SYRACUSE. N.Y. — Ask Barb Elliott about her interests beyond casting a lure and the list grows long.
“I just like being outdoors, helping people,” she says with a laugh.
Emergency Medical Technician-Defibrillator. Licensed Practical Nurse. Dairy farmer. Horse fancier. Bass club Vice President. Conservation Director for the New York B.A.S.S. Nation.
This week Elliott is a co-angler at the Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Northern Open on Onieda Lake. Richard, her husband, is here too. He’s a leukemia survivor and the two live in nearby Richland.
Growing up in New England she spent long summer days camping with her family on the ponds. Swimming, canoeing and fishing went on all day. Eventually Elliott spent more time fishing than anything else.
“I had a Hula Popper, Jitterbug and Rebel minnow and didn’t think there was anything else I needed to have fun,” she recalls.
Summer camp gave way to college and the tackle disappeared. Elliott enrolled at the University of Maryland intending to major in vertebrate marine zoology. Instead she graduated with a bachelor degree in dairy science. Elliott made the switch after working her way through school at the university’s dairy farm.
Dairy farming came next. Forty years later fishing made a comeback and coincidentally due to hard times.
“Milk prices were down and fuel prices were up,” she says. “We sold the cows and kept the farm.”
Then she came full circle through fishing. Luring her back was a beaver pond on the farm. She and Richard bought a canoe, some simple tackle. Next came a jon boat and then a deep v aluminum rig. Finally, a fully-rigged bass boat. The lakes got bigger along with the interests.
One day she turned on the TV and The Bassmasters was on the air. The rest is history.
“We joined two bass clubs and started fishing the tournaments,” she recalls of what started in 2006. “That really got us interested in becoming part of a community of bass anglers.”
Not long after joining the clubs she earned the conservation award from the New York B.A.S.S. Nation. Elliott is currently Vice President of the Salt City Bassmasters, where she met former member Chris Bowes, who is the senior tournament manager for B.A.S.S.
“I kind of fell into that job,” she recalls of becoming conservation director. “My biology and science background had a lot to do with that, though.”
Well, maybe. Whatever Elliott is doing at the time involves an electrifying level of pride and passion.
Elliott is especially dedicated to promoting youth involvement in bass fishing and conservation of the resource. Both are fundamentally grounded in the mission and goals of the B.A.S.S. Nation.
The Ramp Monkeys project combines the best of both worlds. The idea was the brainchild of Elliott, who envisioned raising awareness of invasive aquatic vegetation while getting youths involved in the project.
At tournament sites junior clubs gather at the launch ramps to inspect boats and trailers for evidence of harmful aquatic plants that can be unknowingly introduced to other lakes. Kids teaching adults about bad things are attention getters. The project is an overwhelming success.
“We want to instill knowledge and conservation awareness now to the youths so they can take responsibility to prevent the spread of nuance species,” she says. “Doing that will lead to enjoyment in the future of the outdoors and our resources.”
Elliott’s next project is a tall order. She wants to bring inner city youths to the outdoors.
“Most of those kids’ feet never leave the concrete and they stay planted on that asphalt every day,” she says. “I want to get them out of the city and discover what all they’ve missed out here.”
Partnering with the Big Brothers and Big Sisters organizations is how she plans to start. The infrastructure already in place makes it easier to overcome the legal obstacles of granting permissions that require chaperoning by qualified adults.
Elliott still manages to have fun through it all, no matter what hat she might be wearing at the time.
“I’m so blessed to have lived a life like this,” she says, circling her arms around with Onieda Lake in the background.
“Fishing is a challenge and it’s different every day,” she says. “If you don’t like challenges then you don’t like fishing.”
Anyone who knows Elliott knows how much she likes fishing and challenges, with or without a rod and reel. It’s a line that connects her with the unselfish good deeds that impact the sport and other people.