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Entries in Bassmaster Classic (23)


Louisiana Anglers Organize to Fight for Access

A battle is heating up once again in the cultural and legal swamp of controversy regarding who owns and who has access to the canals and backwaters of southern Louisiana.

What may be different this time is that bass anglers seem intent on organizing on behalf of public access. They've created an organization, Louisiana Sportsmen Coalition, and a petition that garnered more than a 1,000 signatures before it was even written. And they intend to pursue a state legislative fix to this complex problem, as well as national support from fishermen and anglers' advocacy groups.

"We want to make sure that we're organized and have clearly defined what we want," said Sean Robbins, president of the Lake Verret Bass club. "We want to do this right so people will take us seriously." 

This issue, mostly related to canals dug for access to oil and gas drilling sites, has been intensifying for years, as adjoining acreage was purchased and the waterways blocked. In 2003, pro angler Gary Klein was shot at by a landowner during the Bassmaster Classic. In 2007, a  U.S. District judge ruled that anglers could motor into flooded areas, but not fish them.  

Most recently, popular fishing canals were blocked near Lake Verret and in the Orange Grove area of marshes around Houma, according to Robbins. Some property owners want to keep out what they believe to be trespassers, Robbins theorized, while others are looking to make a profit by selling "memberships" to fish the waters that the claim are theirs by virtue of owning the land under it.

"Waters that have historically been open to public use are increasingly being gated off, making it more difficult to access productive fishing waters," he said. "It's time to stand up and fight to protect our right to recreationally fish canals connected to public waterways."

Robbins added that other clubs have voiced support for the petition and the campaign, as well as "a ton of guys who want to be included, who want to be a voice."

To find out more about the petition and joining the fight for access, check out Louisiana Sportsmen Coalition on Facebook, as well as this article at Louisiana Sportsman.


Should Oklahoma's Grand Lake Be Stocked With Smallmouth Bass?

A couple of nice largemouths pulled from Grand Lake by Pete Gluszek during pre-fishing for the 2013 Bassmaster Classic.As the site of the 2016 GEICO Bassmaster Classic, Grand Lake o' The Cherokees is a world-class largemouth bass fishery.

But that's not enough for some. They want more. They want Grand to join Broken Bow, Tenkiller, Keystone, and a few other Oklahoma lakes with thriving smallmouth fisheries, courtesy of stockings about 20 years ago.  In fact, more than 700 anglers petitioned the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation (ODWC) in 2008 to stock the 46,500-acre impoundment.

And the Peoria Tribe of Indians is growing smallmouth bass  at its  aquatic facility near Spring River  in hopes ODWC and Grand River Dam Authority will approve their release into Grand.

But establishing a fishery isn't as simple as stocking them in this deep, rocky lake, which seems a natural for bronzebacks. That's because smallmouth bass already live in the tributaries of this reservoir that is nearly 75 years ago, and they never have moved down to join largemouth bass in the impounded waters.

Why not?

"My contention is that something isn't right for them (in the lake)," said Gene Gilliland, a long-time fisheries biologist in Oklahoma before he became B.A.S.S.'s national conservation director. "If you stock those fish, it probably won't do any good. If they were going to make it, they already would be there."

But why did they make it in Tenkiller and other eastern Oklahoma fisheries? Smallmouth bass stocked in those impoundments aren't the same strain as those that live in the tributaries and are being hatchery raised. When Oklahoma became its smallmouth stocking program, it used Tennessee strain, the same genetic fish that thrives and grows to husky proportions in Tennessee and Cumberland River impoundments.

"That was when a smallmouth was a smallmouth was a smallmouth," Gilliland said. "But now the science is better. Now we see there are unique stocks."

And the native smallmouths of eastern Oklahoma streams are the Neosho strain. When ODWC realized that stocking Tennessee smallmouths could jeopardize the genetic integrity of its native fish, it got rid of the brood stock, Gilliland added.  "There was concern that Tennessee bass would swim upstream, interbreed, and we'd lose native fish over the years," he said.

The Peoria tribe hasn't yet made a formal request to stock Grand with Neosho strain smallmouth. If genetic purity of the fish can be confirmed, though, it seems likely that permission will be granted.

"Will it make a difference in Grand Lake?" asked Barry Bolton, ODWC fisheries chief. "I don't know. If we are going to error, we want to error on the side of caution."

Justin Downs, an environmental specialist for the tribe, contends that that the Neosho strain never reaches its size potential in streams because forage is limited to crawfish and insects. But in Grand, those bass could gorge on shad and, consequently, grow to a size comparable to their Tennessee cousins.

But Gilliland is not convinced. "I'd love to see it go. But there's something just not right that those native smallmouth bass don't thrive there," he said. "Tennessee strain fish are different, more adaptable to reservoir environments.

"I fought the moratorium on stocking (Tennessee strain)," he said. "I'm not convinced that they would swim upstream and hybridize."


International Bass Fishing Center Location Announced

The International Bass Fishing Center – a multi-functional attraction centering on the world of bass fishing, is being planned for construction in Cullman, Ala., the Board of Director of the Bass Fishing Hall of Fame Board of Directors announced.

The plans were unveiled during the annual Hall of Fame Induction Dinner on the eve of the Geico Bassmaster Classic presented by GoPro in Greenville and on Lake Hartwell, S.C.

Adjacent to I-65 in northern Alabama - the “home state” for bass fishing, the International Bass Fishing Center (IFBC) will be the home of the Bass Fishing Hall of Fame, which honors and describes the accomplishments of those who have made significant contributions to the sport and the bass fishing industry, and much more.

“Within the Center, anglers young and old can immerse themselves in the “Family Fishing Experience” attraction,” said Dr. C. Hobson Bryan, BFHOF board member and professor emeritus at the University of Alabama. “We’ll have fully-stocked ponds for learn-to-fish excursions for area school children, plus we plan on hosting multi-day ‘Fish Camp’ clinics during the summer months.”

The IBFC will include a “Boat and Tackle Showcase” – a living display of the ingenuity and innovation of the bass fishing industry, along with a variety of interactive displays in the Virtual Fishing area, from simulating catching the big one to a ride in a fast, state-of-the-art bass boat.

The “Discovery Center” will enable visitors to experience the watery world of bass first-hand by observing fish behavior in the 36,000 gallon aquarium designed by Acrylic Tank Manufacturing, known throughout the world as the subject of the hit Animal Planet television show "Tanked". Bass fishing professionals and other instructors will demonstrate the latest lures and techniques used successfully on the tournament trail.

With its proximity to such world-class fisheries as Smith Lake and TVA lakes Guntersville, Wheeler, and Wilson, the IBFC will be a tournament headquarters and conference center. According the BFHOF board president Sammy Lee, the location makes it a natural meeting place for fishing industry related events.  These can include national tournament organizations and angling research symposia, as well as bass tournament weigh-ins. The adjacent Cullman Civic Center will enable partnering with the City on a wide range of activities, including non-fishing related events as well.

Currently in the midst of a major fundraising effort – already supported by leading tackle industry names including PRADCO, Zebco, Shimano, G. Loomis, T-H Marine and Strike King, the BFHOF Board anticipates groundbreaking for the IBFC in fall 2016.


About The Hall of Fame -- The Bass Fishing Hall of Fame is a nonprofit organization dedicated to all anglers, manufacturers, tackle dealers, media and other related companies who further the sport of bass fishing. In February 2013 the board of directors announced the completion of a decade-long, exhaustive quest to secure a permanent home with the selection of Cullman, Alabama as the future site of the Hall – and what will now be the International Bass Fishing Center. The IBFC site will be constructed as a joint project with the City of Cullman, Cullman County and the City of Good Hope – a project that includes an adjacent civic/convention center, all of which will be housed on the 110-acre parcel known as the Burrow property. The Hall will enjoy a dedicated 30 acres of the property, which will include ponds, gardens and an aquatic-education center. The entire project is estimated to cost in excess $17 million with structures that will encompass 101,000 square feet. Dependent on fundraising efforts, the BFHOF Board hopes 


DNA Research Reveals Trophy Bass Parentage at Guntersville

Contrary to popular belief, Guntersville trophy bass are not pure Florida strain, according to DNA research conducted during the 2014 Bassmaster Classic at that northern Alabama fishery.

From a scientific standpoint, however, that really isn’t surprising. Between 1981 and 1994, an estimated 500,000 Florida bass were released into Guntersville, but few have been added since.

“The population, instead, consists largely of hybrid crosses,” said Dr. Eric Peatman, an associate professor in Auburn University’s School of Fisheries, Aquaculture, and Aquatic Sciences.

Eight-pound-plus fish are 52 percent Florida and 48 percent northern. That’s in keeping with the assessment of Gene Gilliland, B.A.S.S. National Conservation Director, who said that bass with 50 percent or more Florida genes have enhanced trophy potential. “Below that, and it’s no greater than for native fish,” he added.

Peatman and his team also found that the “lakewide average genetic composition” is about 70 percent northern and 30 percent Florida.

“Four to five-pound fish do not vary significantly from the lakewide average in their genetic make-up,” he explained. “However, seven-pound-plus fish show an increase in Florida percentage to 42 percent of their genome.”

These findings suggest that stocking Guntersville with Florida bass has been effective in shifting the genetic baseline of the population and that trophy-size fish are bunched around a rough 50:50 genetic split, said Peatman, adding that more samples are needed to reach definitive conclusions.

“One of the missing components in this analysis is age,” the scientist said, adding that multiple ages likely are represented among those samples of larger bass. “Ultimately, we want to know what is the genetic composition of the largest size fish within each year class, or what mix of Florida and northern alleles produces the fastest growing fish.”

The Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (ADCNR) will with this aspect during its spring sampling.

“A final component in the mix is obviously habitat,” Peatman said. “The best performing genotype in one reservoir is not necessarily the best genotype in a different reservoir with different environmental parameters. “So we have plans to include different reservoirs and habitats in the analysis in the coming year as well.”

All of this work is part of a statewide project funded by ADCNR to better understand the impacts of the state’s Florida bass stocking program on the quality of its bass fisheries.

“The Classic and other tournaments throughout the year in Alabama represent an excellent opportunity to take non-lethal DNA samples from larger bass brought in by anglers,” Peatman said.

“At the end of the day, the goal is to use these genetic tools to help ALDCNR make proactive stocking and management decisions to ensure the highest quality bass fisheries for our anglers for years to come.”

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


Vanishing Paradise Champions Gulf Coast Restoration

The Gulf Coast was imperiled even before the Deepwater Horizon oil spill of 2010.  

That’s because erosion and saltwater intrusion are destroying wetlands and marshes in the Mississippi River Delta and have been for decades, mostly because of manmade alterations and degradations. In 2009, that realization prompted the National Wildlife Federation and Ducks Unlimited to unite to awaken Congress and the nation to the crisis through the Vanishing Paradise (VP) coalition.

As a result of that serendipitous timing, fish, waterfowl, sportsmen, and coastal communities have a champion in their corner today as BP pays billions for damage inflicted upon the Gulf. With more than 800 fishing and hunting businesses and organizations supporting its mission, VP wants that money used to restore and enhance those wetlands and marshes, as well as mitigate the environmental damage done by the oil spill all along the coast.

“We engaged heavily to get anglers and hunters to Washington, D.C. to talk to their legislators and help pass important legislation,” said Steve Bender, VP director. “And it worked. We delivered the RESTORE Act.”

A volunteer Advisory Council and Conservation Pro Staff deserve much of the credit not only for passage of the act but for promoting the campaign and educating the public about the coastal crisis, he added.

The 2011 RESTORE the Gulf Coast Act allocates a portion of the funds equally to the five Gulf Coast states for ecological and economic recovery, and establishes the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council to develop and fund a plan for recovery. It also establishes an endowment that includes funding for fisheries stock assessments and ecosystem monitoring.

“Since then, we’ve been focusing on restoration,” Bender continued. “We’ve been asked to expand our scope (from the Delta) into the Gulf.

“Louisiana already had a master plan. And now that other states are receiving dollars, we are working on getting that money spent on coastal recovery and economic restoration. We have policy specialists in those states, and we’re going to expand angler and hunter outreach.”

Ground Zero for protection and restoration work, however, remains the Delta at the mouth of the Mississippi River on Louisiana’s coast. This vast wetlands area is critical as spawning and nursery grounds for fish and overwintering habitat for much of the nation’s waterfowl. And since the 1930s, an estimated 1,880 square miles of habitat has been lost.

“Given the importance of so many of south Louisiana’s natural assets --- its waterways, natural resources, and unique culture, and wetlands --- this land loss crisis is nothing short of a national emergency, one that takes a daily toll on the lives of coastal residents,” said the state Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority, which developed the 2012 Coastal Master Plan.

In Louisiana, what it all boils down to is trying to stop the destruction and implement a system that mimics, as much as possible,  the natural process interrupted by development --- a system that will restore wetlands and marshes for fish and wildlife, while providing protection for coastal communities from saltwater intrusion.

Why is this needed? The reasons are many, according to VP, but one of the most significant is that the Mississippi River “has been straitjacketed with huge levees as part of a national program to ‘control’ the river and protect communities and economic infrastructure from flooding.”

But wetlands were built and sustained by sediment delivered by the river, and cutting them off with levees stopped new growth, allowing for saltwater intrusion that kills them.

“Without land-building deposits from the river, the Delta is doomed to continue sinking beneath the water, endangering the people, wildlife, and jobs that depend on these healthy resources,” VP said.

According to the master plan, restoration and protection projects will focus on sediment diversion, marsh creation, bank stabilization, structural and shoreline protection, and hydrologic, barrier island, and ridge restoration. Unfortunately,  proposed diversions have generated opposition from some, who otherwise support the plan. That’s because sediment-carrying sediment, which will rebuild marshes, also will move saltwater species back toward the Gulf.

It’s easy to understand their point of view: They don’t want to surrender any of their fishing grounds, including those created by man’s interference with a natural system. But such a view is short-sighted, since the continued health of both freshwater and saltwater fisheries is dependent on freshwater and sediment. If saltwater continues to encroach, nearly all nursery habitat will be lost and redfish and trout will decline, along with bass and catfish.

“The problem in Louisiana is we’re addicted to salt because that salt brings tremendous benefits in fisheries,” explained Robert Twilley, a coastal scientist at Louisiana State University.

Every year, he cautioned, that artificial fishery moves closer to the river than nature ever intended.

Along the Mississippi at Buras, a stark contrast highlights the importance of using freshwater diversions, explained Ryan Lambert, a VP supporter and owner of Cajun Fishing Adventures. On the west side, which receives little to no freshwater, only open water and dead marsh grass remains. On the east side, where freshwater flows, the wetlands are alive and thriving.

In that area, he added, “bass fishermen and redfish fishermen go to the same place to catch fish. From Buras down to the mouth of the Mississippi is the best fishing in North America.

“You can’t just pump in sediment,” he said. “You have to have freshwater too (for sustained fisheries).”

Lambert pointed out that the Davis Pond Diversion, where Kevin VanDam won the 2011 Bassmaster Classic, is no longer a viable fishery because diversion flow has been reduced. “Saltwater has come in and killed the grass,” he said. “There are no bass, no brim, no crappie, no catfish, and no duck habitat. And it’s all because they want to grow oysters there.”

As work goes forward, Bender emphasized that the master plan is not just about diversion and VP wants to work with all stakeholders, including those who oppose that aspect. “We want to limit the impacts on folks who might be hurt,” he said. “We need to find a way to work together.

“But we also feel strongly that you have to let the river do what it does naturally.

“Gov. (Bobby) Jindal has been very supportive of restoration, and we’re hoping that the new governor coming in will be the same,” Bender said. “We have more partnerships on the horizon and a new campaign coming up in Louisiana soon.”

(This article appeared originally in Fishing Tackle Retailer.)