Last week, you read of decreased conservation topics in a leading B.A.S.S. publication, followed by an upward trend in online reporting by the group. We linked to an interesting article by Robert Montgomery, widely known as a leading source on the subject, and discussed trends in conservation objectives among our group.
As I recently learned, there’s much more to cover.
This week, I had the delightful opportunity to speak with B.A.S.S. conservation director Gene Gilliland about his quest to bring important issues to light. I never miss a chance to hob-nob with this longtime friend; Gilliland is truly one of the most forward-thinking bass anglers I’ve ever met, equally concerned about fishing as the fish themselves.
Immediately, Gilliland clued me in to plans to again increase reporting on conservation topics within the B.A.S.S. publications. Specifically, Montgomery will be writing a more in-depth piece each month that covers the subject matter generated by the previously mentioned conservation summit. Online links to even more info will also likely be offered.
I found this news encouraging, and noted it to Gilliland. Such led to a much more in-depth talk, where things got enlightening.
As I mentioned, I’ve known Gilliland for a while now, and have nothing but positive things to say about his work for all of us. That work seems to be fitting his parent organization now better than ever.
“Our new ownership” Gilliland mentioned of B.A.S.S., “has expressed conservation as a priority. It’s why people joined B.A.S.S. in the first place. It’s a sportsman’s society. We need to be doing things for the future of the sport.”
More so, Gilliland understands the need to not only prioritize conservation efforts, but the reporting on those undertakings as well. And, while he admits B.A.S.S. Times and Bassmaster Magazine attract a relevant, hardcore reader, the secret to spreading the word lies in the online market. Such not only has the largest audience, but the most timely subject matter, where news is updated instantly and interested groups can react in real time.
For starters, Gilliland manages the B.A.S.S. Conservation Facebook Page, a public group that instantly updates members on important topics. This week, numerous posts revolve around boat ramp closures and tournament cancelations.
In addition, Gilliland and the B.A.S.S. Conservation crew keep tabs on projects around the country, most headed by B.A.S.S. Nation clubs, the organizations that pumped the original life-blood into these movements dating back to the earliest days of the B.A.S.S. Federation.
Here it’s important to recognize that the affiliated clubs are not the property of, or strictly managed by, the Bass Anglers Sportsman’s Society; something I was totally unaware of. Turns out, they never have been.
Instead, most of the structuring of these grassroots groups is dictated by their state organization, including the need to include conservation projects as part of their mission. Many of the clubs do, in fact, take on environmental projects on their own. But the problem lies in reporting such.
“A lot of clubs are doing a lot of good stuff and have been for years” Gilliland added, “but it’s hard to get them to toot their own horns. Recognition is not a big deal to them.”
Gilliland added that, “Sometimes, it’s hard for us (B.A.S.S. corporate) to even know what they’re doing.”
It appears that Gilliland, for one, would like to see that changed. He stressed the importance of clubs to send proof of their conservation work, no matter how remote or small. Lake clean-ups, habitat enhancement, cooperation with local game and fish organizations; all qualify and deserve the recognition.
Here I must interject a personal belief: good deeds are contagious. Reporting of such encourages others to do the same. And, when faced with push-back from opposing user groups – say, the marina owners griping about bass tournaments – we need to have proof of all we do to help the overall resource and community.
So toot the horn.
An obvious concept would be a central place for this “community” to share achievements. Maybe the Conservation Facebook group will be this place. But I envision more. I see an easy-to-contribute website for all Nation clubs to enter their achievements; heck, maybe even an app for the same. Such isn’t available now from B.A.S.S., and hasn’t been since the days of ESPN ownership. Perhaps this deserves a discussion.
In addition, Gilliland noted the differentiation between generations. “We’re looking to get conservation content on Instagram to appeal to (scholastic) anglers,” he mentioned. But such topics are a tough sell and rarely gain traction on those platforms, compared to cool fishing photos.
In the end, conservation reporting is anything but easy in today’s world of professional bass fishing. Technology is seductive, and tournament stats are trendy. Not everybody wants to learn more about the environmental impacts facing our fisheries.
Gilliland, however, remembers a theme taught to him by one of his mentors, former B.A.S.S. Times editor Matt Vincent. “We can’t always give them what they want to read,” he said. “We need to give them what they need to read.”
A decade later, I couldn’t agree more.
(Joe Balog is the often-outspoken owner of Millennium Promotions, Inc., an agency operating in the fishing and hunting industries. A former Bassmaster Open and EverStart Championship winner, he's best known for his big-water innovations and hardcore fishing style. He's a popular seminar speaker, product designer and author, and is considered one of the most influential smallmouth fishermen of modern times.)