Want to grow bigger bass in your pond or lake? Then “step outside the box.”
That message comes from Barry Smith, owner of American Sport Fish Hatchery in Montgomery, Ala., and one of the nation’s foremost experts on growing big bass in small waters.
“If you stock bluegill and bass at the traditional 10 to 1 ratio, in two years you will have an overcrowded pond,” Smith says, in explaining how to grow double-digit bass. “You’ll have too many bass and not enough bluegill.”
The 10 to 1 ratio for stocking, he explains, was developed during the 1940s, when the primary objective was to grow harvestable size bass (10 inches) and bluegill (6 inches). But today, when catch-and-release is practiced by many, those sizes are considered subpar.
“If you go from 10 to 1 to 20 or even 30 to 1 (bluegill to bass), you will grow trophy bass,” Smith continues. “A bass that is 2 inches in June can be 2 pounds by November.
“People don’t realize the growth potential of bass. They are eating machines.”
And once a bass reaches a pound, he adds, it can grow as much as 4 pounds a year.
“We have ponds where average growth is 2 pounds and in five years, a bass can weigh 10 to 12 pounds.”
No other variables, including genetics, are as important as having abundant forage. “You can’t express genetics if you don’t have enough food,” he says.
Having forage that is optimum size is important too. “It takes just as much energy for a bass to eat a 2-inch bluegill as a 4-inch bluegill,” Smith continues. “But the difference is 20 fold. A 4-inch bluegill weighs 20 times as much (as a 2-inch bluegill).”
That means more food is consumed, with less energy expended. And that allows more of that meal to be directed toward growth.
Smith adds that once a fishery managed for trophy bass is established, he recommends supplemental stockings of threadfin shad to boost growth even more.
(A variation of this article appeared originally in B.A.S.S. Times.)