The Wild Side.Feb. 24, 2013

The subject this week in this oil-based northeastern Oklahoma city is bass.

That’s natural when the Bassmaster Classic comes to town for the first time it’s been this far west since the first one on Lake Mead near Las Vegas in 1971.

The thousands flocking to the Tulsa Convention Center for the Bassmaster Expo, a collection of the latest fishing equipment on the planet, and the jammed-packed BOK Center for the daily weigh-in — the place was filled an hour before the first fish was weighed Saturday — testifies the popularity of the most pursued gamefish in the country. Yes, the largemouth bass holds that distinction.

While the fish, and its fishermen, hold center stage this weekend, the Classic’s parent company, the Bass Anglers Sportsman Society, and conservation associations that had affiliated with B.A.S.S. over the years have made it a point that water is its biggest concern.

When you look at the history of B.A.S.S.-sponsored tournaments during the past 50 years, most have been held on reservoirs and few on rivers.

The six Classics held in Louisiana, four in the marshes and bayous of south Louisiana and two on the Red River in the Shreveport-Bossier City metroplex, have been pleasant breaks from the complexity of decades-old reservoirs. At least that’s the impression the competitive anglers leave when they talk about their Louisiana experiences.

For the most part, water is part of Louisiana. With rare exceptions, like the past couple of years when droughts plagued the northern and western parishes, Louisiana has few water concerns.

Yet with that drought came extraordinarily low water levels in the state’s largest reservoir, Toledo Bend. Last year, with The Bend at its lowest-ever level in 40 years, came that hotly debated issue of a move to sell water from Toledo Bend to Texas cities where populations threatened to outstrip its reservoirs ability to supply water.

That’s the point of this discussion, and follows a point made during a Thursday discussion, that there are alternatives to crude oil, but no alternative for water.

While it’s unusual for our state to have water-supply problems, other states, many other states, struggle to maintain water levels just to have enough to keep faucets running and fields moistened enough to raise the crops needed to feed all the folks using those faucets.

So what does that have to do with bass fishing?

It goes back to that oil-water alternatives thing. If water is in short supply, is there any concern about the fish living in that water, and begs an answer to a long-asked question: Are the reservoirs managed solely for the water they hold?

A second question is how will the fish in all that water all these reservoir projects have provided be managed when water becomes a commodity as valuable as oil is by the barrel?

Let’s hope we don’t ever have to answer those questions, but odds are we will.