DAYTON, Tenn. — Before the world’s best anglers took to the water for the Guaranteed Rate Bassmaster Elite at Chickamauga Lake, 155 volunteers spread out along the area’s shores and ramps to collect trash as part of the Lake Clean-Up Challenge sponsored by AFTCO and Yamaha Rightwaters™.
The volunteers, who represented 12 different organizations from across East Tennessee, gathered a staggering 12,982 pounds of garbage, including 61 tires, a camper shell and even a mattress. Teamwork played a huge role in the clean-up, with young anglers from seven junior and high school teams participating in the afternoon-long challenge. Those teams included Rhea County, Meigs County, Sale Creek, Chilhowee, Soddy-Daisy, Whitwell and Alcoa.
“When these kids are out here picking up trash it really makes them think about where the garbage at the ramps and along the water comes from and where it goes when you drop used line, for example, in the water,” said Meigs County Anglers Coach Terry Elliott. “This gets them thinking about disposing of their own trash in the proper place. At their young age, it reinforces just doing the right thing.”
“People should be more responsible and manage their garbage,” said eighth-grade angler Gaige Lunsford of Meigs County. “It’s bad for the fish, and without healthy fish, we can’t keep weighing in big bags.”
According to statistics from Keep the Tennessee River Beautiful, 80% of trash pulled from waterways originated on land, making clean-up efforts at ramps and parks adjacent to waterways even more critical for the long-term health of American fisheries.
Keep the Tennessee River Beautiful along with the TVA, Tactical Bassin’ and AFTCO staff worked alongside 95 junior and high school anglers and seven Bassmaster Elite Series pros during the Lake Clean-Up Challenge at Chickamauga.
“Our mission is to rally communities to keep the river beautiful for generations to come, and the most important part of the goal are the words ‘future generations,’” said Kathleen Gibi, executive director of Keep the Tennessee River Beautiful. “Today was a physical example of what can happen when we come together, and we’re grateful to AFTCO, Yamaha Rightwaters, B.A.S.S. and all of these people from the community for coming together to clean up one of the most beautiful parts of the Tennessee River.”
Participants received a gift package from AFTCO and Yamaha Rightwaters. Plus, registered volunteer organizations are eligible for conservation grants from AFTCO and Yamaha Rightwaters. The brands will select the conservations grants — totaling over $25,000 across the three 2022 challenges — based on their participation in the Lake Clean-Up Challenges and the group’s overall conservation or public service mission.
“If everyone does their part, we can help control and even alleviate the issue with trash on our lakes. But it has to be a team effort,” said Jason Christie, the 2022 Academy Sports + Outdoors Bassmaster Classic presented by Huk champion who would go on to win the weekend’s Elite event at Chickamauga. Christie was joined by fellow Elite Series pros Jeff Gustafson, Taku Ito, Carl Jocumsen, Luke Palmer, Matty Wong and Jay Yelas at the Lake Clean-Up Challenge.
As the groups brought in trash, their haul was weighed on an industrial scale donated by Chattanooga’s Wingfield Scale.
The next Lake Clean-Up Challenge will be held June 4 in Counce, Tenn., as part of the Whataburger Bassmaster Elite at Pickwick Lake. The final event will be August 27 in La Crosse, Wis.
In order to participate, volunteers and groups must preregister by contacting Gene Gilliland, B.A.S.S. Conservation Director, at email@example.com.
“Whether they’re part of a junior Bassmaster club, fishing team, church group, Scout troop or a group of civic-minded friends, anyone who wants our waters to be clean and free of trash is welcome to join us lake-side for these events,” said Gilliland.
For full details, visit Bassmaster.com/Conservation-News.