Reflecting On Our Sport
By Bill Schwarz
In the late 1990's I was introduced to bass tournament fishing when my wife told me that her friend's husband wanted to know if I knew the difference between a jig-n-pig and a Carolina rig, and which one I preferred. You see, before that day I was a bank fisherman who sometimes went out in the canoe and fished for bass, blue gill and perch. Ten years later, I help run the fastest growing amateur bass tournament organization in the United States. In these ten years I learned about such things as catch and release, the teachings of Buck Perry and the many accomplishments of many anglers. During this time I have come almost full circle back to my roots of fishing with my dad and grandfather when I was quite younger.
It is interesting to see how the sport of bass tournament fishing has evolved in just the last ten years. During this time, have there been changes which have taken the pure fun of bass fishing out of our sport? Without a doubt, there have been changes. More organizations have sprouted up. More money has been injected into the sport. Manufactures have been born and died. And, sadly, grassroots bass tournament fishing has slowed.
To me, grassroots bass tournament fishing is the sport at the local club level sport. It is where the sport is grown from. It is where kids are introduced to the sport and carried forward. Unfortunately, as I mentioned above, things have changed. When you are fishing your next tournament, look around and see how many kids are in the event or are fishing for fun. Where are they?
Grassroots bass tournament fishing is why my bass fishing partner Jimmy Lowe and I chose USA Bassin, and brought it to New England.
Early this year I received a call from Jimmy, who told me a person by the name of Gene Ellison had called him and wanted to speak to him about USA Bassin. I called Gene and he was very pleasant to speak to. He told me all about USA Bassin's grassroots background and its family friendly format. We met soon after, where I learned That Gene was a pro bass angler who entered the sport later than most and who has a goal to introduce as many kids to our sport as possible. In Gene's words, he wants to put a million fishing rods in a million kid's hands.
Since that meeting, I have often fished with Gene and he has been USA Bassin's number one voice in New England. I have frequently watched Gene work with kids and teach them about the sport. At New England's regional championship, Gene took time to speak to one of our teenage anglers who was competing in the event and gave him a 30 minute lesson on drop-shotting, resulting in a five fish limit the next day. At our Bow Lake event he spoke to a kid and provided him with a smile and words of encouragement to pick up a fishing rod and go fishing. I watched Gene run a fishing clinic in Gardiner, Maine and provide a large group of children with brand new fishing rods and lessons which I hope lead them to fish as well.
Gene is a determined and competitive angler, who approaches all events to win and continually adjusts like all good students of this sport hopefully do. Gene was the first, and now, former President of the Professional Anglers Association (PAA.) He currently is a member of the Board of Directors of the Bass Fishing Hall of Fame. He makes personal appearances year round to promote our sport and to bring kids into it. Finally, Gene's accomplishments and passion for our sport did not go unnoticed by his peers, so this past summer at a Lake Pickwick event Gene was awarded the Life Time Achievement Award from the PAA. This is the first time this award has been given. This is an award that Kevin Van Dam says may not be given again for several more years. Thank you Gene, for your continued support of USA Bassin and for introducing more children to our sport.
The following is an excerpt from "Fishing Tips for Taking a Kid Fishing" By Gene Ellison, as it appears on Fishing Guiders of New England:
"Key points to remember:
- MAKE IT FUN - so your child will want to come back again;
- DON'T KEEP THEM THERE TOO LONG - If you do, they'll get bored and not want to come back;
- TEACH THEM ONLY 1 THING each time, like casting, or placing a worm on a hook safely;
- DON'T BRING TOO MUCH EXTRA STUFF - a small camera, a sandwich, chocolate milk and an apple is all you need;
- FISHING TACKLE -use "The Fishing Machine" Bobber Fishin' for Kids System: any child size rod & reel combo that is on sale; bobber floats, split shots, hooks and 1 package of XPS 2" Squirmin' Squirts. You can find all of this at your nearest bait & tackle shop and it won't cost a lot. If you want to try to catch some bigger fish, bring a bag of Berkley Gulp 4" sinking minnows - wow are these great and they don't make a mess!"
So, what will it take for you to take a kid fishing? You could bring your daughter or grandson to an event and they could fish with you. You could have the family come to a weigh-in. Or you could leave that $40,000 bass boat at home and take that canoe off the rack outside your garage and hit the local pond. Carry our sport forward and have fun.
William Schwarz's credentials include: