Conservation Summit At Bassmaster Classic Connects Volunteers With Fisheries Leaders

The biennial Conservation Summit, which connects volunteer conservation advocates with fisheries professionals in state and federal agencies, will be held in Greenville, March 16-18, during the 2018 GEICO Bassmaster Classic presented by DICK’S Sporting Goods, according to Gene Gilliland, B.A.S.S. national conservation director.

More than 75 B.A.S.S. Nation state and provincial conservation directors, fishery agency representatives, invited speakers, sponsors and guests will gather at the Embassy Suites by Hilton Golf Resort & Conference Center to hear presentations on a variety of fisheries management topics and participate in workshops designed to help them deal with resource conservation issues they face at home.

“We do this every two years, so we try to squeeze as much as we can into the one evening and two mornings we have for our summit,” Gilliland said.

The conference starts with a Friday evening reception during which representatives from the American Sportfishing Association (ASA) and the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) cover the latest in Washington, D.C., fisheries-related politics.

Leading off Saturday morning will be Dr. Hal Schramm, former leader of the Mississippi Cooperative Fish & Wildlife Research Unit at Mississippi State University. Schramm will discuss changing ideas in black bass management, from traditional attempts to maximize fish production to more natural schemes that emphasize healthy environments and strategies to provide optimum “experiences” for more anglers.

The summit will also help participants deal with controversies such as those created in reaction to changes in fisheries management.

“In this era of social media, those differences can result in misinformation going viral and hindering an organization’s efforts to educate the public, or an agency’s desire to provide effective resource management,” Gilliland said. “We are glad to announce that Bob McAlister of McAlister Communications in Columbia, S.C., will lead a discussion on ‘Crisis Management’ and provide summit attendees with examples of how they can fight misinformation and how they can use social media to communicate more effectively with bass anglers and the public.”

The ASA’s Keep America Fishing team will host a luncheon meeting to provide Summit guests with an overview of the “Pitch It” campaign that has B.A.S.S. Nation clubs in more than 25 states collecting discarded soft-plastic lures and preventing hundreds of pounds of plastics from getting into lakes, rivers and reservoirs.

A conservation awards banquet, sponsored in part by the Aquatic Ecosystem Restoration Foundation will include announcements about grant and scholarship opportunities provided by organizations and companies that support the B.A.S.S. Conservation agenda. The banquet will also feature presentations to winners of various awards and to the B.A.S.S. Nation Conservation Director of the Year.

“The awards banquet is an opportunity for us to recognize the work being done by our volunteer B.A.S.S. Nation conservation directors and shine a spotlight on some of the outstanding projects and programs they have going in their states,” said Gilliland.

Other topics covered in the two-day summit include ways bass tournament registration systems have influenced states’ bass management, and fish-care and livewell management practices that maximize survival of bass released from tournaments. In addition, Pat Neu with the National Professional Anglers Association will discuss a growing concern over programs designed to prevent the spread of invasive species that may be restricting angler access to public waters.

Each day’s activities will conclude in time for the Summit attendees to visit the Bassmaster Classic Outdoors Expo presented by DICK’S Sporting Goods at Greenville’s TD Convention Center and attend afternoon Classic weigh-ins in the Bon Secours Wellness Arena. Teams of B.A.S.S. Nation conservation directors will be assisting B.A.S.S. tournament staff and South Carolina Department of Natural Resources personnel with fish care each day, ensuring that a maximum number of healthy fish are returned to Lake Hartwell.

“The summit is not only an opportunity for our guests to learn from the experts we bring in to speak, it is also an opportunity to network — to meet fellow conservation directors or biologists and administrators from other states and compare notes, bounce ideas off one another, and discover new ways of looking at problems and finding solutions,” Gilliland said.

“Our goal is to help build solid, productive partnerships between our leaders in the B.A.S.S. Nation and the state fishery managers who are responsible for resources that we use and enjoy.”

About the 2018 GEICO Bassmaster Classic presented by DICK’S Sporting Goods 

The 48th world championship of bass fishing, the GEICO Bassmaster Classic presented by DICK’S Sporting Goods will host 52 of the world’s best bass anglers competing for more than $1 million, March 16-18 on Lake Hartwell, South Carolina. Competition and takeoff will begin each day at 7:30 a.m. ET at the Green Pond Landing in Anderson (470 Green Pond Road). Weigh-ins will be held daily March 16-18 at 3:15 p.m. in the Bon Secours Wellness Arena in downtown Greenville (650 N. Academy Street).

In conjunction, the Bassmaster Classic Outdoors Expo presented by DICK’S Sporting Goods will be open daily in Greenville at the TD Convention Center (1 Exposition Drive). Expo hours are Friday, March 16, noon – 8 p.m.; Saturday, March 17, 10 a.m. – 6 p.m.; Sunday, March 18, 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. All events are free and open to the public.