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Entries in bass fishing (34)

Friday
Feb172012

Practice Begins Today for Bassmaster Classic Contenders on Red River

Aaron Martens fishes on the Red River during Day One of the 2009 Bassmaster Classic. Photo courtesy of B.A.S.S.

The Bassmaster Classic is coming up Feb. 24-26 on the Red River near Shreveport, La.

What awaits the world’s best bass anglers on this fishery?

Here is what B.A.S.S. reports:

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — “I’ll know when I get there.”

That’s what several Bassmaster Classic qualifiers had to say about Red River conditions and how the weather might or might not dictate the bite for the Feb. 24-26 Bassmaster Classic out of Shreveport-Bossier City, La.

None of the 49 Classic qualifiers have been on the river lately, because it’s been off limits for more than two months. That will change Friday, the first of four days of practice. But until they start looking and/or casting, what Classic anglers can surmise about the Red stems from past knowledge and long-distance reconnaissance.

It’s a safe bet that the majority have been tracking weather trends and river levels for weeks. Most anglers’ ideal conditions would be moderate air and water temperatures, Goldilocks water levels (not too high and not too low) and a moderate rate of water flow. And that’s been the Red over the past few days.

But the river is famous for turning wild. That’s what makes competition there so tough, especially at the Classic, in which the prestige, visibility and $500,000 first-place prize create extra pressure on anglers.

A hard rain, for example, can quickly muddy the main channel. A swift and high main river swollen from upriver deluges can push stained water into the normally more clear and productive backwaters. Under such conditions, the big and mighty Red River suddenly seems to shrink, said Classic qualifier Todd Faircloth, who can drive two hours from his Texas home and be on the river.

“What high, muddy water does is concentrate everybody, because there’s a smaller percentage of fishable water,” said Faircloth, who competed in the first Classic on the Red River three years ago, finishing 35th.

Conversely, in a dry spell, some backwater areas can drop and be inaccessible by boat if they don’t disappear altogether.

Like most Classic qualifiers, Alabamian Aaron Martens would not like to find extremely low water when he arrives back in Louisiana.

When he scouted in December, low water was what he saw. “It was impossible or very difficult to get to any of the stuff we fished before (in 2009),” he reported. “At normal pool, fishing should be decent. I’m not sure what it is now; I’ll look at it when I get there.”

He’s hoping the South’s moderate winter temperatures will continue. Not so much for his comfort — although he’d take it, he said — but because he’s found that Red River bass tend to bite better in warmer weather.

He has not been tracking upriver or local rainfall closely.

“When I get there, I’ll check the river flow. Mostly, though, just seeing the river is going tell me the most,” said Martens, who was ninth in the 2009 Classic.

Brent Chapman from Lake Quivira, Kan., is hot off a Feb. 12 fish-off win in the Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Central Open in Texas. Like other Classic qualifiers, he is expecting a backwater bite in tight quarters.

“It’s a great fishery, but it tends to fish small,” said Chapman, who finished 27th in the 2009 Classic. “You have to expect to fish around several other boats.”

Edwin Evers has not been back to the Red since Classic 2009, in which he finished fifth. At home in Talala, Okla., he tracked Red River water levels. Lower water would definitely create a crowded backwater contest, he said.

“Low water will put a whole lot more boats in those areas, and it will fish a lot smaller than it did when we were there before,” he said.

Like other anglers, Evers will evaluate the Red when he sees it again. But under any given river condition, he expects the weights to be tight.

“It’s just that type of fishery,” he said. “There’s really no hidden, secret area that somebody can use to blow this thing out. Every ounce is going to count.”

Evers noted that given extremely low water, some competitor might decide to run a shallow-draft aluminum boat or a jet boat into a skinny backwater,” but that angler will not be him. He planned to leave his aluminum rig at home. He said no condition would be likely to tempt him to give up the advantages of his fully equipped fiberglass rig.

Faircloth is of the same mind; he said going to aluminum is not an option for him.

So what does Mother Nature have planned in northwestern Louisiana come Classic time? On Feb. 16, the National Weather Service seven-day forecast pegged daily highs in the 60s and nighttime lows in the 40s, with mainly cloudy skies and rain showers through Feb. 22. The 10-day Weather Channel forecast shows that the first competition day, Feb. 24, will be under sunny, clear skies with a high of 70 and low of 48 degrees.

As to water level, according to the National Weather Service’s hydrologic statement of Feb. 15, the Red’s readings have been falling. The flood stage at Shreveport is 30 feet; the river on Feb. 15 was 18.4. For the start of practice Feb. 17, the water level prediction was at 17 feet. Normal at Shreveport is 17.72 feet. By Monday, Feb. 20, the date of the farthest-out prediction, the level was expected to be steady at 17 feet.

Fog reduced visibility in the Shreveport area to a quarter mile as recently as today in the early morning hours. Fog isn’t just a driving nuisance, it can change an entire Classic game. Fog over water can delay a morning start, as it did last year at the New Orleans Classic. This year, for any angler counting on having enough time to lock down into the Red River’s lower pools, a shortened competition day won’t work.

Given all the possibilities, will the weather be a ruling factor in Classic No. 42? Until a crystal ball appears, as Faircloth put it: “We’ll just have to wait and see what happens when we get there.”

Monday
Jan302012

Standing Timber Cut at Lake Conroe

Standing timber has been cut at Texas’ Lake Conroe. Learn more about this illegal disregard for fish, wildlife, and public safety at The Angler Advocate:

“Habitat is again under attack on Lake Conroe, and those responsible have little regard for fish, wildlife, or public safety. A group of local anglers have discovered some large areas of standing timber that have been recklessly removed by yet unidentified individuals in Live Branch on the South end of the lake.” 

Wednesday
Jan182012

TrophyCatch Program Coming for Florida Bass Anglers

Activist Angler with a TrophyCatch-size largemouth of 8-5 that he caught in October on Lake Okeechobee.

Twenty-five years ago, the first largemouth bass entered in Texas’ fledgling ShareLunker program also proved to be a state record, weighing 17.67 pounds.

Since then, anglers fishing Texas waters have caught more than 500 bass weighing at least 13 pounds, including 50 that weighed 15.38 pounds or better. Among them, an 18.18 record caught in 1992.

It’s almost a certainty that all of those fish were either Florida-strain largemouths or carried Florida genes that enabled their trophy stature.

Coincidentally, Florida’s state record, weighing 17.27 pounds, also was taken in 1986.

Since then, anglers fishing Florida waters have caught . . . Well, we don’t know how many trophy largemouths that they’ve caught. Texas has done a great job of recording and promoting Florida bass in its waters. But the state for which they are named?

Not so much.

That’s all about to change with TrophyCatch, set to commence in October 2012.

“We do mirror the ShareLunker program in some ways,” says Tom Champeau, fisheries chief for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC).

“A lot of anglers like the Sharelunker program so we sent some of our staff to Texas to see what they’re doing.”

A key difference, though, is that the Lone Star State uses those big bass in its hatcheries to create even more lunkers for its reservoirs. Florida bass are not native to Texas.

Florida-strain bass don't start large, but all have the potential to reach TrophyCatch size.

By contrast, many of the Sunshine State’s lakes, ponds, and rivers are naturally populated by Florida strain bass. In other words, breeding stock is not needed.

A golf course lake, a retention pond, a canal, just about any body of water in Florida could be home to a state-record bass just waiting to be caught --- and entered into TrophyCatch.

As a matter of fact, in this state that the Florida bass calls home, dozens of fish of state-record proportion --- and possibly even a world record or two --- have been caught but were not verified by FWC personnel. At RiverBassin.com, you can see a list of “unofficial” big bass, including several of more than 20 pounds and more than two dozen heavier than the current record. 

Appropriately, then, FWC states proudly on the TrophyCatch website that “no other place on earth has this largemouth bass promotion opportunity.”

If bass aren’t needed for reproduction, what is the value of offering incentives to anglers who catch, document, and report their catches of bass weighing 8 pounds or more?

Genetic research certainly, to find out more about the unique strain of bass that soon might by reclassified from a subspecies to a separate species of black bass. But also to “promote and celebrate our fisheries,” says Champeau.

“We want to promote fishing, catch and release, and environmental stewardship to keep our fisheries healthy,” he explains.

That’s one of four cornerstones upon which TrophyCatch was created as the “promotional engine” for the state’s new Black Bass Management Plan. Use of sound science, public involvement in management of the resource, and adaptive management are the other three. The latter involves constant monitoring and periodic adjustment to reach an end point, as opposed to inflexible policy.

To make TrophyCatch a success, sponsors will be needed, along with angler input and participation. Champeau is looking to businesses both in and outside the sport for prizes to offer participants.

“The response that we got from industry at ICAST (annual fishing industry show) to TrophyCatch was very positive,” he says.

“If we can get a truck manufacturer onboard, we could offer a truck (for biggest bass of the year),” he says. “We want to make it newsworthy.”

And how about $1 million for a new state record?

“If we can afford an insurance policy to offer that, it would be awesome,” the fisheries chief says.

“We get lots of reports of bigger bass out there, and we can’t disprove them. But we want to make sure that record-size fish are certified and legitimate.”

By starting at 8 pounds for entry, TrophyCatch could be documenting thousands of bass annually once it’s up and running. With tourists, guides, and resident anglers all participating, biologists theorize several hundred of those fish could weigh between 10 and 13 pounds and an impressive 30 to 50 could be heavier than that.

Not long ago, an 8-year-old caught and released a 15-pounder in Polk County.

“Those big fish are out there,” says Champeau. “And it’s a shame that people aren’t getting credit. With TrophyCatch, we want to document and reward them for their effort.”

(A variation of 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.  

Monday
Dec122011

Angler Advocate Joins Activist in Fight for Fisheries

Tim Cook (left) with Ricky Perry, former Texas governor and a Republican presidential contender.

Check out the new blog --- Angler Advocate --- from my friend Tim Cook, conservation director for the Texas B.A.S.S. Federation Nation.

Here is what he has to say about it:

“I got the inspiration from Robert Montgomery and his Activist Angler website. I am not a professional writer, and am definitely no Robert Montgomery, but from time to time, I have some things to say . . .

“While much of the content may be Texas related, I intend to discuss all national topics of importance as well . . .”

Tim is a leader and innovator in the Federation Nation, and I hope that other state conservation directors will follow his example to help spread the word about issues of concern relating to bass fishing, water quality, and conservation in general.

Anglers carry incredible political clout if only they will do a better job of getting organized, getting educated (about issues), and speaking out to those we elect to office.

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