Six awards to be bestowed at Classic

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — No one knows who will win the 2014 GEICO Bassmaster Classic presented by Diet Mountain Dew and GoPro, but six winners have already been determined — in the realm of B.A.S.S. Conservation, that is.

As part of the 2014 Conservation Summit, members of the B.A.S.S. Nation will receive conservation-related awards.

“In a ceremony on Saturday night, we will recognize all the good work B.A.S.S. Nation members are doing in their states,” said Gene Gilliland, B.A.S.S. conservation director.

Several awards will be presented to B.A.S.S. Nation clubs or chapters that have already been notified, but one — the winner of the B.A.S.S. Nation Conservation Director of the Year — will not be announced until that night, Feb. 22.

Among the awards is a donation by Nationwide Insurance to the FishAmerica Foundation/B.A.S.S. Nation Conservation Fund. Nationwide, which is the official auto and boat insurance provider of B.A.S.S. members, will contribute $5,000 to the fund, which will be distributed in future grants to B.A.S.S. Nation clubs and chapters based on project merit. Nationwide ran a Quote-for-a-Cause promotion in 2013, in which the company earmarked $10 for this fund for each B.A.S.S. member who got an insurance quote from Nationwide.

The New Hampshire B.A.S.S. Nation won the FishAmericaFoundation/B.A.S.S. Nation Conservation Fund Award, and will receive a grant for $5,000 for its bass research project. Jamie Doughty, conservation director, will accept the award on the New Hampshire chapter’s behalf. The funds come from a 2012 donation by Simms Fishing. It is a competitive grant award.

The project involves radio tagging smallmouth and largemouth bass released into Little Squam Lake after tournaments, monitoring the fishes’ movements for 1 1/2 years to determine the percentage of bass that return to where they were likely caught, in Big Squam Lake.

“The results will be used to evaluate appropriate bass tournament rules as well as provide the public with a better understanding of the effects of tournaments on their resource,” explained Gilliland. “The project has potential far beyond New Hampshire. The displacement of bass during tournaments is a topic of concern in many states.

“FAF and B.A.S.S. supporting this research shows were are concerned about the effects of tournaments and want scientific data on which management decisions can be made,” Gilliland continued.

The winner of the Aquatic Ecosystems Restoration Foundation/Aquatic Plant Management Society/B.A.S.S. Conservation Aquatic Vegetation Management Award is the Lake Oconee Bassmasters in Georgia. Tony Beck, the Georgia B.A.S.S. Nation’s conservation director will be on hand to accept the award. The Lake Oconee Bassmasters will be awarded $1,500 for establishing native aquatic vegetation in Lake Oconee, Lake Richard B. Russell and Lake Jackson over a five-year period.

To date, the club has grown and planted 4,300 native water willow plants.

“Club members worked in cooperation with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, Georgia Power and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers,” said Gilliland.

“Water willow is not invasive, provides shoreline cover, helps prevent erosion, and is easy to propagate,” Gilliland explained. “By growing their own plants, the club saved thousands of dollars.”

The Connecticut B.A.S.S. Nation won the Berkley Conservation Institute Angler Recruitment/Retention Award. The chapter will receive $1,500 in tackle from Pure Fishing, parent company of Berkley. Dean Rustic, chapter conservation director, will accept the award on behalf of the Connecticut B.A.S.S. Nation.

The chapter employed several marketing tactics to gain new members, including producing an Uncle Sam poster with the words “The CBN Wants You,” plus maps to help potential members find the club nearest them and a PowerPoint for passersby to see what the chapter is all about. The chapter’s efforts increased membership by 18 people in 2013.

“We feel that this was beneficial not only because it increased membership in 2013 but it gives us a plan to follow, and we are confident it will pay dividends in the future,” said Sylvia Morris chapter president.

The Berkley Conservation Institute’s Conservation Award goes to the New York B.A.S.S. Nation for its Ramp Monkeys project and water chestnut removal. The chapter will be awarded $2,000. Barb Elliott, conservation director, will accept the award.

The Ramp Monkeys project encouraged New York B.A.S.S. Nation youth clubs to form groups called Ramp Monkeys that would attend area bass tournaments, remove plant debris from launch areas and then clean, drain and dry each boat and trailer when it exits the water. The operation is an opportunity for outreach to anglers and boaters and an educational experience for the youth members.

The NYBN members also continued to battle invasive water chestnuts by physically removing the plants from lakes, canals and rivers. Members have removed hundreds of pounds of chestnuts, and preliminary inspections of areas addressed in past years showed very few plants had re-established.

“The New York B.A.S.S. Nation is honored to receive this award,” said Fred Blom, chapter president.“I am proud of the accomplishments of the whole organization. From anglers, to participation in weed pulls, to the Ramp Monkeys, we are all working hard to make a difference.”

Stay tuned to to find out who won the final award, the B.A.S.S. Nation Conservation Director of the Year.