LEESBURG, Fla. — Just hours before Semifinal Saturday kicked off at the SiteOne Bassmaster Elite at Harris Chain, volunteers — including four Bassmaster Elite Series anglers — spread out along the shores and ramps on Lake Harris to collect trash as part of the B.A.S.S. Conservation Clean-Up Challenge sponsored by AFTCO and Yamaha Rightwaters.
For the Elite anglers who joined clean-up efforts, this represented an opportunity to give back to the communities where they compete and protect a precious natural resource.
“No matter what you’re doing, no one wants to see trash when you’re out in nature,” said rookie Matty Wong of Honolulu, Hawaii, who was joined by fellow Elite Series pros Daisuke Aoki, Taku Ito and Carl Jocumsen at the Saturday clean up. “We only have one Earth and our rivers and lakes are a resource we have to protect. As a surfer and fisherman growing up in Hawaii, I’ve seen the impact litter — and especially plastic — has on our waterways and beaches.”
During the morning, volunteers collected 36 bags of trash, 20 party balloons and inflatable pool floats.
Organizations from around the region were represented, including the Florida B.A.S.S. Nation, Central Florida Youth Anglers, Club Florida High School fishing team, Dixie County High School, Florida Wildlife Conservation, Lakeland Bassmasters and the Teen Sportfishing Association.
Conservation efforts are a cornerstone of the B.A.S.S. tradition, and leading efforts to collect litter can have a sizable impact on the waterways the organization and its fans frequent.
“B.A.S.S. was founded on three things: tournament fishing competition, youth participation and conservation,” B.A.S.S. Conservation Director Gene Gilliland said. “(B.A.S.S. Founder) Ray Scott used to always talk about the three-legged stool. This is one of the legs, and it doesn’t get talked about a lot.
“One of the things that we want to try to do is to improve the resource anytime we have a chance,” Gilliland said. “An event like this builds camaraderie between those participating. It builds goodwill with the communities that host our events.
“Most importantly, it helps us leave the venue better than we found it.”
The latest information on B.A.S.S. conservation efforts can be found on their group Facebook page or at Bassmaster.com.
The tournament is being hosted by Visit Lake, FL.