Throughout the ongoing coronavirus crisis, government and health officials have repeatedly urged us to enjoy the outdoors.
Specifically, they’ve urged us to engage in solo activities such as fishing, turkey hunting, hiking and mountain biking. Events that would draw large crowds, such as fishing tournaments, group hikes and bike races, have been put on hold.
The folks at the Bass Angler Sportsman Society have devised a way to have the best of both worlds — a fishing competition designed to get young people outdoors without having them gather in groups.
It’s called the Big Bass Zone Junior Championship. Essentially, it’s an online tournament sponsored by B.A.S.S. for young people age 13-19.
Here’s how it works. Anglers pay a $25 registration fee if they plan to fish only in their home state, or a $50 fee if they plan to fish in other states as well.
Then they go out and fish. If they catch a big bass, they take a photo of the fish lying on an official ruler and upload the photo to the contest website. Anglers who catch the biggest fish in their respective states by Aug. 1 earn an invitation to the national championship tournament, scheduled for Oct. 2-3 on the Pend Oreille River near Priest River, Idaho.
Last year, the inaugural year for the event, 46 anglers from 44 states qualified for the championship. They took home more than $370,000 worth of prizes and scholarships.
This year’s prize list, which includes scholarships, Anglers Inn International trips and a new Bass Cat fishing boat, also tops the $300,000 mark.
According to B.A.S.S., anglers from 42 states have already signed up. Twenty-five of them have already caught and registered a bass they think could win their individual state competitions.
Anglers who still haven’t registered may do so on the Big Bass Zone website, www.bbzworld.com.
It was a good idea when B.A.S.S. debuted the event last year, and with the current coronavirus situation it seems like an even better idea. Almost every young bass angler has a pond, lake or river nearby where he or she can go to fish.
And if kids are fishing, they’re not inside their homes, breathing recirculated air and playing some video game. They’re outside, breathing fresh air, engaged in the enjoyable challenge of getting a bass to bite.
The only thing about the competition that gives me pause is the timing and location of the tournament finals.
The town of Priest River is located at an elevation of 2,139 feet in northwestern Idaho, just 75 miles south of the Canadian border, in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. Can you say snow?
A quick check of the town’s weather history indicates that the kids in the tournament will have to cope with cold weather and cold water, particularly in the morning. October days in the area tend to be overcast as often as they’re sunny, so the water may or may not warm up toward midday.
On the other hand, the tournament’s weather and water conditions might play straight into the hands of the youngster who registers the biggest bass from West Virginia.
The Pend Oreille River contains both largemouth and smallmouth, so a Mountain State angler should feel right at home, and the weather conditions there couldn’t be much worse than those encountered here in late March, early April and all of November.