'Jr. Bassinators' teach kids the fun of fishing

By Lori O'Brien


Girls and boys who want to learn to fish like the pros are invited to join a new fishing club in Western Massachusetts.

"Most of our young anglers have just started fishing or have been fishing with friends and family for a short time," said Jacques Wood of Agawam, one of the youth directors of the newly formed Jr. Bassinators. Wood shares the youth director responsibilities with Todd Brown of Feeding Hills.

Currently, there are seven members of the Jr. Bassinators, Anthony Carrasaquillo, 14, and Christian Weaverbay, 11, both of Springfield; John Stone, 13, Joel Zabik, 14, James Wood, 14, Kelsey Wood, 16, and Jake Miodowski, 14, all of Agawam. The club is open to girls and boys ages 11 to 16.

Hall of Fame Bass of Western Mass. is a local chapter of the Massachusetts Federation of Bassmasters which is affiliated with the youth club. The local chapter, of which Brown and Wood are members, is the parent club of the Jr. Bassinators.

"The adults in this club support the youth club by providing equipment including boats and instruction to the youth participating in tournaments," said Wood during a recent interview.

As a youth director, Wood explained that he and Brown are helping the Jr. Bassinators create a charter and "get organized."

Being "organized" includes electing a board of directors, learning how to organize and run meetings, and creating excitement through angler education. Wood added that he and Brown are teaching the young anglers the importance of conservation and one's responsibility of volunteer work. Wood and Brown will also supervise the club members during competitive tournaments.

Their expertise and background for these roles speaks for itself.

Both men have been involved in youth education through the state Fishing Federation for several years, and Wood has also promoted youth activities for more than 10 years as president of Agawam Youth Soccer. As for Brown, he has been instrumental in educating area residents about the environment for many years by leading lake cleanups and trash pickups along area waterways.

In addition, Brown has been fishing organized trails for more than 10 years, has made the state Fishing Federation Team winning numerous local tournaments, and has participated in national events. Wood has organized and served as president of one of the oldest organized local clubs, formerly North American Bass Anglers, now Central New England Bass Anglers. Wood has also participated in competitive tournaments for 25 years.

Memories of fishing the banks of the Connecticut River as kids are vivid reminders of how much fun the sport is for both Wood and Brown.

"As we got into organized activities the friendships we made and the knowledge and competitiveness we learned certainly drove our interest," said Wood.

Wood's favorite memory was winning his first tournament and taking lunker in the same tournament. For Brown, his most memorable moment was making the 12-man state team three years ago.

During a photo shoot last Monday at the fishing pier on Congamond Lake in Southwick, both Kelsey Wood and Anthony Carrasaquillo, both members of the Jr. Bassinators, shared their love of the sport with this reporter.

Wood said she finds fishing on a lake a peaceful experience and one that she treasures. Her first major catch a rock bass on Congamond at age 10 - is still one of her favorite memories on the water. She encourages other girls to consider giving the sport a try and said joining the Jr. Bassinators is a great way to start. She has been fishing with her dad, Jacques Wood, since she was five. Wood's favorite fishing spot? "Middle Pond on Congamond," she said definitely. Wood will be a junior at Agawam High School this fall.

For Carrasaquillo, a soon-to-be sixth grader at Sabis International Charter School in Springfield, he enjoys the "feel of hooking a fish," as well as participating in tournaments. His largest catch to date has been a four-pound bass. He enthusiastically talked about fishing with his Dad, Candido Carrasquillo, since he was two, and finds the Oxbow in Northampton and areas along the Connecticut River among his favorite places to cast a line.

The Jr. Bassinators meet on the second Thursday of each month from 7:30 to 8:30 p.m. at Western Mass. Auto Glass in West Springfield. Club members recently elected officers and are now considering fundraising ideas, under the guidance of Erik Kaplan of Chicopee. Kaplan is a Bassett Boats and Triton Boats pro staffer.

Since the young people also needed to create their own identity to complement its parent club, the owners of Bassett Boats of Springfield generously donated the funds needed for the youth club members to make their initial purchases, according to Kaplan.

"As the kids participate in tournaments they will then have the opportunity to compete in regional and national events with the chance to win prizes, awards, school scholarships and grant money," said Wood.

The parent club also competes for points in local tournaments for the rights to be invited to the state fish-offs to make the state team, according to Wood. Members reside in communities across the region, and run educational events including casting contests throughout the year for kids. Parent club members also participate in conservation activities at local waterfronts. Wood added that parent club members will be involved with the Jr. Bassinators' growth and education.

For more information on the Jr. Bassinators, contact Wood at (413) 786-1543, or Brown at (413) 789-6405.

Ultimately, by instilling values about the great outdoors, Wood and Brown hope that these youth will be leaders someday who will ensure our waterways will be productive for future generations to enjoy.