B.A.S.S. Don't Kill Your Catch patches. The patch on the left is circa 1976 while the patch on the right is the original from 1972. Photo Terry Battisti.

As you well know by now, I have an affinity for bass fishing patches.  Well, today I have a couple to share with you in, BASS Fighting for Anglers, that mean a lot more to all of us than just the fact that they’re old B.A.S.S. patches.

Back in the early days of the Bass Anglers Sportsman Society, when you became a member, it was a big deal.  Joining B.A.S.S. felt more as if you were part of a club than just another magazine subscriber.  The reason for this, in my opinion, was because of all the things B.A.S.S. was doing on the side.

Not only did B.A.S.S. hold tournaments that allowed the top anglers to become stars, the organization printed the only bass-centric magazine.  More than that, B.A.S.S., with their lobbying power, started fighting industrial pollution, water rights for anglers, and boating safety.  Then, not to be overlooked, Ray Scott finally got the Catch-and-Release doctrine to stick, something the fly fishing crowd had tried to accomplish for years without success.

Membership with B.A.S.S. made you feel as if you had major lobbying power against the giants of industry and politics.  It seemed every year there was a new fight Ray Scott was taking on and with each fight was a new win, for anglers and the environment.

The patches I have for you today reflect two of these campaigns and were sold through B.A.S.S. either directly from the magazine subscription or later through Scott’s The Out House mail order catalog.

The first patches we’ll talk about are the Bass Anglers for Clean Waters Stamp Out Dirty Water and the Peg-a-Polluter patches.

The B.A.S.S. Stamp Out Dirty Water patch was available in The Out House mail order catalog and was part of the B.A.S.S. Peg A Polluter program. Photo Terry Battisti.
The B.A.S.S. Peg A Polluter patch was available in The Out House mail order catalog. Photo Terry Battisti.

We’ve written about the B.A.S.S.-backed Peg A Polluter campaign on here before in the two-part series, B.A.S.S.: More Than a Tournament OrganizationPart One and Part Two.  In that series Scott talked about how they came up with the notion to sue industry for dumping chemicals into the nation’s waterways and how they started the Peg-A-Polluter campaign.  The campaign, which included Scott speaking to congress, helped in passing the Clean Water Act.

The other crusade Scott promoted, as seen with the lead-in images to this article, was the Don’t Kill Your Catch campaign.  After spending a week fishing with the Federation of Fly Fishers in Colorado, Scott was enthralled with the fact that these fly fishermen would give so much attention to a 12-inch trout and then everyone would stand and clap when the angler released it.  At this point in time, Scott was getting pushback from lake communities about hosting events on their lake.  Residents saw Scott’s tournaments cleaning out their lakes and they wanted nothing to do with the events.

Scott, being no dummy, figured these people were right.  If he didn’t take some sort of stand, his organization could kill off the very fish they were trying to promote.  The fly fishers Catch and Release program was the answer to his dilemma.

In 1972 Scott put together the Don’t Kill Your Catch program.  No longer would his events end with a hog trough full of dead bass.  At first, he gave bonus ounces for fish weighed in alive.  But this didn’t hurt the angler as much as he thought it would and by the early 1980s, he was deducting ounces per dead fish.

Scott’s epiphany created the need to have livewells in bass boats.  Ranger Boats was the first to get on board for the 1973 season and started designing livewell into all their boats.  In the meantime, Don Butler, of Okiebug Distributors, fashioned a livewell system that could be employed in any big cooler or boat bait tank.  Fish care became such a driving force in competitive angling that live release rates consistently approach 100%.  In fact the kayak leagues and MLF have taken it to a different level with their Catch Weigh/Measure Release formats.

It’s incredible that as a collective group, bass anglers – stereotyped as Vienna sausage-eating bubbas with no teeth or education – played a major role in changing the world of fishing in less than a decade. All with Ray Scott at the helm.  The organizations are still helping to preserve bass angling and angling rights but I dare to think they’re accomplishing as much as Ray Scott did in those first ten years after the formation of B.A.S.S.