QUITMAN, Texas— Just hours before Semifinal Saturday kicked off at the Toyota Bassmaster Texas Fest benefiting Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, volunteers from 13 high schools spread out along the shores of Lake Fork to collect trash as part of the B.A.S.S. Nation Clean-Up Challenge sponsored by AFTCO and Huk.
“It was important to me to be part of the clean-up efforts," said Jimmy Fisher, a sophomore from Wylie East High School. “I am fishing a tournament here next week and know we need to keep the lake and boat ramps clean for everyone.”
That sentiment was echoed by Grace Community School junior Caleb Carpenter, “Keeping the lake clean isn't just important for the environment, it is a way we can help the entire community.”
Volunteers from local high school teams and the Texas High School Bass Association collected bags of trash at the Sabine River Authority (SRA) — Lake Fork, site of daily takeoffs and weigh-ins for the Bassmaster Elite Series event. In addition to plastic bottles and other litter, the student anglers reported collecting a few unusual items from the lakeshore.
“Our team found a couch, tires and even plastic chairs,” said first-year angler Samantha Collins of Grand Saline High School.
High school teams from around the region were represented, including Royse City, Winnsboro, Whitehouse, Wylie East, Lindale, Van, Celeste, Rains, Grapevine, Van Alstyne, Grand Saline, McKinney Christian Academy and Grace Community School.
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.”
And leaving a fishery cleaner than it started is particularly important to McKinney Christian Academy senior Matthew Free, who plans to pursue a degree in Marine Fisheries. “I'd like to join a fishing team in college and if we all want to keep fishing for years to come, keeping our lakes healthy and clean is essential.”