Three weeks ago I was at the annual BASS meeting. It is more than simply an event within BASS, where the social and campaigning sides combine and you leave entertained and inspired: it is part of the rhythm of the fishing year, marking the point where catching a bass becomes realistic rather than an implausible hope.
The gathering followed the rough script of the previous thirteen I have attended. The only significant difference occurred when the familiar call for new blood on the committee came around, the voice within my head – one that each year whispers excuses – was unexpectedly shouted down by one insisting that given the vital state of our campaign to raise the minimum landing size now was the time. Possessed by a force beyond my control, my right arm rose above my head and after a lifetime of considering myself barely capable of organising my own breakfast, I was part of the BASS team. As I looked at my fellow members applauding my appointment, I felt a warm glow. The pleasure was brief, as it dawned on me many were merely expressing relief that someone else had cracked, so taking the pressure off them to step forward.
As I ate my lunch I wondered whether my recent inappropriate arm gesture had (again) dropped me right in it. I was keen to “do my bit” but what the hell could a health care professional offer the society? In the absence of inspiration I consoled myself with clichéd thoughts about not needing to rush in to action and the need to familiarise myself with the role over the coming year.
As I digested my sandwich I found myself surrounded by a hundred other captivated souls, all of us listening to Keith and Kevin White deliver a torrent of inspirational thoughts and ideas on bass fishing. Yet amongst all the mindboggling things they said the most memorable was the only one that seemed absurd. To venture out at night, clad in wetsuits then surrender yourself to the ocean, although seeming somewhat bizarre, was understandable if it enabled the angler as claimed to catch far more bass. But to allow yourself to be washed 3 miles from the Jersey mainland, riding currents that flow like spate rivers, before trusting the turning tide to carry you back home seemed insane. Yes, their knowledge and interpretation of what worked and why in bass fishing was inspirational, but they were obviously mad as badgers – a characteristic that seemingly enabled them to fit in a treat with their audience. Such was their passion that come the end of their talk I had torn up the mental note never to consider fishing with them. The sixty-something bloke in front of me who didn’t look fit enough to run from the pub to the chip shop turned and asked his mate whether it was too late in life to learn to start swimming lessons, while I wondered where I might source a wetsuit and Van Stall reel so I too could become human flotsam.
As the meeting neared its conclusion I tried to contemplate the multitude of information from The White Brothers ideas. But my overloaded mind soon wandered off and (not for the first time) I instead considered why possessing a degree of eccentricity that places you at the boundary of conventional ideas of sanity, is not uncommon amongst some BASS members – well at least the ones I seem to end up fishing with.
First to come to mind was Al, someone who leaves me in disbelief at his ceaseless levels of energy, enthusiasm and chat. For days on end I have pursued the little guy over rocks and seemingly endless beaches, during the day and night; yet like your own shadow you can never catch Al up. He clearly shares more in common with a caffeine fuelled weasel than mortal angler. I’d like to plead sleep deprivation in my defence, but more than once I have lined up my lure rod with Al’s fast moving body imagining (nay preying) it was a loaded tranquilliser gun. Though given his energy, should I actually get a lucky shot in and dart the rapid and erratically moving target, it would do little to help, as a dose capable of felling a bull elephant would barely make him yawn.
Another character that comes readily to mind is the large Welsh man Al and I sometimes fish with. It is hard to think of a more unlikely pairing than Rob and Al, given the differences in size, movement and speed of thought. In fact I have never seen Rob rushed into any decision or action. On occasions those that know him have wondered (and believe me you would after spending a week in his presence trying to drag him out to catch the tide) if Rob’s waders were doused in petrol and you threw a match at his backside whether he would adopt his familiar contemplative chin stroking pose as he weighed up which rock pool would best extinguish his flaming arse, or would he like any “normal angler” (a combination of words I use loosely) run screaming in blind panic and throw himself into the nearest available bit of sea. If one day I do finally crack I intend to write from my prison cell / padded cell and inform you of the answer to this mystery.
Ian is the society chairman. He is very much more on the level than the previously pair – which is admittedly not difficult – yet his undoubted wisdom can sometimes remain well disguised, given he appears to breath laughing gas instead of air. Last year for example, when fishing the early hours in Cape Cod for striped bass, through a wall of dawn mist stretching over a broad expanse of water, there emanated the familiar, whooping sound of a strange beast. Every 5 minutes the noise repeated itself. A couple of locals fishing near by made gestures of bemusement in my direction. Reluctant not to reveal I knew the culprits, I mirrored their shoulder shrugs and head taps. It was clear the hidden lunatics on the distant shore were Ian (and fellow chuckle brother Malcolm Gilbert) and given the noise they were obviously into fish. Unlike that early morning I did not have the excuse of catching fish, yet still he laughed ceaselessly. The weapon of laughter was powerful not only had made me raise my arm it had left a room enthused a bunch of anglers to amongst other thing unleash a stream of letters to various politicians insisting they prevent their sport from declining further.
One member who I sat next to at the meeting quickly disappeared. Unlike those mentioned previously Dave’s affliction is seemingly not obvious to anyone but me. Despite others claiming Dave to be a normal regular guy, I am convinced he demonstrates a look of wide eyed fear as if he is reliving some terrible nightmare whenever I see him. It is possible I am imagining these symptoms, given I have fished only the once with him … and thinking about it that trip didn’t last long given it was cut short by a freak wave that threw us both into an icy sea, but none the less I remain convinced these symptoms are real and cant think why others don’t see it too.
Actually, it seems everyone in BASS appears to know of my boating mishap. At this meeting alone two separate people on meeting me for the first time said “Ah the guy who rolled his boat and nearly drowned Dave.” I smiled back politely, but inside such infamy hurts. Why am I not the guy remembered for all the well crafted articles the voice of my ego overdramatically shrieks. Yet if through my endeavours alone I managed to obtained a ban on all netting and trawling for bass fishing, I would probably remain just the bloke who capsized his inflatable and nearly drowned Dave. My ego is wasting its effort, and I better get used to it.
When talking of anglers on the edge, there is one man in BASS who if not a national treasure is certainly a legend within our ranks. Dressed in just a wetsuit Mike wanders distant shores (as well as supermarkets) on his quest to cast flies lures or bait in the surf. One trip is particularly famous and sees Mike escape to the surf beaches of SW Ireland for the Christmas and New Year period to fish for bass and report his antics on the forum. For many of us trapped in small living rooms surrounded by relatives with whom there is little mutual love, his reports are a blissful escape. More than mere fishing reports, they are often streams of consciousness that one minute stand you beside him in the Atlantic surf and the next lead you to the recesses of his (sometimes crazed) mind. They are a joy to behold.
Obviously (and in case any of those I mention above threaten me with hiring lawyers again), the implication that the role of BASS is a provider of care in the fishing community is undertaken purely for cheap comic effect. As well as being (predominantly) sound in mind, the membership are hugely diverse. Drawn from all corners of society we fish with bait, flies, and lures, cast from the shore, kayaks, boats (or even when part submerged). Some have decades of experience, others are new to chasing bass. We might have initially chosen to join BASS to increase our knowledge of bass angling, or to campaign for more and bigger bass, but whatever we are, we share the one common factor; a passion for bass fishing.
A day after the BASS meeting Simon Lewis (prompted through communication with Matt Jones) asked why we did not have a blog? It was a question that had no good answer, but instantly provide the solution to how as a committee member I could contribute. Things have moved apace since then and a few weeks on (thanks to Steve Richardson’s massive efforts) the software is in place, the Blog is designed and Simon has a team in place. The number of people wanting to get involved has been remarkable, revealing a group of (largely younger) BASS members, who have it seems, been waiting to contribute something to BASS. Already there is a mixed team of 15 bloggers who will make regular posts here.
How the blog develops over time will be anyone’s guess, but it is intended to be far more than only a tool to publicise the growing campaign to get the minimum landing size for bass raised. Amongst other things, we hope it to provide fishing reports, pass on knowledge as to how different individuals fish for bass fish, and provide impartial reviews from those that use (and abuse) the tackle in the real world. Posts will be from members living in the UK and from beyond and will also come from guest posters outside BASS. Overall we hope through the diversity of the bloggers and their posts it will represent the diversity of the membership (irrespective of their sanity) and provide something of worth for all who share our passion for bass.