Wired2Fish angler Gary Klein of Texas, Wired2fish angler Shaw Grigsby of Florida and Tim Horton of Alabama received the award in February. They were nominated by Kay Smallwood of the Alabama Mountain Lakes Association, a tourism agency for 16 North Alabama counties including much of the Tennessee River.
The award is given to people who make a significant impact to help educate the public and boaters about clean boating and minimizing environmental impacts.
The anglers organized 13 boats of tournament anglers to help clean shorelines and Pickwick Lake the day before the 2008 PAA Corporate Cup. They easily brought in hundreds of pounds of tires, trash and other debris from cups and wrappers to children’s toys and household items.
â€œWe wanted to use the PAA Corporate Cup as a way to give a little something back,â€ Klein said. â€œWe felt like if anglers from all around the country took some initiative while passing through, it would help to inspire the local community to continue the effort and help take care of their waterways long after we were gone.â€
Horton lives in nearby Muscle Shoals. He guided and began his tournament career on Pickwick Lake, one of the most famous in the country for smallmouth bass and other species.
â€œThe project meant a lot to me, with such strong ties to Pickwick Lake,â€ he said. â€œIt was great to see guys with such hectic schedules stop and give a little something back to the community. Seeing my friends and competitors take enough time to fill a city trash truck with garbage was something special.
Smallwood nominated the anglers through the Life On The Water magazine, which chronicles news from the Tennessee River and tributaries. Horton has worked with Smallwood’s agency, AMLA, for years to help promote North Alabama and its abundant outdoors resources.
“It is great to see professional anglers involved in engaging others in conservation activities,” Smallwood said.
Grigsby, like Klein, has competed for more than 25 years on the professional circuits and has traveled across the country. Projects like this often prompt others to begin efforts to clean up waterways.
â€œGary was the spark that started this project and I was glad to get involved and be a part of it,â€ Grigsby said. â€œAnytime we can come to a venue and leave it better than we found it, we’ve done the right thing. It was our goal to start doing projects like this in more of the places we visit.â€
“Professional anglers are at the top of the list of true conservationists,â€ Horton added. â€œWe teach it to youth and we want to show it by our actions.â€
The PAA will be returning to Pickwick Lake the first week of June for the 2010 Corporate Cup and another cleanup project could be conducted.
â€œEfforts like these show that it is about more than the competition for our PAA members,â€ said Danny Blandford, PAA Program Director. â€œNot only did the guys pitch in for the cleanup project, now that they have been honored for it, they immediately put their award towards future conservation efforts for the PAA. It says a lot about their commitment to the sport and our organization, it means a lot to the PAA.â€