BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — Sportfishing’s biggest stage was used to recognize the incredible philanthropic work done by anglers around the country when B.A.S.S. honored the winner of the 2023 C.A.S.T. for Kids B.A.S.S. Humanitarian Award during the 2023 Academy Sports + Outdoors Bassmaster Classic presented by Toyota.
2023 award recipient Robert (Bob) Wall, of Baltimore City, Md., was selected by a panel of judges from a strong field of nominations for his deep commitment to creating fishing and recreational opportunities for the children and adults in underserved areas of his community. No other fishing programs exist in the city.
For Wall, the goal is simple: “When you see the enjoyment a kid gets when catching a fish, it’s absolutely magical. You become part of their life. What can be better than that? Exposing at-risk, marginalized and disadvantaged populations to fishing gives me a deep satisfaction … It gives me purpose. I tell people all the time youth fishing is good for your soul.”
Wall started working as a volunteer with the Baltimore City Department of Recreation and Parks in 1972 when he was just 15 and was assigned Patterson Park — the park where he grew up playing — in 1995. Fishing was used as the mechanism to find $3.7 million to renovate the park’s long-neglected lake in 2003. Wall retired as Deputy Director of the department in 2020.
Wall hosts free community Family Fishing Nights at Patterson Park and works with Maryland DNR on stocking the lake with trout. In 2021, Wall, his wife and several childhood friends from the community founded the nonprofit Kids Play in Patterson Park to create free recreational and athletic opportunities, including soccer, baseball, tennis, yoga and, of course, fishing. They have raised more than $50,000 to support recreational activities for area kids at the park.
“As a kid growing up in a jungle of concrete and asphalt, Patterson Park was my oasis of activity,” said Wall.
A portion of his award nomination characterized Wall as an advocate not just for fishing, but for recreation in a place where opportunities to enjoy nature have historically been limited. “Bob is without a doubt the very best advocate for fishing I have ever known; he has brought countless individuals into fishing — in a place nobody would expect, and in a place where options for recreation, much less contact with wildlife, are often limited.”
The C.A.S.T. for Kids B.A.S.S. Humanitarian Award was established in 2020 to honor one B.A.S.S. member annually who has demonstrated an extraordinary commitment to serving groups such as children with special needs, veterans, abuse survivors or any people who need extra help and support.
“It was very inspiring to read the stories of all the wonderful nominees for the C.A.S.T. for Kids B.A.S.S. Humanitarian Award,” said Executive Director of the C.A.S.T. for Kids Foundation, Bassmaster Classic champion and former Elite Series pro Jay Yelas. “There were many deserving people nominated, and I am thrilled to congratulate Bob and thank him for making a difference in the lives of youth in his community.”
2023 Bassmaster Classic Title Sponsor: Academy Sports + Outdoors
2023 Bassmaster Classic Presenting Sponsor: Toyota
2023 Bassmaster Classic Premier Sponsors: Bass Pro Shops, Dakota Lithium, Humminbird, Mercury, Minn Kota, Nitro Boats, Power-Pole, Progressive Insurance, Ranger Boats, Rapala, Skeeter Boats, Yamaha
2023 Bassmaster Classic Outdoors Expo Presenting Sponsor: U.S. Army
2023 Bassmaster Classic Local Partners: Calhoun’s, Lithium Pros, Tennessee Tourism, TNT Fireworks, TVA
2023 Bassmaster Classic Host: Visit Knoxville