One requirement associated with being affiliated with the BASS Federation is that each club is required to take on at least one environmental project each year. There is no specific written guidance on what this environmental project must consist of and each club is more or less left up to itself to come up with ideas on it's own. Each project must be submitted to the State Federation for approval prior that club's participation in the State Tournament of Champions.
In past years, our club has participated in a number of different events and while they were all worthwhile projects, we as a group felt that we needed to establish something that was of a more permanent nature and would give everyone in the club more opportunity to participate. The main problem always seemed to be finding time away from the job and families for additional projects and never being able to schedule anything that everyone would show up for. What we came up with was a commitment to do a cleanup drive around the area of the boat launch following each club tournament. We felt that, in addition to the cleanup itself, there were a number of additional positives to be realized by trying this.
We began this new project, starting with our first tournament of 1996 at Bone Lake, Wisconsin and it was a resounding success. The amount of junk we amassed in just a few minutes from the weeds around the parking lot alone was mind boggling. From all appearances, in addition to being a boat launch and picnic area, it seems that this particular spot is the local "park and make out" area for the high school crowd. In addition to the standard trash, we gathered a sizable amount of empty booze and beer cans and came upon a lot of other disgusting and unmentionable things (some of which no one would touch). It also became immediately apparent that we were on to a good thing, because not only did it get all the club members involved in a much needed clean up of trash in the area, it also created quite a stir with the local citizens. They were impressed that we would drive all the way from Minnesota, fish all day in their lake without taking anything home (it was a tape tournament) and still find the time to clean up their launch and picnic areas.
While we are not an unusually large club (about 18 members), we always seem to draw a respectable crowd of spectators when we set up the tubs, scales, and tournament board for the official weigh-in of the fish. Following the weigh-in, we pass out garbage bags and fan out in all directions picking up the trash that the less sensitive users of the facility seem to always leave behind. The spectators hanging around always seem to be amazed that a bunch of bass fishermen will take the time to pick up their own trash, let alone someone elses. From the comments we receive, they (the locals) are more used to tournament bass fishermen being loud mouthed, beer drinking, slow zone running, illiterate rednecks with more horse power than brains who are always trying to ruin their favorite secret fishing hole.
Our experience with this phenomena carried through the entire season of six club tournaments and was so successful that we intend to continue it indefinitely. Not only are we doing our part in cleaning up the lake environment, we feel that this in one of the most positive things that we can ever do to repair and even improve the image of tournament bass fishermen. We will continue to support the other environmental projects that come along from time to time, but this will continue to be our "signature" project.
Sportsmen Bassmasters would like to challenge all bass clubs to adopt this philosophy and to join in the cleanup drive following each tournament. It only takes about 10 minutes with everyone participating and we can guarantee that the local folks will appreciate us all a whole lot more. Without a doubt, this is a win-win situation for everyone.