1/5/19: An Article by the B.A.S.S. Conservation Director (Gene Gilliland):

About 60 of the 75 Elite anglers attended an all-day meeting in Birmingham in December.  Some missed due to illness, travel issues (that was the week of the blizzard in North Carolina & Virginia) and family commitments.  Many came with spouses who are often the Angler’s business managers and social media coordinators.  The 2019 field consists of a few returning "veterans" and lots of "rookies."  The average age of this field is now 38.  Last year it was mid-40s.  Lots of new faces and names I don't even know yet. But lots of opportunities too.


Goals for the day were to reinforce the idea that the Bassmaster Elite Series is as strong as ever, show the Anglers that the Anderson family and the entire company are committed to success, introduce the new theme of the Elite Series, give an overview of how we’re working to roll it out, convey how B.A.S.S. is moving forward with expectations of a renewed partnership with its anglers, and show Anglers how to take advantage of B.A.S.S.’s diverse and extensive media platforms.


Each division of the company made a presentation, starting off with Chase Anderson (representing the new majority owner) who defined goals for the B.A.S.S./Angler relationship and reaffirmed commitments to ensure continued strength and dominance in the sport.  Mark Zona & Davy Hite stressed the importance of Angler’s actions on and off the water, that B.A.S.S. can’t build their profiles or drive attendance to Elite events without their help and that they need to be committed to fan interaction.  Zona, Hite, Mike McKinnis and Steve Bowman discussed the plans for expanded “Live” tournament coverage (all four days).  Dave Precht & Gettys Brannon discussed public relations and media interaction (hired a new PR firm to help).  McKinnis detailed the expanding television coverage (ESPN2 and Pursuit Channel).  James Hall pledged support in print (Bassmaster & B.A.S.S. Times), Jim Sexton talked about digital content ( and Emily Hand discussed social media (Facebook & Instagram).  Dave Wilson (who spoke at our last Conservation Summit) talked about the importance of social media, how to grow followers and engagement and how to partner with B.A.S.S.  Marketing & Events staff compared B.A.S.S. media to the competition and explained how their team can supply information for presentations to Angler’s sponsors. 


The new Angler Relations Team was introduced (B.A.S.S employees from print, digital, television and marketing) with a goal of better interaction with Anglers and their new Angler Advisory Council (formed by themselves with no mandates from B.A.S.S.).  Trip Weldon went over rule changes for 2019 including the No-Info rule, reported on the results of Angler surveys where they voted on field size and starting/weigh-in time adjustments.   Mark Menendez and John Crews spoke to their peers with a “We are a team/We are a family” talk, reiterating that the anglers should be working together this season to ensure success for the whole field.  Davy Hite closed the day with reminders about the significance of this new year.  “This is the dawn of a new day in professional bass fishing and you are a part of it.”


But what about Conservation?


I was given 10 minutes to speak about conservation. The session was running long and when I started, the MC said I only had about 7 minutes.  Well…I took over 15 minutes because the Anglers had so many questions!  I got more questions than any other speaker. That was very encouraging. 


I stared with a short video that JM Associates put together of out-takes from the past season… clips of former Elite pros boat-flipping bass, bouncing them off the carpet and console, kicking them onto the floor, stepping on them to take out hooks.  Lots of rapid-fire images of the stuff we have harped on for years and that we get complaints about.  I told the Anglers that these were the images that we get the most calls, letters, and e-mails from fans & viewers about.  Local anglers feel like the pros are abusing “their” fish.  People are very possessive about their home lakes and the fish in them and there is a growing feeling among the public that fish have feelings and that fish “welfare” is a very important consideration.  I and other speakers emphasized that the Elite pros will be under the microscope in 2019 like never before because of the MLF's catch-weigh-release format and the perception that it is the be-all format for fish conservation.  We need them to help us tell the story and to show that B.A.S.S. is doing things right and our fish-care protocols are not harming our bass populations.  I recommended fish-friendly behavior, reminded them that they were on camera at all times and that anything they do wrong will show up on the Internet and they will be judged harshly in the court of public opinion.  I urged them to contact me or staff at events to learn more (like fizzing demos).  I provided a handout with fish-care tips and our fizzing instruction card.  To my surprise, when the day was over, I collected only a half-dozen handouts that were left behind.  


I emphasized that catch-weigh-release was not all there is to conservation.  We (B.A.S.S.) do so much more (that nobody else does) and we need these Anglers to help tell that story too.  Access, Regulations, Invasive Species, Vegetation Management, Habitat Enhancement.  I urged the Anglers to get involved as spokesmen for conservation issues, to become advocates and help with calls-to-action via their social media networks when we need to mobilize the angling public.  I offered to make myself and you as state CDs available to them to help with local issues too.  I provided our B.A.S.S. Conservation Facebook group link and urged them to join.  I plan to send a follow-up e-mail to them all, provide the handouts in digital format, and reinforce the invitation to get involved in our communication efforts.   Overall, I was very pleased with the attentiveness and the questions that were asked.  The energy in the room was very positive, the chatter was about expanded opportunities and the future, not so much about what went down or why.  Afterwards, several of the Anglers came to me and said they wanted to be involved more.  Several have joined the Conservation FB group and I’ve received one invitation from an Angler to attend a local meeting to discuss access issues.


I have since had conversations with B.A.S.S. staff and management about incorporating more conservation content in our media mix.  I have a pledge from the digital side that we will get more on and social media.  We will work towards getting video for a series of “Conservation Minutes’ that can be put on the website during pre-tournament promotion, we talked about creating some conservation-oriented 15-sec PSAs to run on the Pursuit Channel (get the pro Anglers to talk about broad topics so it won’t matter what time of year they run them).  On the print side if there are really big issues that need greater exposure, we can get articles in Bassmaster Magazine (4 million readers vs. B.A.S.S. Times 250,000).  Lots of opportunities with the Elite Anglers and B.A.S.S media, and at least for now, a commitment from the management to make conservation more visible and a greater part of what B.A.S.S. is all about.

Gene Gilliland
B.A.S.S. Conservation Director
02/4/16: Due to the amount of snow we got this week, the brushing project that was scheduled for this Saturday the 6th, has been cancelled.
10/6/15: No Conservation information is available at this time.
See the "Contact Us" page for the Nebraska Federation Nation Conservation Officer's (Larry Wecker) contact information.