B.A.S.S. Nation: Alive and Well?

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Since day one, anglers have been drawn to the multi-faceted appeal of B.A.S.S., often citing the impact that the organization has had on virtually every aspect of the sport of bass fishing. B.A.S.S. has highlighted the value of camaraderie among anglers and has emphasized the importance of conservation. This is a message that the vast majority of today’s anglers identify with, and feel to be of significance.

Naturally, this shared vision parlayed into a fellowship of like-minded individuals, who have strived to instill these virtues in subsequent generations of anglers. This fellowship ultimately served as the genesis of the B.A.S.S. Nation, which operates under the umbrella of B.A.S.S. itself. The B.A.S.S. Nation operates within a club/chapter structure, through which local subsets of the organization mentor youth anglers, and tournaments are held on various levels.

Membership in the B.A.S.S. Nation has also served as a ride to notoriety for many anglers. Through a series of local, state, and divisional tournaments, anglers are given the opportunity to qualify for a berth into the Bassmaster Classic. Each year, six anglers from the B.A.S.S. Nation go on to live their dreams, and weigh in on the Classic stage. In fact, some of today’s top pros, such as Mike Iaconelli and Brandon Palaniuk, were once crowned B.A.S.S. Nation Champions.

However, as of late, concerns have been raised by various parties, that the B.A.S.S. Nation might be in a state of decline, and that participation could be dwindling. So this begs the question, “What does the future of the B.A.S.S. Nation look like?”

B.A.S.S. Nation By The Numbers

In September of 2018, B.A.S.S. communications released an article titled, “B.A.S.S. Celebrates The 50th Birthday Of The B.A.S.S. Nation.” This article profiled the B.A.S.S. Nation’s history, growth, and legacy. Data was provided concerning B.A.S.S. Nation membership, including a few figures for reference.

“The Nation, which has enjoyed steady growth over the past five years and now numbers more than 30,000 members, is one of the prime organizers of high school bass tournaments at the local level,” stated this article.

The release in question also went into detail regarding the B.A.S.S. Nation’s current involvement in competitive angling at the high school level. B.A.S.S. reiterated that membership and participation numbers had continued to trend upward, with little sign of slowing in the near future. “In addition, B.A.S.S. now has 958 high school clubs affiliated with the organization, which includes 10,585 young anglers,” B.A.S.S. stated.

B.A.S.S. also confirmed that the number of Colleges currently affiliated with B.A.S.S. Nation competition was increasing steadily. “Growth in the college ranks continues to rise, as well, as B.A.S.S. now has over 200 colleges affiliated, including over 1,400 anglers. This spike in youth participation has injected new enthusiasm throughout the bass fishing industry,” declared this article.

While these numbers certainly appear to be representative of continued growth, one can not help but wonder whether or not this trend has carried on over the two years since B.A.S.S. published the above-mentioned report.

B.A.S.S. Nation Membership In 2020?

While no recent reports regarding B.A.S.S. Nation membership numbers appear to have been openly published since the previously referenced 2018 release, updated figures were provided upon inquiry. These figures provide a certain level of insight into the general health of the B.A.S.S. Nation as a whole.

Based upon data provided by B.A.S.S., the B.A.S.S. Nation currently boasts approximately 515,000 active members on their roster, with more than 30,000 anglers competing in B.A.S.S. Nation tournaments and events on an annual basis. By any account, the B.A.S.S. Nation appears to be thriving, as membership totals continue to rise.

B.A.S.S. also shared that the bulk of new membership and member activity seems to center around Junior and High School level anglers. According to the director of B.A.S.S. Nation tournaments, Jon Stewart, this is a trend that has been rather pronounced over the past 5 years.

Upon reflection, it is natural to assume that the count of 30,000 active members detailed in the organization’s 2018 press release, was referring to those who regularly took part in B.A.S.S. Nation competition. In comparison to the most recent count of B.A.S.S. Nation members who were actively involved in the organization’s sanctioned events, which was provided as of December 2nd, numbers appear to be holding steady at the very least.

The B.A.S.S. Nation Today

In retrospect, the B.A.S.S. Nation appears to be as healthy today, as it has ever been. However, this still does not explain recent observations by many who have reported lower turnouts at B.A.S.S. Nation events across the country. How is this possible when membership numbers continue to trend upward?

While there is no definitive answer to this quandary, such observations are likely a matter of perception. Since recorded membership data reflects the organization’s health as a whole, rather than regionally, B.A.S.S. Nation event participation could very well have planed off, or dropped slightly in one area, region, or state, while rising exponentially in another.

As new local and regional competitive bass fishing circuits continue to launch in many areas, it is also reasonable to assume that single series angler turnout numbers have been diluted. With the advent of new competitive outlets, many anglers are less likely to fish solely in a single tournament series, instead, being more fluid in their choice of when and where they take to the water. This would likely result in less consistent turnout numbers at any one given event.

For the time being, the B.A.S.S. Nation still appears to be thriving, much as it has in previous decades. Only time will tell if this trend continues, but past history leaves us with little reason to believe otherwise.

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