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Entries in Bassmaster College Series National Championship (1)

Friday
Aug112017

Angler Answers Anti-Tournament Criticism in Minnesota

Jake Lee (left) and Jacob Foutz of Bryan College maintain their lead on the second day of the 2017 Carhartt Bassmaster College Series National Championship presented by Bass Pro Shops on Lake Bemidji out of Bemidji, Minn., with a two-day total weight of 34 pounds, 10 ounces.

Angry that the Bassmaster College Series National Championship is being held on "his" waters, a Bemidji, Minn., area resident wrote a letter to the editor of the local newspaper. That letter is below, followed by a response from guide Jason  Rylander.

His reply to the anti-tournament comments is spot on, and reveals Rylander to be an excellent spokesman for recreational fishing, tournament style and otherwise.

The letter writer asked good questions, but what offended me, and I suspect many others, is that he already has made up his mind that tournaments are a bad thing and really isn't looking for answers to those questions. HIs anti-tournament bias is a commonly held view in the North, often based on the beliefs that the water is theirs and that fish are to keep and eat.

Letter to the editor: How many fishing tournaments can our local waters handle?

I live on the Mississippi River east of Bemidji. It’s a narrow, serene stretch of water that this morning is crawling with big bass boats. The air smells like gasoline. Promoted by the marketing department at Bemidji State University, the Bassmaster College National Championship fishing tournament is in town.

“Pre-fishing” has begun. Ninety heavy boats. Six full days of fishing ending with the weigh-in on Saturday. So I have questions.

How many fishing tournaments can our local waters handle in one summer? Who decides this? What is effect on water quality of 90 heavy powerboats over six days? What is the relationship of fishing tournaments to the introduction invasive species (zebra mussels, milfoil)? The Bassmaster tourney is catch-and-release, yes, but with what effect on fish kept in live wells the entire day? Do “pro” fisherman ever read studies on delayed fish mortality? And what are the larger messages of the Bassmaster world view?

Expensive boats, high tech equipment, faster-is-better fishing, then leave town? Bemidji State University recently won a major, national award for sustainability. We can do far better by our school, our waters, and our general economic development than these tournaments.

A sign on my dock reads, “Bassmasters Not Welcome.”

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Mr. Weaver, you asked a few questions in your letter to the editor in today's Bemidji Pioneer. Let me answer them the best I can.

1. Lake Bemidji, and its connecting waters, typically only host a few local bass club chapter outings. They don't regularly host any large scale bass tournaments.

2.The DNR issues permits for these tournaments upon approval; including all of the local walleye derbies held on Lakes Bemidji and Irvine.

3. The water quality effect of 90 bass boats for 6 days will be minimal. A vast majority of these boats are set up with new motors with higher pollution/efficiency regulations than most of the motors you see go past your dock. The boats are designed for shallow water, and will be forced to respect the no-wake zones.

4. Although I have no research from any studies to back up my opinion here. The tournament anglers will have to follow state laws regarding AIS. In my experience, most avid anglers are more diligent about cleaning their boat, trailer, and live wells than your average boater/pontooner. I'm sure an organization such as Bassmaster is taking all necessary precautions to avoid any spread of AIS.

5. Bass mortality in tournaments is pretty low. They survive very well in livewells, much better than the walleyes. The study I found with the highest delayed mortality rate was 27%. This isn't good, I'll admit that. There wasn't a study available that I could find for MN tournaments though. I was happy to hear that Bassmasters is providing release boats that will be releasing the fish back near the waters they were caught from.

6. I don't know much at all about the Bassmaster larger message, aside from they are promoting angling, getting kids outdoors, and providing an awesome competition for college anglers. Aside from maybe making a few bucks and employing a handful of people, I am unaware of any hidden agendas.

Mr. Weaver, I disagree with your letter to the editor. I believe events like this are great for the community, bring extra income in for local businesses, and the exposure the area will get is far worth it. I've heard that the television airing will be viewed by as many as 5 million people on ESPNU.

These are young people who love fishing, who are promoting the sport of angling, and I think Bemidji is blessed to have them here for a week. Let's have them leave here having felt welcome and with good memories, so that someday they might return with their families to vacation and enjoy all that Bemidji has to offer.

To have them drive past your dock, with your "Bassmasters Not Welcome" sign, is embarrassing. I'm going to make my own sign, "Bassmaster College Anglers Welcome to Bemidji."