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Entries in Alabama Rig (3)

Wednesday
Apr022014

Oklahoma's Arbuckles Yields More Big Bass

Lone Grove anglers Doyle Idleman and Marco Vaca hold a five-bass stringer that totaled 42.71 pounds at Lake of the Arbuckles on March 23. (Photo courtesy Future Bass Team Trail)

Is Lake of the Arbuckles the Oklahoma version of Texas’ Lake Fork? It appears that way, courtesy of Florida-strain bass stocked there by the state.

Here’s the latest Arbuckles big-bass news from the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation:

If not for the two that got away, tournament anglers Marco Vaca and Doyle Idleman might possibly have weighed-in a five-bass stringer of nearly 50 pounds. As it turned out, their 42.71-pound sack on March 23 at Lake of the Arbuckles was enough to win the Future Bass Team Trail's first 2014 divisional contest, Trail director Joe Copeland said.

The giant stringer also eclipsed Arbuckle's heavy-sack record: 42.04 pounds caught by former Elite Series angler Jeff Reynolds and Johnny Thompson in January 2013.

For the past several years, Lake of the Arbuckles in the Chickasaw National Recreation Area has been giving up lunker largemouth bass. Vaca and Idleman's largest fish bent the scale at 10.93 pounds, but even that did not win the biggest-bass honor at the tournament! The second-place team of Terry Alsup and Brad Hill had the day's big bass at 11.69 pounds, with a five-fish stringer totaling 34.16 pounds.

Six bass at the tournament weigh-in went more than 10 pounds. And only 14 boats were entered.

"I've been fishing tournaments for 30 years in Oklahoma, and I've never seen anything like it," Copeland said of the south-central Oklahoma lake. "With what's coming out of it now, there's no doubt a state record is in there."

Vaca, 33, said he did not begin bass fishing until 2009. Still, he said he's reeled in "a bunch of 10-pounders" during his brief fishing career. "That lake there has been really good to me," the Lone Grove angler said.

Vaca said the water temperature at Arbuckle was 49 degrees, and most of his team's bass were caught in the morning. The two biggest fish were in the live well within 45 minutes after the tournament started. He said they were hitting crankbaits and Alabama rigs in about 15 to 20 feet of water.

Mid-March has proved to be a great time to catch big bass in Oklahoma, as the fish are laden with eggs and preparing to spawn in the next few weeks. The last two state record largemouth bass were caught in March 2013 and March 2012.

Copeland said it's just nature. "As the fish prepare to spawn, they are going to eat everything and fatten up. And that Alabama rig, they just can't resist it," he said.

With few exceptions, Oklahoma's biggest bass are being caught in southern Oklahoma waters, where the Wildlife Department has concentrated its efforts to grow trophy bass through its Florida bass stocking program.

In the right habitat conditions, Florida bass have proved to grow larger faster than the native northern largemouth bass that is prevalent in the state. But Florida bass survival has proved problematic north of Interstate 40, mainly because of colder winter conditions compared with what is seen in southern Oklahoma.

Three teams at the March 23 Arbuckles tournament weighed in more than 30 pounds of fish. The event's third-place team of Bill Chapman and Johnny Owens brought in five bass totaling 32 pounds.

Vaca tipped his hat to the other teams for their remarkable efforts. "If I had 30 pounds of fish in the livewell, I would not think I was going to get beat!" But on Lake of the Arbuckles, recent bass tournaments have proved to be real heavyweight bouts.

The lake near Sulphur is part of the Chickasaw National Recreation Area, which is operated by the U.S. National Park Service. The Wildlife Department has periodically stocked the lake with Florida bass fingerlings for many years.

Lake of the Arbuckles has a daily limit of six largemouth or smallmouth bass combined, and all largemouth and smallmouth bass from 13 to 16 inches long must be returned to the water immediately. 

Tuesday
Jul032012

Fizzing Can Save Stressed Bass

Throughout the Mid-South, the Alabama Rig produced big strings of big bass from late fall to pre-spawn.

“At Guntersville and Kentucky Lake, it was the No. 1 pattern,” said Dustin Evans, a Tennessee angler who fishes the Bassmaster Weekend Series and other circuits.

“It’s such an effective technique when the bass are lethargic,” he added. “It produces larger fish, too, with lots of 3 ½ to 5 pounders and 6 plus not that uncommon.”

That’s the plus side of the ‘Bama rig for winter fishing. The down side is that bass caught on this variation of the saltwater umbrella rig typically are suspended around shad in 20 feet of water or more. Pulled from such depths, they should be vented to prevent fatal barotrauma.

But proper fish care hasn’t kept up with effective fish catching, according to Evans, and Toby Lillard, another Tennessee tournament fisherman.

“Anglers need to do a much better job with venting as they use the Alabama rig more,” he said.

The two suspect that similar scenarios will occur during hot-weather fishing.

“The ‘Bama rig will play a role this summer with bass on the ledges,” Lillard said. “In 8 feet or deeper, they’ll be subject to barotrauma.”

Popularity adds to the problem caused by effectiveness of the rig, which is not allowed in the Elite Series.

“Most definitely there are more guys fishing the Alabama rig because it’s easy to gain confidence with,” Evans said. “But venting should be embraced too.

“Every angler should be responsible for venting his fish. And every tournament director should have someone who can do it.”

Gene Gilliland, an Oklahoma biologist and fish care expert, echoed their concern. “If the Alabama rig results in more fish being caught in deep water from June to August, then the odds will be higher for greater mortality. Anglers must realize what they should do to prevent that.

“If there are longer lines of 20-pound bags, both anglers and tournament directors need to brush up on their fizzing skills. Lots of them have never had to deal with this kind of thing before.”

As members of the Ventafish pro staff, both Evans and Lillard have made it their mission to educate other bass fishermen about barotrauma, and they have stepped up that effort with the advent of the ‘Bama rig. They set up instructional booths at tournament registrations and offer classes to bass clubs, as well as help fizz fish before they are released following weigh-ins.

“Untold numbers of fish don’t get fizzed at small tournaments and you see them floating down the lake,” Evans said. “Fizzing gives those fish a chance.”

Barotrauma typically results from a change in pressure when a fish is pulled up from 20 feet or more. The swim bladder inflates, often pushing into the throat, with bulging eyeballs another indicator. But fish taken from shallower water also can develop the condition.

“Many fish from less than 20 feet of water need to be fizzed,” Evans explained. “I believe that they are suspended fish and they stress out in the livewell and their gas bladder expands.”

Whatever the cause --- pressure change and/or stress--- anglers should recognize symptoms that may be more subtle than bulging bladder and eyes.  

“If their tails or out or their heads are up (in the livewell), they’re losing the fight,” Evans explained. “In a couple of hours, they’ll be belly up. But fizzing can save their lives.”

He added that he doesn’t wait for visible signs when he catches bass that are deep and/or suspended. “I don’t even hesitate. I know from my experience ledge fishing that those fish need to be fizzed.”

Some anglers insist that they don’t need to vent their bass because they care for them so well in the livewells, providing plenty of cool, oxygenated water. But that cool water, which slows down the metabolism of cold-blooded bass, sometimes simply delays onset of barotrauma.

“When they’re dumped back into warm water, they’ll get stressed and need to be fizzed,” Evans said.

“I think that barotrauma is more depth related than temperature related,” Gilliland added. “But warmer temperatures can make it much, much worse.”

Still don’t want to fizz?

“Venting can make a huge difference in tournament outcomes in terms of dollars and earnings,” said Brian Jones, a tournament angler with a degree in fisheries management and the third member of the Ventafish team. “You get penalties for dead fish.

“And if a fish is stressed in your livewell, it is putting more ammonia into the water, which will stress all of the other fish. You can save a whole bag of fish by venting the ones that need it.”

How to Fizz

Both B.A.S.S. and the Ventatfish team recommend venting fish through the side, deflating the bladder with a needle prick.

“I don’t endorse any particular product, but I endorse side venting only,” said Noreen Clough, National Conservation Director.

In addition Texas Parks and Wildlife Department offers an instructional video --- “Treating Barotrauma in Largemouth Bass (Fizzing)” --- on its Facebook page.

“It’s an easy method,” said Evans. “Just a pinprick in the side, and you hear the air come out.

“I tell people to try it on a keep fish in practice and see how easy it is.”

Lillard added, “With mouth venting, you could hit an organ and kill the fish. The key is the size target that you are aiming at. With side venting, you have a silver-dollar size target and all you’re sticking the needle in is white meat and the air bladder.”

Both Ventafish and Team Marine USA sell venting tools on their websites. Anglers Choice, Ohero, and others are available at online outlets and in stores.

(This article appeared originally in B.A.S.S. Times.)

Monday
Jan092012

Alabama Rig Is a Great Tournament Technique, But Not for Fun Fishing

If you’re a bass fisherman, you’d heard about the Alabama Rig. Anglers from coast to coast are using this variation of the saltwater umbrella rig to catch lots of fish, often two or three at a time.

I can understand its worth as a tournament tool. If you’re fishing competitively, you have a limited amount of time. Consequently, you want to use the most effective baits in the most effective manner to maximize your effort.

I get that. This method seems custom-made for tournament anglers, and millions of people fish competitively and/or pattern their pursuit of bass after tournament fishermen.

That’s why I’m sharing with you this article that I found at the Record-Bee about anglers using the Alabama Rig at California’s Clear Lake. Here’s an excerpt:

“Earlier this week a fisherman reported catching 20 bass, topped by a couple of 6-pounders while casting the Alabama Rig near Monitor Point and at Dollar Island. He said when he retrieved the rig there would be two or three bass following it right up to the boat.”

Also, check out this article about the Alabama Rig by my friend Ken Duke at Bassmaster.com.

But as someone who prefers recreational fishing to competitive angling, the Alabama Rig is not for me. I’ve caught two fish on one bait before. In fact, I once caught a 7-pounder and a 4-pounder at the same time on a crankbait.

Lots of splashing around occurred at boatside, but the fight wasn’t nearly as enjoyable for me as it would have been if I had hooked only the 7-pounder --- or only the 4-pounder. Each weighed the other down during the battle.

For me, it’s all about enjoying the fight, instead of putting fish in the boat as quickly as possible --- a behavior of mine that drives a tournament-angler friend  crazy when we fish together.