By Chris Lawrence, WV Metronews
Several of the largest bass tournament fishing organizations in the state are taking issue with new rules issued by the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources regarding tournament size in West Virginia.
Ken Hackworth, President of BASS Nation West Virginia addressed their concerns to the Natural Resources Commission in Charleston back on Sunday. Hackworth said the concerns were two-fold. The first was a rule which stated the number of boats participating in a bass tournament must be capped at 75 percent of the available trailer parking at the tournament’s ramp location.
“It penalizes us for success. All tournaments in West Virginia have a great economic impact on local and regional economies. Plus our sponsors want to see us there. The exposure they get translates into more sales, hotel stays, and restaurant visits. We have a major economic impact when we come into an area with one of our events,” said Hackworth.
He reasoned limiting the number of participants would also severely curtail the chance to maximize that economic impact.
The new rules just went into effect this year. They were changed to try and address historical complaints from non tournament boat owners who found little to no parking for their trailers on busy days. Hackworth said while his organization understood the complaints, they believe it is unfair to penalize their members with a different set of standards.
“We think we should have the same rights they do. Do they limit recreational boaters to just use 75 percent of the available spots? No. Do they dictate to them they have to leave us 25 percent of the available slots? No. We should all be on an equal playing field,” he said.
Hackworth’s second concern brought before Commissioners was a new requirement for all cell phone numbers and trailer license numbers to be available upon request to any representative of the West Virginia DNR. The regulation also required the tournament director to be on site of the event for the entire day.
“We think that’s a government overreach,” Hackworth said. “We were told it was for safety reasons, but that doesn’t jive with what we think. Pleasure boaters and recreational anglers are not held to the same standard of having to turn over that information when requested.”
Hackworth said there are three major tournament trails in West Virginia and two more which also draw a considerable number of anglers during weekend events. He said West Virginia communities thrive on a visit from a bass tournament which will bring fishermen and their dollars. He used as examples places like Ravenswood, Fairmont, and Summersville which derive huge economic boosts from each of the fishing events.
“This drastically limits the amount of people we can bring to these communities. Plus, we’re not fair weather anglers. When we say we’re coming to a spot, we’re going to be there and spending a lot of money. It doesn’t matter if it’s 35 degrees or 100 degrees. It doesn’t matter if it’s raining or snowing, we’re going to be there. When we tell you we’re going to be there, we’ll be there with dollars to spend and have an economic impact.”
West Virginia DNR Director Brett McMillion promised to foster a meeting between Hackworth and other tournament organizers with the agency’s fisheries staff and law enforcement to try and find a suitable compromise.