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Entries in trophy bass (74)


Possible State Record Smallmouth Caught In Montana

Mike Dominick caught this 7.51-pound smallmouth bass Sept. 23 on Montana's Fort Peck Reservoir and weighed on a certified scale. Likely state will recognize it as state record, surpassing 7.4-pounder caught in 2016 at Flathead Lake.

“I think an 8-pounder will be caught next year,” he said, noting that the fish he caught would be about 8 pounds if it was full of eggs during the spawn.

Fort Peck could easily produce that next big bass, he believes. On his last trip he caught five fish over 6 pounds. One trip he and another angler caught 30 smallmouth over 3 pounds in an hour-and-a-half and never moved the boat. The reason the fish are so beefy is the large baitfish population. He’s seen bass stuffed full of cisco, an introduced species also known as lake herring.

“They’ve got the perfect recipe for growing them, as long as the bait keeps up,” Dominick said.


Toyota ShareLunker Program Goes New Year Around, Starting Jan. 1

After more than 31 years of collecting and spawning 13 pound or larger "lunker" largemouth bass, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department's (TPWD) Toyota ShareLunker Program is announcing big changes and an expanded mission in an effort to better engage the public in the promotion and enhancement of lunker bass fishing in Texas public waters.

The ShareLunker participation season will now run each year from Jan.1 through Dec. 31; a change from previous seasons. But similar to last year, only those entries collected between Jan. 1 – March 31 will be accepted as broodstock for spawning.

"This provides the greatest opportunity to obtain eligible fish for spawning while minimizing the risk of additional handling and possible mortality," said Kyle Brookshear, ShareLunker program coordinator.

Outside of the spawning window, the new year-round participation season will allow for anglers catching bass 8 pounds or larger to submit information about their catch through a web application in four categories: 8 pounds or larger, 10 pounds or larger, 13 pounds or larger and 13 pounds or larger with a spawning donation.

The goal is to increase the number of participants in the Toyota ShareLunker program and expand large fish catch rate data for fisheries biologists, Brookshear said. As a bonus, the new size categories open up more ways for anglers to receive prizes and incentives for participating.

"This citizen scientist initiative will allow fisheries biologists to better monitor the impact of ShareLunker stockings across Texas and provide more incentives and opportunities for Texans to help us make our bass fishing bigger and better than ever," Brookshear said.

Other spawning program changes include converting the entire hatchery broodstock to pure-Florida ShareLunker offspring. Genetically pure offspring will be maintained on the hatchery, grown to adulthood, then distributed to production hatcheries and used as broodstock. Eventually, all hatchery-held Florida largemouth bass broodstock will be descendants of ShareLunkers, Brookshear said.

Additionally, attempts will be made to spawn all donated eligible ShareLunkers — regardless of the degree of genetic introgression. Offspring of female genetic intergrades will be combined and stocked back to the source locations for all ShareLunker entries for the year.

"People come to Texas from all over the country for our lunker bass fishing, and it's still very rare to catch a 13 pounder," said Mandy Scott, Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center director. "So that's why ShareLunker is special. We learned a long time ago that these fish were important and we wanted to try to capitalize on the big fish that we have in Texas already and make fishing even bigger and better."

Brookshear said the program will announce the full list of changes and the new prizes closer to the beginning of the season, but anglers can also look forward to a complete rebranding of the program to include a new logo, graphics, and eventually more ShareLunker Weigh Stations to aid in the weigh-in process. Additionally, education and outreach specialists at the Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center are developing ShareLunker science curriculum for Texas classrooms.

For complete information and rules of the ShareLunker program, tips on caring for big bass and a recap of last year's season, go here. The site also includes a searchable database of all fish entered into the program. Or follow the program on social media.

The Toyota ShareLunker Program is made possible by a grant to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation from Gulf States Toyota. Toyota is a long-time supporter of the Foundation and TPWD, providing major funding for a wide variety of education, fish, parks and wildlife projects.


Myths About Bass Exposed

For some bass anglers, their favorite soft drink isn't the one that they prefer to drink. It's the one that they pour on fish.

While professional athletes, especially baseball players, are noted for their superstitions, fishermen, especially those who fish for bass, "take the case" when it comes to myths. The problem isn't that they are ignorant. The problem is that they know so many things that simply aren't so, including the belief that pouring a soft drink on a fish's gills to stop the bleeding is a good idea.

This is not to suggest that it  doesn't work. Plenty of anecdotal evidence suggests that it does. And Dr. Bruce Tufts, a fisheries expert at Queen's University in Ontario, said this:

"I've discussed this with my physiology colleagues and we're pretty confident we can explain it. The carbonation (carbon dioxide) in pop causes the gills to vasoconstrict and stop bleeding. It's a pretty cool scientific explanation."

But while it might stop the bleeding, it also feeds into possibly the greatest myth among bass anglers: Any bass released alive is healthy and will survive.

"Too many bass fishermen don't understand delayed mortality," said Gene Gilliland, National Conservation Director for B.A.S.S. and a fisheries biologist who has seen the soft drink solution employed. "They think that you can just add water and forget about it."

But resource managers, marina owners, and those who live near tournament sites know otherwise. They've seen the bodies of bass that looked healthy when released, but later died because of stress, infection, or injury.

Similarly, Coke or Mountain Dew might stop the bleeding, providing a visible and immediate fix, but what does it do to the delicate gill structure long term?

 Such tricks are well intended, "but so misguided," said Judy Tipton, an ardent angler, conservationist, and inventor of the V-T2 livewell ventilation system. Just putting the fish into water, she added, also slows down the bleeding, without possible delayed side effects.

"Until it (soda) is tested for delayed mortality, we don't know the effects," Gilliland said. "Whether it's good or bad is an unknown.

"What we do know is that the FDA (Federal Drug Administration) has approved only ice, salt, and oxygen (for fish care). So we don't recommend anything else."

Myths abound related to the spawn too, including the notion that bass spawn only during a full moon. Perhaps it's the romantic in us that perpetuates this one, but hatcheries have proven it verifiably false. Day length and water temperature are the determining factors, especially the latter.

"Hatchery managers who make a living spawning bass report bass spawning on all moon phases," said Dr. Hal Schramm, a long-time fisheries researcher for the U.S. Geological Survey. "Peak spawning occurs when water temperature is 64 to 68 degrees."

Also, Schramm added, female bass do not help guard the eggs, as many anglers believe. Rather, they often are "loose women" who move on to spawn in multiple nests.

"You will find a female bass at a nest before she spawns," he said. "Every biological study of bass spawning has found that the male guards the eggs and the female spawns and leaves."

Plenty of weather-related myths are out there too. But the one that gets the greatest "rise" out of anglers is related to barometric pressure. They believe that high pressure turns off the bite.

In truth, bass probably barely notice the pressure difference, if at all.

"Water doesn't compress like air," said Gilliland. "If you are underwater, the difference is almost immeasurable. All a bass has to do is adjust the air in its bladder and move up or down a few inches. Barometric pressure probably doesn't affect a bass directly." 

Instead conditions related to the pressure change, such as clouds, wind, rain, and rising water, affect the fish's feeding pattern. "Pressure affects the environment and the food chain, not the bass," Gilliland said.

Finally, if an angler elects to keep 10- or 12-pound bass, "the trophy of a lifetime," catch-and-release zealots should just calm down and go fishing. Removing that double-digit bass from the fishery doesn't trigger its collapse.

"When a bass gets to be that size, it's probably not going to live that much longer," Gilliland said. "It's had plenty of time to spawn."

Plus, as female bass age, their reproductive capacity declines. The most fertile and productive bass are typically 5 to 7 pounds.

But whether you've caught a 5-pounder or a 10-pounder, if it is bleeding from the gills, you might want to consider keeping it. Or, if you choose to release it, follow the lead of doctors who practice the Hippocratic Oath and "do no harm." Save the Coke for yourself.

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


Caddo Angler Catches Second 15-Pounder for ShareLunker Program 

Ronnie Arnold earned himself a unique place in Texas' Toyota ShareLunker program recently, when he landed a 15.7-pound largemouth bass in Caddo Lake, a fishery on the border with Louisiana.

In donating the fish to the trophy bass spawning program managed by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD), Arnold became the first angler to enter two fish of 15 pounds or more. In 2009, he caught a 15.1-pound fish, also at Caddo.

Seventeen anglers have multiple entries, including five with three fish. Bill Reed's two were the heaviest pair collectively, with one weighing 16.54 pounds and the other 14.91.

Arnold's catch was the ninth from Caddo donated to the program begun in 1986. The lake record, 16.17, was entered by Keith Burns in 2010. Then, Sean Swank caught the same fish in 2011, when its weigh had dropped slightly to 16.07.

The latest Caddo entry was the third of the spring statewide for ShareLunker and No. 568 since the program began in 1986. It also was the largest since Swank's catch.

With a minimum weight requirement of 13 pounds, the program was established "to promote catch-and-release of large fish and to selectively breed trophy largemouth bass," TPWD said. "The first fish entered into the program was also a new state record, a 17.67-pounder caught from Lake Fork in November (1986)."

The first ShareLunker of the 2017 season, meanwhile, also was historic. Testing revealed the 13.07-pound fish caught at Marine Creek Lake was spawned from ShareLunker 410 and a male ShareLunker offspring. That made it the first of that size from  specially selected trophy-potential parents paired in 2006 as part of a research project to evaluate the growth of selectively bred, faster-growing Florida largemouths in public reservoirs.

“The catch of ShareLunker 566 from Marine Creek Lake not only validates the goal of TPWD’s selective breeding program of producing ShareLunker-size bass, but also demonstrates how anglers can help others by donating their ShareLunkers to TPWD for breeding purposes,” said ShareLunker Program Coordinator Kyle Brookshear.


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.