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A B.A.S.S. Birthday
B.A.S.S. aka the Bass Anglers Sportsman Society has turned 50 and the recent Superbowl of bass fishing, the Bassmaster Classic, was the organization’s birthday party. It was held in Greenville, South Carolina and thousands of fans showed up each day of B.A.S.S.’s fishing tournament of fishing tournaments to see the bass fishing professionals weigh their catch before returning the fish to Lake Hartwell.
Bass fishing pro Jordan Lee won the tournament for the second year in a row. No small feat, and a story worth telling. But this story isn’t about the winner or other competitors, it’s about the organization, itself.
For a half century this the Bass Anglers Sportsman Society has gotten millions of people outside as it worked to clean up America’s waters and to restore healthy fish populations in streams and lakes across North America. As sportsmen have long done, they’ve accomplished real and practical things to improve the environment and to bring families together in wholesome outdoor recreation.
If B.A.S.S. were staffed with activists screaming about climate change, evil corporations, animal rights or touted other, often anti-American issues, the mainstream media would have told us all about them long ago. Instead, many of the issues B.A.S.S. has promoted have quietly helped the environment or have been woven into the sport of fishing.
Here are just a few of the accomplishments:
In 1968, when Ray Scott founded B.A.S.S., largemouth bass, the species around which these fishing tournaments are largely centered, weren’t found in many of the lakes and streams in western and eastern states. Interest fueled by these tournaments, and the economic impact of them, convinced states to stock bass. Now millions of anglers enjoy fishing for bass from coast to coast and in Hawaii and other countries around the world.
Over the years, B.A.S.S.’s conservation arm has taken 250 water-polluting companies to court for violating the Federal Refuse Act and Clean Water Act. This has resulted in many waterways being cleaned up.
Early on, B.A.S.S. introduced catch-and-release fishing in its tournaments. This lead to the “Don’t Kill Your Catch” initiative or CPR - Catch, Photograph, Release. The ethic caught on and today the vast majority of bass anglers release all or most of the fish they catch. Catch-and-release bass fishing is now credited with maintaining quality fishing in aging reservoirs and highly pressured fisheries.
In 1976 Ray Scott was appointed to the U.S. Coast Guard Boating Safety Advisory Council. Scott used this post to lobby for safety requirements being built into new boats, fishing boats or other recreational vessels. The Coast Guard adopted many of these recommendations and more than a few have been passed into law at both the state and federal level.
In 1984, B.A.S.S. campaigned successfully for Congress to pass the Wallop-Breaux Amendment, an expansion of Federal Aid to Wildlife Restoration Act. It became the Federal Aid to FISH and Wildlife Restoration and has since provided billions of dollars to states for fisheries and clean-water efforts.
To get more kids outside, B.A.S.S. created the “Casting Kids” program. It impacted millions of kids before it was transformed into the current B.A.S.S. High School program, which is seeing record growth in participation. In 2004 the first ever Bassmaster Junior World Championship was held in conjunction with the Bassmaster Classic with 11-14 and 15-17-age divisions.
Today B.A.S.S. is in 47 states with affiliates in Canada, Zimbabwe, Spain, Mexico, Japan, Italy, Australia, France, South Africa, Portugal and Namibia. There are now 1909 B.A.S.S. clubs, 157 college teams, 695 high school teams and 112 junior Bassmaster clubs (ages 7-13).
The positive impact all of this has on our waterways and on our nation’s youth is hard to quantify, but shouldn’t be overlooked.
Fan Appreciation Day at the 2018 Bassmaster Classic smashed previous attendance records, with over 143 thousand people showing up to see and cheer for the best bass fishermen in the world.
Happy Birthday, B.A.S.S.