Archives of angling

In March, Terry Battisti of Idaho Falls, Idaho, and Pete Robbins of Vienna,Virginia, announced the birth of The Bass Fishing Archives.

Since its conception, this duo, with the help and encouragement of veteran piscatorial scribes such as Rich Zaleski of Stevenson, Connecticut, Harold Sharp of  Hixson, Tennessee, and Ron Lindner of Brainerd, Minnesota, have created and posted scores and scores of memoirs, accounts, reflections and republications about bass fishing in the 1960s, '70s, '80s and early '90s.  These can be seen at

In a press release that publicized the creation of this archival endeavor, Battisti noted that the website "will preserve the record of bass fishing's early days through the use of old ads, feature articles about anglers and tactics, angler pictures and profiles, and short snippets'¦ ."

In essence, Battisti and Robbins subscribe to the notion that we don't know where we are as anglers if we don't know what transpired before.

As we reflected about Battisti and Robbins' endeavor, we wondered what the various  archives around the country are doing about collecting, cataloging and preserving the records of  anglers, angling organizations, angling publishers, angling websites, angling television programs, and writers.

Ultimately, we decided to examine the catalogs of several state archives, such as the Wisconsin Historical Society in Madison, Wisconsin, Minnesota Historical Society in Saint Paul, State Historical Society of Missouri in Columbia, Kansas Historical Society in Topeka, Illinois State Historical Society in Springfield, National Archives in Washington, D.C., State Historical Society of Iowa in Des Moines and several other similar archival institutions.

We also wrote e-mails and talked on the telephone to several prominent members of the angling world, asking them if they had ever been approached by an archivist who expressed an interest in collecting and preserving the great variety of records that illuminate the many facets of angling in theUnited States.

At the websites of two of the state historical societies, we used their "library-archives reference request forms" and other "contact-us" forms to attain information about what kind of archival records about angling and anglers they had collected across the years and what plans they have for collecting them in the future.

For those of us who are concerned about the history of angling, this was a disheartening ordeal.

We failed to locate the papers of Jason Lucas and the records of Sports Afield magazine where many of his words were published.

The records of Herter's, Inc., of Waseca, Minnesota, were nowhere to be found, and the papers of its founder, George Herter, were not located. According to the catalog of the  Minnesota Historical Society, it doesn't possess all of the publications of In-Fisherman. What's more, it hasn't made an inquiry about preserving the film, video and digital archives that In-Fisherman has created since 1975. Likewise, the Society hasn't made an attempt to see that In-Fisherman's business record and correspondence are properly presevered.  During a telephone conversation with Ron Lindner on May 6, he said that the Minnesota Historical Society had not approached any of the Lindners about properly housing and preserving their various records within the Society's confines.

The Kansas Historical Society hasn't collected the thousands of feet of film that the late Harold Ensley of Overland Park, Kansas, created for his "Sportsman Friend" television show that began in 1953 and ended in 2001.

Likewise, the Missouri Historical Society hasn't acquired the film and records that the late Virgil Ward of Amsterdam, Missouri, created for his Bass Buster Lure Company and "Championship Fishing TV Show."  One wonders what will happen to the records and website of the defunct Heartland Tournament Association of Platte City, Missouri, as well as the records and website of the struggling Central Pro-Am Association of Branson, Missouri.  What will happen to the correspondence of Johnny Morris of Springfield, Missouri, and the huge number of records created by his Bass Pro Shops?

We sent two requests to the Illinois State Historical Society, asking about the records of Midwest Outdoor Publications and the archives of Fishing Facts Magazine. We never received a reply.

We asked Gary Parsons of Glidden, Wisconsin, if the Wisconsin Historical Society ever contacted him about acquiring and preserving the archives of his "Next Bite" television show and website. Parsons quickly replied: "No."

We also asked George Kramer, a noted piscatorial journalist from Lake Elsinore, California, and a recent inductee to the Fresh Water Fishing Hall of Fame in Hayward, Wisconsin, if the California Historical Society had asked him to donate his papers and photographs to the society. Kramer said that they hadn't.

A search of the catalog of the State Historical Society of Iowa revealed that it doesn't possess any of the records of Pure Fishing of Spirit Lake, Iowa.

One suspects that many of the early Internet and electronic records about angling have already disappeared. Consequently, these fragile records need the special attention of archivists now.

The list of failures by the historical societies to collect the archives of the angling world seems to be endless.

So, here's hoping that Battisti and Robbins' work and website will provoke some of the archivists to become interested in collecting the various records about angling so that historians of this sport a hundred years from now can examine them and write a thorough and enthralling history of what transpired and why 30,000,000 Americans purchased fishing licenses each year during the first decade of the 21st century.

If for some inexplainable reason Battisti and Robbins' stellar work fails to engender the archivists to start collecting angling records, perhaps devotees of The Bass Fishing Archives will incessantly petition the archivists and historical societies to commence collecting and preserving.

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