are a renewable resource and developed the catch-and-release ethic that is standard with tournaments. B.A.S.S. Conservation continues raising the bar on tournament fish care by supporting scientific research studies focusing on care of tournament-caught bass. The latest practices and improvements are rolled out through the B.A.S.S. Nation in B.A.S.S. Times Magazine and on Bassmaster.com, to educate anglers about how to better handle fish they intend to release. B.A.S.S. Conservation extends its outreach to the general angling public to ensure a positive perception of bass fishing and tournament angling.
B.A.S.S. is more
When you join B.A.S.S., you get more than just a magazine and a membership card. You are supporting more than 40 years of natural resource conservation. Devoted to the challenges that lie ahead, B.A.S.S. continues to work on behalf of our members and the aquatic resources we all value.
For more information, contact B.A.S.S. National Conservation Director Gene Gilliland at [email protected].