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Entries in big bass (23)

Tuesday
May092017

Kansas' La Cygne Yields Double-Digit Bass

In late March, a tournament angler caught one of the biggest largemouth bass every taken in Kansas public waters. At the late afternoon weigh-in on La Cygne, Jeremy Conway's double-digit bass checked in an 10 pounds, 15 ounces.

The last two state records, 11.8 (11-13) and 11.75, were taken in private waters. Record before that was 11 pounds, 3 ounces. 

Doug Nygren, fisheries chief for the Department of Wildlife and Parks, wasn't surprised that this 2,600-acre impoundment in eastern Kansas yielded the lunker.

"There's just no doubt that La Cygne is the best of our lakes when it comes to quality bass," he said. "Most years, out of all those lakes we sample, the biggest are in La Cygne. It's special."

Nearly half of bass over 8 pounds collected during sampling of state waters since 1979 have come there, he added.

Genetics likely play a role. Nearly 40 years ago, Florida strain bass were stocked with the hope that they would thrive in the warmer water provided by discharges from a coal-fired power plant. No research has been done in the past few years, but La Cygne bass reflected that genetic tie for decades after.

In addition to a longer growing season, the fishery also has good habitat, including water willow, and an abundance of big bluegill. Offspring of the latter provides plenty of food for bass, Nygren said.

Conway caught the big bass on his first cast of the day, using a Rapala crankbait and 10-pound line.

 

Friday
May052017

Tournament Anglers Boat Big Bass at North Carolina's Shearon Harris Lake

North Carolina's Shearon Harris Lake claimed legendary status as a bass fishery in 1996, when Dennis Reedy won a tournament with a 10-fish limit that weighed 72 pounds. Since he finished a distant third with 35 pounds, Shane Burns well remembers that day.

But Burns and fiance Bonnie Kelly made an even more spectacular splash on the 4,100-acre reservoir in early March when they won back-to-back tournaments with 40-pound-plus limits of 5 fish.

"I just seem to keep figuring it out better every year," said Burns. "Not many weigh in a limit with five fish overs out there."

By "overs," Burns means bass above the 16- to 20-inch protected slot on  the fishery that boasts hydrilla and provides cooling water for the Harris Nuclear Plant.

"It is not specifically managed as a trophy fishery but is in a cluster of ponds in the Capitol area that seems to persistently breed above average fish," said Bill Frazier, conservation director for the North Carolina B.A.S.S. Nation. "Hydrilla is managed pretty extensively but other weeds have gotten a foothold. Notably alligator grass and primrose."

In the first event, competing against 88 other teams, Burns estimated that he and Kelly caught about two dozen overs, as they weighed in 41.93 pounds. "Everything we caught was an over," he said.

In a smaller event the following weekend, they managed an even more impressive 46.89 pounds.

"The fishing wasn't as fast and furious," the veteran angler said. "But we had a limit of 32 to 34 pounds within the first 45 minutes. I caught a 10.38 later and then a 10.91. We had eight fish over 7 pounds and I counted 30 overs."

Even more incredible, Burns went back out with a friend on the day after each tournament and enjoyed equal success.

How did he do it? Just before the first tournament, Burns found a transitional spot. "I intercepted those fish on the way to spawn," he said.

His primary area was about 100 yards long, and featured a main lake point that dropped out and then rose back up to a hump. "I was marking fish in 30 feet of water," he said. "But they wouldn't bite that deep. We caught them in 23 to 26 feet."

Only three teams fished deep in the first tournament, he added, and they finished first, second, and third.

Burns and Kelly used 3/4-ounce willowleaf spinnerbaits and football head jigs for the first win.  For the second, they needed only jigs.

"These were the most unbelievable days of my life and getting to share them with Bonnie was extra special," he said.

Monday
Jan022017

TrophyCatch Adds Prize Incentives as Program Continues to Grow

TrophyCatch program has seen a staggering increase in the number of participating anglers and qualifying catches during the past four seasons. This citizen science partnership has led to more than 5,325 approved catches, which is instrumental in ensuring that FWC biologists make informed decisions for the management and improvement of Florida’s lakes and rivers.

As we start the New Year, the TrophyCatch team is excited to reward anglers for their first Lunker Club submissionx and all of their Trophy Club and Hall of Fame submissions. It also is introducing new  monthly prizes,  and new championship prizes for the biggest bass caught during Season 5, as well as adding a new grand prize category for the heaviest total weight of approved catches for the season. This means that the weight of all of your approved catches per season will be totaled at the end of the season in December, with the winner taking home the prize pack of a lifetime.

Also, Phoenix Boats has upgraded the Season 5 TrophyCatch boat to the sleek 819 Pro, powered by Mercury and anchored by PowerPole. The lucky TrophyCatch boat winner will be drawn at the end of Season 5 in December, and all of your approved submissions throughout the season increase your chance of winning the boat!

Be sure to follow TrophyCatch on Facebook and Instagram (@FishReelFlorida) to keep updated on the new Grand Prize and monthly rewards.

Friday
Oct142016

Don't Overlook Small Baits for Catching Big Bass

The Texas state record largemouth bass was caught by accident.

Chances are that you don't know the amazing story of that fish, which weighed 18.18 pounds and was caught in 1992.

I do. I talked to the angler who caught it and included his tale in my book, Better Bass Fishing, in a chapter about catching big bass with small baits.

St. Clair had been bass fishing on Lake Fork with two friends. They decided to stop and catch a few crappie for the table. St. Clair didn’t have light tackle with him, so he simply put 12-inches of 8-pound leader and a 1/0 gold Aberdeen hook onto his bass rod and reel, which was loaded with 14-pound line.

The strength of that line and the backbone of the rod played no small part in the battle that was about to occur.

“At first, I didn’t know what I had,” St. Clair told me. “But I never panicked. That’s what helped me get the fish in.

“I put pressure on it, and it started to move. Right away, I thought it might be a big catfish. But it didn’t act like a catfish.”

The fish ran three times, but stayed deep. “I took the time to wear her out,” St. Clair said. “Then I eased her toward the surface.

“When she came up, it was like an exploding buoy coming out of the water. We all were stunned. Then I screamed ‘Get the net!’ at my buddies.”

Once he had her in, St. Clair noted that the big bass “filled the bottom of the boat,” and he saw that the delicate wire hook was bent nearly into a circle. “Once more run and she would have been gone,” he said.

Since that memorable day, St. Clair has learned that his experience was not unique.

Secret: In other words, big bass will eat little baits, just as elephants will munch peanuts.

“I’ve run across numerous examples of others who were doing the same thing (crappie fishing) when they hooked something big,” he said. “A few got them in, and the fish were in the 13-pound range. Others couldn’t do it. I was lucky that I had tackle stout enough to handle the fish.”

Here’s another example of a big bass dining at the hors d’oeuvre tray instead of the buffet table: In April 2006, Randy Beaty Jr. used a 1/8-ounce Blakemore Roadrunner to catch a 15.68-pound bass at Florida’s Bienville Plantation.

And my personal favorite: I caught a 12-pound, 4-ounce largemouth bass on a 3/8-ounce Cordell Spot, while fishing in Mexico’s Lake Guerrero. In case you’re not familiar with it, that lipless crankbait is a mere 3 inches long, seemingly hardly an appetizer for a big bass.

Why do big bass sometimes eat little baits?

Find the answer in Better Bass Fishing. The book has been out for a few years, but most of the information  does not go out of date because it's about bass behavior and intelligence, seasonal patterns, weather, etc. In other words, it's about the "big picture" of bass fishing.

Tuesday
Jun072016

Big Bass Secrets Revealed by Angler Who Feeds, Catches by Hand

Thousands, perhaps millions, worldwide have watched the video of an Alabama farmer catching a 16.03-ounce bass by hand. Few, however, know the rest of the story.

First and foremost, Robert Earl Woodard's capture of a largemouth just a half-pound off the state record wasn't a one-time stunt. It was the culmination of nearly 40 years of practice. If the retired physical education teacher and football coach isn't the only fisherman catching  bass this way, he certainly is one of the more experienced.

And the knowledge that he has gained about bass behavior during those decades can be as valuable to rod-and-reel anglers as any shared by the best pro fishermen and fisheries scientists.

"First bass have different personalities," said Woodard, who has studied the fish, as well as cattle, all his life and writes about being  a hard-working farm boy and outdoorsman during a simpler time in a book, The Way It was Back Then.

Lying on his belly at the pier on his five-acre lake, he has learned to recognize them by these individual differences and, as a consequence, has given them names.  For example, the 16-pounder is Kickin' Bass. She earned that label by the way she flips her tail and slaps the water with ferocity after taking a bait.

"But she's also very cautious," Woodard said. "She will suck the bait out of your hand without making contact."

On the other hand, Dynamite will explode out of the water to take a bait, while Jaws, another double-digit lunker, "will bite your thumb and make it bleed," the Alabama native said. Jaws has been caught three times.

Then, there's Bullet, who will knock the shiner or brim out of Woodard's hand, and Sneaky, a smaller male, who hides under the pier and waits for just the right moment to steal an offering before a larger female can grab it. Other bass, meanwhile, are more anti-social, and, consequently, so unnamed.

"We think some never come to the pier," he said. "I saw one with a white spot on top of her tail. And after she went off bed, she went straight back to her territory."

And not only are the bass at Woodard's pier unique individuals, they seem to be able to tell the difference among people.  "I can feed them, and others can't," said the farmer, who pats on the dock as a way of telling the bass that dinner is being served. "Maybe it's the way I present the bait in the water," he added.

"And they feed better when I'm by myself and quiet. They stay back when other people are with me."

Plus, he noted, this observation made him realize that whenever "we can see them, they can see you."

Their above-water-water vision also allows them to distinguish the difference between baits, Woodard added, and an experiment confirmed for him that "matching the hatch" often is important.

"The pond is full of brim, and so that's what I was feeding them," he said, adding that he decided to spice up the menu with shiners.

"I put the brim in my left hand, the shiner in my right, and threw them out," the retired coach said. "Nine times out of 10, the bass would take the brim, and they seemed to make the decision while the bait was in mid-air."

Now, he's offered shiners enough that the bass also will accept them--- when they're feeding. Sometimes, they will go two or three days without showing up at the dock.

And sometimes when they do show up, they'll eat, but not nearly as aggressively as they will on other days. "If the bait's not big enough, bass will stay three feet down and watch," Woodard said. "It's like they don't want to waste the energy for a 3-inch shiner."

Other times, they will take three or four baits directly from his hand and then back off, waiting for him to toss them more to eat. "But if a big bass is still looking at a bait, the smaller ones will stay away," he said. "There's definitely a pecking order."

When a big bass is hungry, however, it can gobble up seven 4-inch brim or a pound (25 count) of shiners.

Not surprisingly, weather can take away their appetite. "They don't seem to like rain and storms (for hand feeding)," Woodard said, adding that maybe they gorge on food washed into the lake by runoff.     "The first day after the rain, they're not hungry. But the second day, they eat."     

And finally, there's this for rod-and-reel anglers to ponder:  "When I catch a bass and then turn it loose, the others leave with it," Woodard said.

On the other hand, he has caught Jaws and other bass multiple times, and Kickin' Bass is once more coming to the dock for dinner.

(A variation of this article appeared originally in B.A.S.S. Times.)