ICAST and Uncle Homer’s legacy
Fish Busters' Bulletin
Monday, August 06, 2012
Media contact: Bob Wattendorf
The International Convention of Allied Sportfishing Trades (ICAST), the largest sport-fishing industry tradeshow in the world, was in Orlando last month.
It was an ideal venue for Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) staff to highlight the 75th anniversary of the Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration programs and explain how funds from the Sport Fish Restoration (SFR) part of the program enhance Florida’s recreational fishing and boating industries. Those industries respectively generate economic impacts of $8 billion and $17 billion and provide nearly 300,000 Floridians with employment.
Moreover, Florida’s title of the “Fishing Capital of the World” comes from providing more recreational fishing enjoyment to anglers than any other state and giving them a lifetime of active, nature-based recreation to enhance their physical and mental well-being.
The federal SFR program collects money from manufacturers of fishing equipment and motorboat and small-engine fuels. Those funds, combined with fishing license revenues, help support future fishing and boating opportunities, including FWC programs such as habitat enhancement, fish stocking, building boat ramps and artificial reefs, and youth fishing programs.
Tom Champeau, director of the FWC’s Division of Freshwater Fisheries Management, used a press conference at ICAST to provide an update on TrophyCatch (TrophyCatchFlorida.com). TrophyCatch is the latest federal-state-industry partnership to be partially funded by SFR and largely supported by industry sponsorships and donations to promote catch-and-release of Florida’s trophy largemouth bass.
The TrophyCatch program rewards anglers who catch-and-release largemouth bass greater than 8 pounds. Anglers will be encouraged to follow catch-and-release guidelines for bass weighing 8 to 12.9 pounds and to document the catch with a length, weight and series of photos prior to release. A more thorough certification process will be established regarding Hall-of-Fame bass.
By documenting and publicizing catches of trophy bass, Florida’s bass fisheries will attain even greater prominence. Other catch data helps biologists improve trophy-bass management via habitat enhancement, regulation management, stocking and other proven means that also foster a strong conservation ethic.
TrophyCatch’s corporate partners include the Kissimmee Convention and Visitors Bureau, World Fishing Network, Rapala, FishPhotoReplicas.net, SportsmanOnCanvas.com, Bass Pro Shops, ODU Magazine, Carls Van Rentals, the Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation, Glen Lau Productions and Under the Bridge Productions. More are joining this support group.
At ICAST, the Professional Outdoor Media Association (POMA) and American Sportfishing Association presented the Homer Circle Fishing Communicator Award. This award recognizes fishing industry journalists who exemplify the spirit, dedication, talent and commitment to mentoring the next generation of fishing industry communicators that was displayed by Homer Circle during his storied career. The 2012 award went to John E. Phillips, who previously had been inducted into the National Fresh Water Fishing Hall of Fame as a Legendary Communicator.
“Although John’s accomplishments as a communicator are virtually unequalled, his greatest gift to our industry, as is the case with ‘Uncle Homer,’ is his commitment to mentoring folks, particularly young people, who want to launch a career in the outdoor industry,” said Laurie Lee Dovey of POMA.
This year’s presentation was especially meaningful, since it was the first since Homer Circle died in June. Just five days before he died, even at age 97, he was pursuing his passion by fishing central Florida’s famed bass fisheries.
Known to anglers and would-be anglers alike as Uncle Homer, his renown as a writer began in 1964 when he started selling stories to Sports Afield. His understanding of the piscatorial arts, acumen and prose garnered him the role of angling editor, which he held for 36 years. His column, “Ask Uncle Homer” in BassMaster Magazine was a classic.
Circle earned ASA’s Lifetime Achievement Award in 1996, and is a member of the Fresh Water Fishing Hall of Fame, the Bass Fishing Hall of Fame and the International Game Fishing Hall of Fame. He hosted “The Fisherman,” “Sports Afield” and “The Outdoorsman,” and was featured in Glen Lau’s classic film “Bigmouth.” His books included “The Art of Plug Fishing,” “New Guide to Bass Fishing,” “Worming and Plugging for Bass” and “Circle on Bass and Bass Wisdom.”
His career included a stint as a vice president of Hedon lures. According to Ken Duke and Jeff Samsel (“The Bass Fishing Vault,” 2010), his was one of the most monumentally influential bylines in creating the phenomenon that made black bass the most popular sport fish in the world.
The Fishing Wire (theFishingWire.com) ran an op-ed immediately after Homer’s death that said, “The outdoor industry, especially those who have ever picked up pens or pencils … is in mourning after losing a legendary writer, a great friend, and source of inspiration to everyone he met. For decades, Homer Circle has been fishing’s favorite uncle.”