Cynthia Merrick’s letter-writing is persistent if not accurate (Letters from the People, “Fishing events got boost from Waddington,” Feb. 12). She wonders why Waddington and Mayor Janet Otto Cassada (whom I assume is Ms. Merrick’s friend) aren’t given credit for “bringing the sport (fishing) to the forefront” in the form of the Bassmaster Elite Series fishing tournaments. She even goes so far as to blame sexism for the mayor not getting credit in her mind.
She’s wrong on both accounts.
First, there have been fishing tournaments on the St. Lawrence River for decades. The St. Lawrence Walleye Association was one of the pioneers of this effort.
Second, Bassmasters ended up in St. Lawrence County through a concerted, multi-year effort by the town of Massena and the St. Lawrence County Chamber of Commerce.
When I was Massena town supervisor, I organized meetings in 2010 to find ways to promote our various fisheries. Pat McKeown, then executive director of the chamber, attended the first meeting and asked what my plan was for the effort.
I told her I didn’t quite have a plan. She suggested we work together to create one.
After many meetings and the involvement of many people, we created a thing called FISHCAP. It is still in existence today and hosted by the county chamber.
We were able to raise $500,000 from public and private sources to fund a three-year effort to promote sport fishing here.
We hired Don Meissner. That was perhaps our best decision due to his knowledge and extensive contacts in the fishing world of North America. Truth be told, Don brought Bassmasters to St. Lawrence County and eventually Waddington in 2013.
Mayor Otto Cassada and a small army of volunteers have done a great job hosting it, and that effort has convinced the organization to return year after year.
So, Ms. Merrick, no one is being short-changed or ignored in the credit department. There is no pernicious sexism at work.
The Elite Series is here, first and foremost, for our fantastic bass fishing and, second, because local people know how to treat our guests and make them feel at home. We should all be proud of the successful team effort that brought the Elites here.
Hopefully, these facts will give everyone a better understanding of how we arrived at where we are today. However, there is still much more work to do to ensure our continued success.
Joseph D. Gray