BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — Gene Gilliland, a widely respected bass biologist and conservation advocate from Oklahoma, has been named B.A.S.S. National Conservation Director. Gilliland replaces Noreen Clough, the longtime conservation director who retired earlier this month.
“In addition to his extensive experience in fisheries management, Gene has been a leader in the B.A.S.S. Nation, an outdoor journalist, an avid tournament angler and a tireless proponent of youth fishing,” said B.A.S.S. CEO Bruce Akin. “He is a charter member of B.A.S.S., and he has been involved in the B.A.S.S. Nation Conservation program for two decades.
“America’s bass fishermen are fortunate that Gene has accepted our invitation to fill this vital role.”
Gilliland is currently assistant chief of the Fisheries Division of the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. He will retire from the department on Dec. 31, 2013, and join B.A.S.S. immediately afterward. Gilliland began work with ODWC in 1982 as a fishery biologist, later rising to regional supervisor and then assistant chief of fisheries in 2010.
Gilliland said he relishes the opportunity to have a positive influence on bass fishing and on its resources.
“Everyone, from the novice angler to the dedicated B.A.S.S. member to the professional at the Bassmaster Elite Series level, has a stake — an obligation — to protect our aquatic resources,” Gilliland said. “Our challenge is to educate them, then motivate them to take action that will make a difference.”
As national conservation director, Gilliland will represent America’s bass anglers on national boards and councils involved in resource conservation. In addition, he will oversee the efforts of the 47 B.A.S.S. Nation conservation directors and work to make conservation principles relevant to every B.A.S.S. member. He will also be responsible for maintaining and improving fish care practices on each of the Bassmaster tournament circuits. Gilliland has assisted in fish care at the Bassmaster Classic each year since 1994, including the 2013 Classic in Tulsa, Okla., when 100 percent of the bass weighed in were released alive in Grand Lake O’ the Cherokees.
Gilliland credits Clough as a valuable mentor. “She worked with the B.A.S.S. Nation conservation directors and developed a vision for the conservation program’s future. Personally, she helped me better understand how to navigate government bureaucracy and get things done to improve fishing,” he said. “B.A.S.S. Conservation works with partners on so many levels — local, state, regional and national — to address the threats that our freshwater resources face. One of our biggest challenges will be helping the general public understand that what is good for the fish is good for them, too.”
Gilliland has a B.S. degree in Wildlife and Fisheries from Texas A&M University and a master’s degree in Fisheries Biology from Oklahoma State University. He is a coauthor, along with Hal Schramm, of “Keeping Bass Alive, a Guidebook for Tournament Anglers and Organizers.” He is a regular contributor to the “Bass Biology” column in B.A.S.S. Times magazine and has been published in numerous other outdoor publications.
An avid tournament angler since high school, he joined the North Oklahoma City Bassmasters in 1993 and served as the club’s president from 1999 until 2010. He was Oklahoma B.A.S.S. Nation conservation director from 2005 to 2010 and was named Conservation Director of the Year in 2009. He helped incorporate the CastingKids program into boat and tackle show programs in Oklahoma, he helped organize the Oklahoma City Junior Bassmasters club in 2005 and served as the state’s B.A.S.S. Nation youth director in 2007 and 2008.
Gilliland joined B.A.S.S. in 1969 because of its focus on friendly competition, youth fishing and protecting the resource.
“I want to continue the conservation legacy that Ray Scott and the B.A.S.S. conservation directors before me have established,” he said. “B.A.S.S. Conservation has always been a voice for anglers, fighting to preserve and enhance aquatic resources for the future of fishing. I want to make sure that our voice is still heard loud and clear.”