ReBaits®, the brainchild of Florida B.A.S.S. Federation Nation Conservation Director Eamon Bolten, launched at the Open tournament level at the 2012 Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Southern Open, Jan. 19-21, on Florida's Harris Chain of Lakes. The program is designed to keep potentially discarded soft plastic baits out of the water and out of the stomachs of bass, and into recycling, not landfills.
In September 2011, B.A.S.S. Times Senior Writer Robert Montgomery brought to light the story of Joe Ford, an angler who had caught a 10-pound bass that died. The fish's stomach contents revealed that the bass had eaten 12 large soft plastic lures, which had created a mass in the bass' belly.
"Too many anglers tear worn baits off their hooks and toss them over the side," said Montgomery in his monthly conservation column. "Either they do so without thinking about it, or they believe that a little bit of plastic can't hurt anything. They are wrong."
His story about soft-plastic-induced intestinal blockage created enough buzz that Montgomery addressed the subject again in his December column. There, he mentioned that Eamon Bolten had implemented an educational campaign at a Federation Nation tournament on Florida's Lake Toho, in which he spoke to the contenders about the problems caused by discarded soft plastics and asked them to deposit their used lures in a special collection bin.
The program is now taking off: ReBaits encourages anglers to recycle their old plastic baits rather than throw them in the garbage or in the lake.
"It's easy to implement," said Noreen Clough, B.A.S.S. National Conservation Director. Clough and Bolten set up a table at registration for the Harris Chain Open, informing anglers of the dangers of discarding lures in the lake and providing them with ziplock bags for discard. "Each bag had a ReBaits label on it with Bolten's contact information," explained Clough. "If the anglers don't turn the bags in, they at least have a labeled bag in their boats to remind them to stash the lures rather than throw them overboard."
At the end of each weigh-in, volunteers can collect the bags from the boats or the tournament director can post a labeled cardboard box at the weigh-in site. "Most anglers want to get rid of them someway or another, and this makes it super easy," added Clough.
At the Harris Chain, youth volunteers from an Orlando B.A.S.S. club, Florida Trails Bassmasters, brought Bolten 17 pounds of soft plastic lures — which means hundreds and hundreds of lures were properly disposed of through the new program.
"It's gone viral," said Clough. "One-third of the Federation Nation states are already planning to implement the program because of the simplicity and the results."
To learn more about ReBaits, talk to the conservation director in your state or e-mail Gene Gilliland at firstname.lastname@example.org.