BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — In an unprecedented move, B.A.S.S. Conservation honored three with its highest award March 6-8, at the Conservation Summit held during the 50th Academy Sports and Outdoors Bassmaster Classic presented by Huk.
Barb Elliott of New York, Bill Frazier of North Carolina, and Jake Davis of Tennessee were named Co-Conservation Directors of the Year (CDOY) by National Conservation Director Gene Gilliland. Additionally, during the Saturday night banquet, Virginia’s Joan Blankenship was recognized by B.A.S.S. and Friends of Reservoirs (FOR) for her accomplishments.
“Since we host the Conservation Summit only every other year, I decided to present one for last year, this year, and next year, all at the same time,” Gilliland explained. “I wanted to recognize all three of these people for their great work.
“This is given to the B.A.S.S. Nation conservation director (CD) who has shown leadership to his or her state, region, and/or the B.A.S.S. Nation (BN).”
Tennessee’s Davis said, “Seeing that my actual background is not fisheries or wildlife, it was a great honor for me to stand with two legends as a co-winner. They may not realize it, but both Barb and Bill helped me greatly, both with their knowledge and by reading about their past achievements.”
Elliott, meanwhile, emphasized that she was both “honored and humbled to be included in a group of amazing, accomplished people, including Joan Blankenship.
“B.A.S.S. and its Conservation arm do so much” on behalf of fishermen and fisheries, she continued. “I am so proud to be involved in keeping our angling access available for all.”
Frazier pointed out the winners couldn’t have been successful without a team effort from fellow B.A.S.S. members. “No person is talented enough to do this on his own,” he said. “Since we are not funded, much of what we do is on pure initiative. But we feed on each other.”
Compared to Elliott and Frazier, who both have been leading their state’s conservation programs for a dozen years New York’s Elliott, meanwhile, has gained both national and international notoriety for her expertise regarding fish care, notably barotrauma and fizzing.
“Barb taught all 75 Bassmaster Elite Series pro anglers how to properly fizz smallmouth bass during three days of training in Waddington (New York),” Gilliland revealed. “That (2019) training resulted in a significant increase in the live release rate of bass compared to 2018 results.”
Elliott gives seminars on fish care and fizzing to groups of anglers at every level, from high school to the pros, in both the U.S. and Canada. She helps on the B.A.S.S. Yamaha/AFTCO Live Release boats during New York tournaments. And she’s been featured in several videos about barotrauma and fizzing, as well as in Kickin’ Bass, a book by B.A.S.S. Senior Writer Robert Montgomery.
As a fundraiser for the New York BN, she makes and sells “fizz” kits, which include needles, reamers, and instructions.