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The Big Mouth

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April 24, 2016

Message from the President and Conservation Director:

I hope everyone is doing well this year.   I’m off to a rough start with a banged up ankle after dropping the boat trailer on my leg.  But I am happy to still have a foot.  I always tell everyone to be safe but I need to do as I say because healing takes longer now .  Enough about me…

2016 State Qualifiers:

We have dramatically changed the format of the four state qualifier tournaments to be held:

Conchas,  May 21  and May 22

Navajo,  August 20 and August 21

You fish each tournament with the person you sign up with.  Family and youth are encouraged.  And yes, we will have to just trust each other not to cheat.  That is the only down side that has been brought repeatedly to my attention.  If necessary, we will do a polygraph but I hope it never comes to that.  I expect clubs to police their membership and not send a pair that would ever consider cheating.

There will be no draw at the lake unless we have unpaired boaters.  At most there will be only one boater (odd man out) fishing without another person in the boat.  If a boater doesn’t sign up with a non-boater, they will be paired with another unpaired boater and have to flip to see which boat they use.  So far, we have been able to find non-boaters and attract new members.  It isn’t that hard to do!

Boaters will only fish against other boaters with a $100 entry fee and a big bass pot.

Non-boaters will only fish against other non-boaters with a $50 entry fee and a big bass pot.

Lodging is tricky at Conchas but there are several options ranging from camping at the State Park to cheap rooms in Tucumcari.  The Adobe Belle is open again but more expensive.  Many already have reservations for trailer and house rentals.

The lake is almost full again and fishing fantastic so we should have a good tournament.  More details and official rules will follow soon.

2016 Western Regional (Lake Mead)

I wish we had done better but the fish gods were working against us from the beginning.  Everyone had their bad luck story that ranged from boat and trailer breakdowns to medical emergencies.  But I think we all had fun and I congratulate Randy Campbell and Danny Fourr on their top finish.  They will represent us very well at the Nationals this year.  I know Randy took some serious chances and burned a lot of gas to catch the bigger largemouths and it paid off.  Danny had to figure out how to make the best out of the back seat when most of the fish were coming out of small cuts where there really wasn’t any fresh water if any water to fish.  I hope to see Randy in the Bassmaster Classic next year.  Danny needs to come home from Nationals with a new boat.

The Western Regional is still a great experience for everyone and worth the trip and hassles, but it could be a lot better.

The 20-person Pro-Am format was an experiment for B.A.S.S. and it definitely has some major drawbacks, especially for the Western Region.  I will have some strong suggestions for next year that could take us to the brink of not participating.  We were able to pay the stipend in our bylaws for the team members but we are close to being broke.  We need to increase our membership and participation this year or we are pretty much done providing the team with a decent stipend.  Also, the non-boaters had some observations about their boaters that have to be addressed if the Pro-Am format is going to continue.  Expecting state teams to compete against each other and having our non-boaters completely at the mercy of the boaters from other states is just not fair.  Some of them just really didn't have a chance to fish at their full potential.  I took care of my non-boaters and it hurt our team and me.  Something has to give next year and I hope you will stand by me if I have to go toe-to-toe with B.A.S.S. to get some changes made.

Conservation Efforts

NM BASS Nation won the 2016 National Berkley Conservation Award and $2000 for the Southwest Adapt-a-Cove efforts at Elephant Butte.  I can’t prove that anything we have done made a difference in the fishing but our determination to try is being nationally recognized by B.A.S.S. and sponsors.   We have put in over 3000 Christmas trees and 100 artificial structures.  Out college anglers just planted hundreds of willows this weekend and there are hundreds more to be planted.  Then we will try seeding key coves while NM Game and Fish works on more stockings.  It is amazing to look back at where we were five years ago with the lake, the local community and the NM Game and Fish and now see a cooperative, productive effort by all.  Thanks to everyone that has participated so far and please join in the effort as we still have three years on the permit to try even harder.  Let me give my special thanks to Randell and Tawny Bell for their incredible support at the Butte.  And just a side note, fishing is getting better at the Butte.  We will probably be able to have a good tournament there next year.

We also have to take care of the fish we have.  New Mexico Game and Fish has started a voluntary effort to protect a few of the best spawning coves at the Butte.  They have my full support and if you want to hear why,  grab a cup of coffee and give me a call.  It is complicated but it makes a lot of sense to protect the largemouth population when they are trying to spawn while the water dropping a foot each week.   If you see a fish on a shallow bed the odds are the eggs are just about hatched and if you take the fish off even for a minute, you just did about as much damage as dumping a bag of fry from the stocking truck on the dirt.  Give me a call if you want to hear more…

In addition to this effort, we have a $4000 grant from Shimano to fix up the Cedar Cove pontoon boat for habitat work and live release at the Butte.  We need to get the fish away from the marina and back up the lake.  We have some fantastic habitat up past KettleTop but not enough adult fish to take advantage of it.  So we will be working with NM Game and Fish to get permission to transport fish after weigh-ins.

Most of the other lakes are doing very well but I have my eyes on angler recruitment waters.  We get a lot of our new anglers from small ponds and local lakes.  We are still working with the Roswell Zoo Spring River Pond and we have a $5000 grant from Shimano to put in a handicapped access fishing pier at Escondido Lake north of Socorro.  At Cochiti, the Corps of Engineers is asking for help with fish habitat.  I noticed that Farmington Lake is now open to small unmotorized boats and we should see if we can help there.


We need everyone’s help to get back on our feet financially.

First we need a good turnout at Conchas. 

Second, we need to know of anyone that is buying a new Mercury motor.  We can get a substantial rebate if we can sign them up as a member and get the dealer to share the invoice.  It makes sense for us to pay their membership if needed.

Third, we need to make the most out of our Alliance and Sponsor incentives.  We get an incredible break on Yamalube and Mercury oil, props and trolling motors that can be passed on through fundraising efforts.  Oil is available at Los Pinos Fly Shop in Albuquerque, Zia Kayaks in Elephant Butte and with David Herrera in Farmington.  Of course you can call me too.  Please save yourself some money and help us raise a little at the same time.  I also have a “silent auction” going all the time for Mercury props and Motorguide trolling motors where you can save a lot of money.  Talk to me before you buy these items at retail.

Fourth, we need sponsors and items to auction/raffle off.  Then we need all clubs and members to help with these auctions and raffles.  Start rounding up items now for Navajo or possibly an on-line auction later this year.  Navajo was a money looser last year so we need to find other ways to raise money.

Future Plans

I never really figured out what I wanted to do when I grew up but I knew it involved fish.

I am retiring from Sandia Labs in June and I will have more time to spend on family and fishing.  I hope that everyone will support me for another year (2017) as both the President and Conservation Director, but unlike out presidential candidates, let me tell you exactly what I have on my mind.  I want to make fishing better and more fun than it is already.  I want us to focus on growing our membership, strengthening our partnerships with NM Game and Fish and developing a working relationship with the “competing” tournament organizations like Sun Country and ABA.  All we need are more fish, more places to fish and more anglers!  The more people we have working to make it happen, the better it will be for our children and us.

First, we (NM BASS Nation) have to figure out how to stay relevant with the additional tournament fishing organizations and circuits that are available.  B.A.S.S. has to make it worthwhile to support their formats or we are just another social club.  I will negotiate our position to B.A.S.S. and take it as far as needed to maintain a fair and affordable shot at making the B.A.S.S. Nationals and the Bassmaster Classic.  I will continue to explore alternate formats for the qualifying a state team in 2017 that could be anything from state regional tournaments to a single qualifier.  I will support growth of our high school programs and conservation efforts.

I will propose MAJOR bylaw changes to consolidate the leadership structure, remove any perceived conflict of interest with any officer that has a position of authority with another tournament fishing organization, and shift more emphasis to our high school and college anglers.  I also want to explore how to make fishing affordable again for our members even if it involves fishing some smaller waters from kayaks.   While it is good to have representation from the other tournament organizations, it is probably not a good idea to have Club Presidents or Directors with positions of authority in those competing organizations.  I need the Club Presidents to focus on growing their clubs and taking care of their members.  I need to restructure the Directors’ job to one that ONLY represents the club members’ views and that actively participates in communications and fundraising.  Once the existing Directors have a chance to approve the bylaw changes, I will ask the clubs to hold special elections to re-elect their officers.

We are still doing a lot of things right and we are headed on a good path to growth and recovery this year.  I hope some of you that have been standing on the sidelines will step up  and help me build the new NM BASS Nation.

Go Fish and I will see you at Conchas,

Earl Conway

President and Conservation Director, NM BASS Nation

Still way2busy2fish@aol.com or president@nmbfn.com

(505) 610-5156