As an organisation BASS acts collectively for its members, yet our resources are limited and we have to pick our fights as we dont have paid staff or huge financial resources. Sometimes individual BASS members chose to act alone where they see an opportunity to bring about change that will benefit their bass fishing.
Six months ago at the BASS AGM I chatted to Laurence Mead about this and that. After we had discussed our theories on the seasonal movements of bass around Devon, Dorset and Hampshire he mentioned how his local fishing had seriously declined in recent seasons. Yet cryptically he said he knew at least one of the causes and had a plan but wasn’t prepared to reveal anything further right now. I completely forgot about this until yesterday when Laurence posted on the BASS forum. The words I read were inspiring and tell how acting alone he has identified a problem, formed a plan and is addressing it. His account of his actions deserves to be viewed by a wider audience.
“I had a plan this year, which i decided to carry out on my own, not discussing it with or involving anyone else, that way if it was a total failure I wouldn’t have to explain to anyone or suffer the ” you should have done it this way” criticisms that always follow a failure.
I waited until march, when a particular boat fishing club would put their usual post on the local public angling forums looking for new members. The post appeared,as i expected ” xxx club welcomes new members who wish to apply, great facilities, friendly atmosphere etc etc. It was posted by the commodore, I was the first to respond to the post asking; “Do xxx club endorse their members setting nets from their boats to catch bass?” The commodore replied with what i expected; “Its not illegal to use nets of the correct size etc etc. ”
This club started many years ago and all new members applying would be told, if you use nets you will not be a member of this club. Slowly but surely the netting culture crept in as they slowly took control by joining the committee. The last few years the committee has been dominated by those who net bass and the “anti netters” have become the silent majority, to frightened to speak out.
A friend of mine joined 2 years ago and at his interview was told “if you have a problem with netting then don’t bother joining this club” He was then shown a chart, which was pinned to the wall, showing the three main bass producing banks in the area and told very firmly, “these two banks marked with crosses are for the lads who use nets, stay off them, this third bank is for rod and line anglers”.
Getting back to me and the commodore on the forum…
Following his response i challenged him to have a secret postal ballet of their members asking them; should the club allow netters “yes” or “no” and have a stamp addressed envelope included. I told him it should be secret because some members would feel intimidated to raise their hand against netting if it was at their AGM. He did not like that !
…. You may have guessed by now the commodore is a netter.
The reason i was doing this was to make as many anglers as possible aware that this “angling club” had a large number of allegedly bass selling netters who had total control of how its run. The commodore did his best to ignore my challenge even though i kept repeating it. The thread was locked after several of his fellow netters joined in with various degrees of abuse.
I was happy, i had succeeded in publicly exposing the club for what it has become. However as i was not able to get any feedback from within the club what I didn’t know was that i had planted the seed of revolution amongst the proper anglers who were sick and tired of seeing nets full of bass and being told were they could and could not do their fishing.
It appears that throughout the spring and summer the wave of despondency slowly spread through the proper anglers fuelled by the total collapse of the bass stock on the banks. It has been the worst year anyone can remember, and quite rightly , the members with the nets got the blame, they had finally cleaned out the bass from the three banks.
The revolution began. A group of members got together and demanded an extraordinary meeting with one subject on the agenda…netting ! They were in the majority this time and forced the committee to have a secret postal ballot (with a stamp addressed envelope included) asking wether members should be allowed to use nets “yes” or “no”.
It appears my actions to make people aware of whats going on had more affect than I first thought. The secret ballot overwhelmingly said “NO” to netting and was added to the rules at the AGM. One member stated that he will drag his anchor through any nets he sees ! Several proper anglers also joined the committee to break the stranglehold of the netters.
I see this as a huge success for my local area because if any members continue to use nets they will be banned, and as there is only one slipway available which is gated and controlled by the club they would not be able to launch their boats. Also the beaches only produce when the wind is blowing onshore, then the bass leave the banks and come onto the beaches so shore anglers will benefit. Its just sad that it took the entire stock being wiped out to force people to do something about the nets.
This was the first part of my plan. It was meant to make local anglers aware of the huge amount of netting going on in this area and try to gain support for the next step. I did not realise it would bring such a response.
Phase one complete. Hopefully there will be more to come.
Pictures: Matt Spence