PALATKA, Fla. — Just hours before Semifinal Saturday kicked off at the AFTCO Bassmaster Elite at St. Johns River, 32 volunteers — including five Bas
PALATKA, Fla. — Just hours before Semifinal Saturday kicked off at the AFTCO Bassmaster Elite at St. Johns River, 32 volunteers — including five Bassmaster Elite Series anglers — spread out along the shores of the St. Johns River 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.
“Unfortunately, anglers see trash on every river, every bank and every ramp we go to around the country,” said Elite pro Skylar Hamilton. “Helping to clean the area today and educate communities on clean-up efforts is the least we can do to help the long-term health of our sport.”
During the morning, volunteers collected 42 bags of trash, two coolers and even a car bumper.
“Outdoorsmen and anglers have grown used to seeing trash everywhere,” said Elite angler Mike Huff. “Cleaning litter in places where we hunt and fish might seem small, but it can really have a big impact.”
Organizations from around the region were represented, including the Florida B.A.S.S. Nation, Putnam County Bassmasters, Palatka Junior-Senior High School, Cresent City Junior-Senior. High School, Interlachen Junior-Senior High School, Q.I. Roberts Junior-Senior High School and the Children’s Reading Center.
“As an angler at the highest level, I can not only make an impact by picking up litter today but, by getting the community involved, we can make an even bigger impact on the river and our sport by showing how important it is to help these environments thrive,” said Elite Series rookie Alex Redwine.
Elite anglers Carl Jocumsen and Kenta Kimura also participated in today’s clean-up efforts.
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.