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Local fishing club pays it forward

A central Iowa fishing club is the 2017 recipient of the Brass Bluegill award from the Iowa Department of Natural Resources Fish Iowa! program.

Mid-Iowa Bassmasters’ members Bruce Davidson, Rocky Merrifield, and Dave Batts will share the award in honor of the club’s 39-year history of fishing programs for youth and individuals with special needs.

The Mid-Iowa Bassmasters are well-known in fishing circles for their annual Fisherman’s Swap Meet and Boat Show at the Iowa State Fairgrounds, but this 16-member club has been active in fishing education and opportunities for youth throughout their 39-year history. For 30 years they have supported fishing for campers at the Easter Seal’s Camp Sunnyside: rebuilding a pontoon boat for campers, buying an aerator for their lake, sponsoring campers and camp activities, and building handicap accessible fishing docks.

Funds from the annual Fisherman’s Swap Meet, and countless volunteer hours have also helped the DNR with fisheries management projects and information and education efforts. Mid-Iowa Bassmasters have sponsored more than 65 youth fishing events as well as the fishing village at the Iowa Outdoor Expo for the past several years. 

The club has partnered with the Fish Iowa! angler education program since it started in 1990. They sponsored several B.A.S.S. (Bass Angler Sportsman Society) casting contests during the early 2000s, provided volunteers for the pilot test of the Fish Iowa! Games casting contest in 2005, and supplied volunteers to conduct the state competition from 2006 – 2014.

Long-time members Bruce Davidson, Rocky Merrifield, and Dave Batts are exceptional ambassadors for the Fish Iowa! program and strong advocates for youth recruitment and retention. In addition to club activities targeted to youth, they have volunteered for numerous urban community fishing events and helped with teacher training programs. When asked why they do it, their humble reply is, “It’s for the kids.” And, they do it well – thousands of Central Iowa kids have been fishing through their efforts.

In recognition of the club’s accomplishments, and the leadership of Davidson, Merrifield, and Batts, the Brass Bluegill award was presented to the Mid-Iowa Bassmasters at the Natural Resources Commission Meeting on May 11 in Des Moines.

The Brass Bluegill award has been presented each year since 1996 to an individual who has established an outstanding local program that exemplifies the goals of Fish Iowa!

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