By Billy “Hawkeye” Decoteau

No doubt our B.A.S.S. fishing fraternity has suffered some sever economic cuts over the past several years. Devastating budget cuts, portraying the “Grim Reaper” thrashed its way into the hearts and souls of American’s Bass Anglers. Shattering ‘Anglers’ Dreams’, as though they never existed!!!

Lady Anglers competing on the WBT witnessed their 2010 scheduled trail dissolve like a cheap diluted fish scent. While, they watched WBT Champion Pam Martin Wells pursue all of their hope and dreams of becoming a Bassmaster Classic Champion! Pam Martin Wells went down swinging like the proven Champion she is, framing every Lady Bass Anglers’ expectations with smiles of achievements.

Becoming the very first B.A.S.S. Lady Angler to ever advance into the final day of a Bassmaster Classic, Pam Martin Wells was also one of only fourteen anglers to carry a 5-bass limit to the scales every day of competition! Although, the saying goes ‘No one ever remembers who came in second’, I promise you everyone will remember who came in 22nd at the 40th Bassmaster Classic………..Pam Martin Wells!!!

The ‘Grim Reaper’ of budgetary cuts continued to thrash its way through the B.A.S.S. household…………………as every Mothers Child’s Angling Dreams were taken from them like an Egyptians first born son! B.A.S.S. announced to it’s Federation Nation members that the longtime ‘B.A.S.S. Casting Kids’ program would see it’s last and final cast at the 2010 Bassmaster CastingKids National Championship! Here the 2009 ‘CastingKids’ Finalist… Pitched, Flipped and Cast their way to a National Title in two age groups.

However, what the ‘Grim Reaper’ didn’t realize was B.A.S.S. had an alterative plan in their Tackle Box of Tricked out Lures! Combining forces with U.S. Sportsman’s Alliance, the B.A.S.S. CastingKids competition-based program graduated into an educational-based partnership.

According to Stacy Twiggs, senior B.A.S.S. manager for the Federation Nation Youth programs, “This partnership will allow our B.A.S.S. Federation Nation organization to tremendously increase the number of children we will be able to educate and encourage to participate.” Twiggs adds, ”We are anticipating reaching out to 200,000 children in 2010.”

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While the B.A.S.S. CastingKids program has reached nearly two million children since it was first spawned in 1991, with its Pitch-Flip-Cast format, their newly established partnership with U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance will focus on educational one-day family events. Titled ‘Trailblazer Adventure Day’, a variety of activities, demonstrations, and orientation sessions will introduce children and their parents to actual outdoor lifestyle activities.

With B.A.S.S. encouraging their Federation Nation Adult and Junior memberships to continue to support and teach children the basic fundamentals of lure selection, presentations such as the Pitch-Flip-Cast techniques, and of course safety, this new expanded program will also include education to prevent the threats and challenges to an anglers rights while preserving our environment.

Connecticut’s Federation Nation Youth Director Terry Baksay, met with his twenty Junior Bassmasters, explaining to them the newly joint partnership incorporated by B.A.S.S. Expecting a mixed bag of feedback, Baksay was overwhelmed and pleasantly surprised. At first he was a bit shocked. Then Terry Baksay realized just about every one of his Junior members began their introduction to B.A.S.S. via the B.A.S.S. CastingKids program.

It was unanimous, the Junior Bassmasters wanted to continue the B.A.S.S. CastingKids program, even if it meant they had to do it all on their own behalf. “These kids are just fantastic,” echoes CBFN Vice President Sylvia Morris. Adding, ”They accepted the responsibility and immediately assembled a calendar game plan to achieve their goals.”

Utilizing their own Bassmaster CT Federation Nation Junior monetary funds, the Junior Bassmaster solicited sponsorship, contacted CBFN member and Graphic Designer Jamie Verab, who in turn designed and made their targets, as well as their signage. With donated prizes for every child participating in their CBFN Juniors Pitch-Flip-Cast competition, Terry Baksay scheduled the Juniors booth space at two local Fishing and Boating Shows in Hartford Connecticut.

“The Juniors kept the same basic format as the previous B.A.S.S. CastingKids program, hosting two age groups 7-10 year olds and 11-14 year olds,” says Morris. With the aid of CBFN adult members the Junior Connecticut Bassmasters, assembled a list of daily winners in each age category over a total of seven days of competition.

With East Hartford, Connecticut’s Cabelas store opening their doors to host the 1st Annual Connecticut Junior Bassmasters Pitch-Flip-Casting Championship, fourteen qualifying contenders, seven in each age group, were notified of the March 14th Cast-Off.

Competing in the 7-10 year old division were as follows; Douglas Lacombe, Kienan Giller, Paisley Kostick, Murphy Gruninger, Kyle Langlois, and Paul Guglietta. Those competing in the 11-14 year old division were; Matt Delbuono, Anthony Pacheco, Haley Mossa, Damien Nadeau, Mike Scuderi, Benjamin Gould and Brandyn Balzano.

The 11:00 AM Pitch-Flip-Casting Competition went along like clock work, thanks to the volunteer efforts of CBFN adult members Ed and Sue Weeks, Carl Pedersen, Dave Santos, Armand Fortier, Jim and Sylvia Morris and Junior Bassmaster Director Terry Baksay.

“This is so wonderful, to see all of these parents supporting their children,” replied Dave Santos as the 7-10 year olds completed their competition and the 11-14 year old division received instructions from Armand Fortier and Terry Baksay.

With the final cast in the 11-14 year old division scored, Sue Weeks and Sylvia Morris tallied the contestants’ scores in each division. As Terry Baksay, Jim Morris, Ed Weeks and Carl Pedersen made certain every competitor received a Rapala Lure, Bryan V. Kerchal Whistle, Pin and a full set of Bryan V. Kerchal Collector Trading Cards.

Anticipation filled the air, when Terry Baksay announced the scores had been tallied and the winners in each division had been chosen. Gathering together in their specific age bracket divisions to the left and right of Baksay, each contestant longed to hear their name called.

Terry Baksay announced, “Douglas Lacombe of Greenwich, RI is our 2010 CBFN 7-10 Year-Old Division Champion and Matt Delbuono of Newington, CT is our 2010 CBFN 11-14 Year-Old Division Champion!”

Smiling to a standing ovation, each 2010 CBFN Pitch-Flip-Cast Champion came forward to receive a $500.00 US Savings Bond, courtesy of the CT Junior Bassmasters and a Bryan V. Kerchal Bassmaster Classic Medallion encased in a beautiful Lucite plaque, compliments of the Bryan V. Kerchal Memorial Foundation.

It should be noted that the Connecticut Federation Nation Junior Bassmasters along with the strong support of the Connecticut Adult membership spearheaded by Junior Director and Professional B.A.S.S. Angler Terry Baksay assembled a wide variety of fund raising venues to cover every expense incurred for the continuation of the original B.A.S.S. CastingKids format. As stated by one CBFN Junior Bassmaster, “Had it not been for the CastingKids Program, I may never have been introduced to bass fishing!”

God Bless and Best Bass’n