Texas club takes on huge habitat project

ELECTRIC CITY, Wash. — The annual Washington State BASS Federation Jamboree has had a long run — since the early '70s, which is remarkable in a state better known for its salmon-trout-steelhead passions. However, the Jamboree, put on by the state Federation, does a lot to change that, bringing bass clubs from all over the state to Banks Lake in central Washington every Memorial Day weekend.

 "It's a tournament, sure," said Washington State BASS Federation president Gary Morris, "but we run it to be a family-oriented, fun weekend. "Really, what we want to do is build camaraderie among bass fishermen in the state, so the tournament is bragging-rights only, and families and kids are encouraged to take part."

 The Jamboree takes place every year on Memorial Day weekend in Electric City, Wash. Headquarters is Coulee Playland, a resort at the northern end of Banks Lake, an equalizing reservoir that is part of the Columbia Basin irrigation system. It's a three day event, but fishermen from across the state often come early to secure the best campsite. Others stay later because of the good fishing on Banks and other nearby lakes."The tournament is one of the main attractions because of the competition between clubs," said Morris. "But it's not hard-core at all. The Saturday start is usually 9:30 a.m., with earlier start times on Sunday and Monday."Since we encourage family participation, we might have three or four (or even more) fishermen in a boat. Kids — we had 46 who participated in the event last year —compete against each other in one of three age classes." There were more than 280 adult participants.

 While the tournament is the centerpiece for the organization of the Jamboree, club members as well as their families can enjoy many other activities, including casting contests for kids, women and men, a treasure hunt using Aqua-Vu underwater cameras, and a raffle for adults, plus a special raffle for children.Morris said that this year the event will have even more nonfishing events oriented toward children, such as tug-of-war, races and other activities yet to be decided.On Saturday nights, each club has a potluck," Morris said, "and on Sunday night, the Jamboree has a hamburger barbecue for everyone. Not only that, but everyone usually goes over to see the laser light show at Grand Coulee Dam." The dam is just a few miles from the campground.While the Jamboree does a good job of bringing Washington bass fishermen together, that's not all it does. Along with the $10 registration fee for adults, the Washington Federation sells T-shirts and caps, sending its proceeds to the Federation.So far, the Federation has been able to obtain its own catch-and-release barge, as well as work on what Morris calls "the largest privately funded habitat restoration project of its kind in the country."The project involves Banks Lake, home of the Jamboree. Banks is a high desert reservoir that is fed by cool, clear water from the bottom of nearby Lake Roosevelt, the largest impoundment on the Columbia River.The project is in its fifth and final year. So far, it's involved planting 20,000 native plants along the shoreline and in near-shore areas. "We've also created a lot of underwater structure using native wood and concrete. What we're trying to do is bring back the panfish — Banks was once noted for its crappie fishing — and to do that, we need to add more cover to the lake."The project has involved the Federation dealing with state and federal landowners as well as the Colville Tribe."So far," says Morris, "we've seen improvement in the fishery. We've noted more panfish, and we're seeing a resurgence in largemouth bass."Banks Lake holds the state largemouth title for an 11.575-pound hog that was caught in the mid-1980s. After the introduction of adult smallmouth in the lake about the same time, the population of largemouth dropped dramatically. Morris said the work on restoring shore-side and underwater habitat has helped largemouth gain ground.Morris says that the work the Washington Federation and its member clubs have done wouldn't have been possible without the help of sponsors, which range from local tackle manufacturers such as Clearwater Tackle to major manufacturers, such as Ranger, Yamaha and Skeeter. "Nixon's Marine in Walla Walla and Valley Marine in Spokane (Skeeter and Ranger dealers respectively) have made the Jamboree possible over the years," Morris says. "Bass fishermen in this state owe them a lot."

 For more information on the Jamboree, you can call Morris directly at 360-224-5841.