Illinois B.A.S.S. Nation is Breaking the Mold

BinofwornoutsoftbaitsI consider it a great day when someone blows my expectations out of the water. When we look at a situation like a hand of cards and they say, “I understand the problem you dealt me, I’ll call you on the solution you suggested, and I’ll raise you one big idea.”

This past year at KeepAmericaFishing, we put a lot of focus on a problem that we decided needed fixing – the littering of worn out soft plastic baits into our waterways. We created our Pitch It campaign and based it on awareness of the issue and education of how baits should be discarded. We asked fishermen to sign a pledge stating they would properly dispose of used lures and thousands of you did. We developed a decision making path – if there’s a soft bait recycling opportunity available use that, if not they go in the trash, but the most important point is that they don’t go in the water.

And while that is technically sufficient, it leaves some of us feeling like we’ve created a new conundrum – the baits aren’t littering the environment, but we’re still dumping plastic into our landfills.

You see, soft baits can’t go into our normal household recycling like our newspapers, water bottles and cans. They contain chemicals – the dyes, glitter, and scents that make them so good at catching fish – that need to be stripped away before the plastic is considered usable. There are some resources out there, but they’re still relatively new and not widely available. Recycling soft baits hasn’t become standard operating procedure yet.

Most of us don’t even notice how many baits are being thrown away because we’re only tossing out what we have individually used in a day. But there are times when the amount seems substantial, such as during the Illinois B.A.S.S. Nation’s state qualifier tournament held on September 26-27.

The competing clubs were encouraged to keep and collect the soft plastics they used during the tournament. Actually, they were given an incentive. Ralph Sweat, the regional director, coordinated special prizes for the clubs that turned in the most used baits. The clubs at the top of the anti-litter leader board received hundreds of dollars’ worth of new soft baits, all donated by Jackall Lures.

At the end of the tournament, 90 pounds of used lures were collected.

90 pounds!

When I look at the collection bin, a Rubbermaid tub, half-full of worms and crawdads and bait fish, it makes me pause. And for Ralph, it made him think twice about heading to the dumpster.

Trophies-768x432Instead, he decided to keep the plastic out of the landfill and recycle it into a new form – trophies. He melted all that plastic and poured it into a custom-made mold of a bass, ending up with over a dozen plaques he’ll give away to the top finishers of the Illinois B.A.S.S. Nation junior tournaments.

These trophies aren’t super fancy. They’re not professionally made, they don’t have engraving…you might even get a splinter from holding the rough edges of the wood backing. But that doesn’t matter one bit. They’re awesome.

And it’s a reminder that we all have the ability to up the ante when it comes to taking care of our natural resources. We can see a problem, identify a solution, and be satisfied with that. Or we can challenge ourselves and inspire others to take it one step further.

So to Ralph Sweat, the entire Illinois B.A.S.S. Nation, and Jackall Lures I say, “Well played.”

Happy New Year,




Liz Ogilvie
KeepAmericaFishing Director