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Entries in trophy bass (62)

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.

Thursday
Oct132016

Angler Assistance Needed as Kentucky Starts First Full Season of Trophy Bass Propagation Program

Acknowledging that they're still ironing out the kinks, fisheries managers are optimistic heading into Kentucky's first full season of its new Trophy Bass Propagation Program, which runs Oct. 1 to May 31. Anglers contributed four bass of 8 pounds or better last spring, when the strategy was first announced.

"We really hope to see more participation from Kentucky's serious bass anglers," said Ron Brooks, fisheries chief for the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources (KDFWR). "After all, this is one program where anglers can really make a difference in terms of potentially increasing the quality of bass fishing in the lakes they fish."

State fishermen have longed voiced their desire for Florida-strain bass to be stocked in Kentucky lakes, to improve genetics and, as a result, their chances of catching larger bass. They point to neighboring Tennessee, which has had some success with that method.

But Tennessee is to the south, and just a few miles can make a huge difference in whether Florida-strain bass thrive or don't even survive.

"If we had the same kind of year-round temperatures as Florida, then we would be stocking Florida-strain bass," Brooks explained.

Consequently, Brooks and the KDFWR are hoping to use some of the state's largest bass, 8 pounds and up for females and 6 pounds and up for males, to raise and stock native fish disposed to heavier weights. They hope that anglers will donate those big fish to be used for broodstock for a couple of years before being released into the fisheries where they were caught.

As a thank you, the agency will provide a replica mount of his catch  to the fisherman.

"Being that it was late in the season when we started (last spring), getting four fish was good," said Jeff Ross, assistant director of fisheries. "It allowed us to advertise those fish, which, in turn, allowed us to further advertise the program and show that it was successful in obtaining fish."

This year, Brooks is hopeful that more bait shops will assist as temporary holders for the bass. "Although the project does require some extra work on the part of our biologists and transportation truck drivers, we cannot envision an easier, more efficient system at this time," he said.

Getting state park marinas as participants is another objective this year, according to Ross. "That would create an excellent partnership, allowing them to promote the program and also have their marinas listed in our fish-holding sponsorship lists and advertisements," he said.

After the donated bass spawn, hatcheries will raise the offspring until they are 5 inches long. Then they will be stocked in fisheries around the state, including the lakes where their parents were caught.

"This won't mean that every largemouth bass spawning in Kentucky will have trophy bass genes," Brooks said. "That would be a long way off.  But in the immediate future, it will mean the fish we're stocking to augment the natural spawning will be a higher quality of fish as far as growth potential."

Anglers can find out more and see a list of participating bait shops by going here.

Wednesday
Sep142016

Georgia Trophy Fishery Set to Re-Open in Spring

Georgia anglers are eagerly awaiting re-opening in the spring of a small, but prolific big-bass fishery that has been closed for nearly four years.

In November 2012,  the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) shut down the 106-acre lake at Ocmulgee Public Fishing Area so that it could be drained and leaks sealed in the bed. Repairs began in March but were delayed by spring rains, with completion now expected sometime this fall.

Additionally, DNR has been growing bass at several hatcheries as well as at a three-acre pond near the lake so Ocmulgee will have an immediate population of adult fish for anglers to enjoy. If not for that, it probably wouldn't have re-opened until 2018, said biologist Tim Bonvechio.

"It was really coming on as a high profile trophy bass fishery in the state of Georgia," he added. "We hope to bring that recipe back again."

That recipe involved stocking a lower density  population of female-only bass while allowing catch-and-release only for the fishery that first opened in 2006. By all indications, it was working too.

Angler surveys from February and March of 2012 revealed that 46 bass weighing 8 pounds or more were caught and released, with 10 of more than 10 pounds and one checking in at 12-4. Additionally,  biologists logged in a 13-4 while doing an electrofishing survey.

Repairs  included rerouting the stream that runs through the middle of the impoundment and then removing two feet of lake bed where leaks were occurring. After that, the area was covered with a rugged fabric similar to what is used to prevent runoff at construction sites, with three-feet of red clay pressed on top.

Previously, the lake had been stocked with bluegill, crappie, and catfish, as well as bass. This time around, DNR won't add catfish, which would compete with bass for forage. The hope is that this will help Ocmulgee's bass grow bigger even faster.

"We want to put someone on the fish of a lifetime," Bonvechio said.

Wednesday
Aug172016

Anglers Help Stock Florida Bass at Mississippi's Ross Barnett

Concurrent with a recent regulation change, anglers recently helped improve the gene pool at Mississippi's Ross Barnett Reservoir, as they assisted with the stocking of 101,000 Florida-strain largemouth bass fingerlings.

"We're not trying to increase catch rates by stocking bass," said Ryan Jones, a fisheries biologist with Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks. "We're trying to maintain that gene in the population. What you have in the Florida strain is a fish that has a longer grow period, so they grow bigger, faster."

For this third stocking in three years, fish were transported from the agency's Turcotte Fish Hatchery to two ramps on the 33,000-acre Pearl River impoundment. Then anglers used their boats to transport them in ice chests filled with water to backwater areas, in hopes of improving survival rates.

"Before, we dropped them at the ramp and they (bass) to disperse from there," Jones said. "Now, you're talking about dropping them everywhere.

"I can't tell you what the survival percentage is, but I can tell you it's better than dropping them at the ramp. It's a much better process. It's just great to have the anglers."

The minimum size limit, meanwhile, has been raised from 12 to 14 inches, after fisheries managers noted a decline in the number of bass between 15 and 20. "It's been in decline for about four years," Jones said.

"It could be a natural change in the population, but we want to be on the front end of it in case it's not natural."

Thursday
Jul072016

Confidence a Critical Component for Angling Success

Every angler should have a confidence bait. Mine is a lipless crankbait, which is what I used to catch this 12-4 largemouth.

More specifically, it's a 1/4-ounce Cordell Spot, a lure that most anglers  wouldn't consider to be a "big fish" bait.  I wouldn't either. But when the bite is tough, as it was on this day, I go to my confidence bait, and, more often than you might suspect,  I get rewarded.

Why? I can't speak for others, but this is what I believe:

Using  a confidence bait gives you a psychological boost, and that’s important when the bite is slow--- maybe more important than the bait itself. It heightens your concentration and makes you more eager to fish. It makes you more attentive to where you are casting and to detecting subtle bites. In short, throwing a confidence bait makes you a better angler.

Secret: If you don’t have a confidence bait, work on developing a couple. You’ll be a better bass angler for it.

But also don’t forget that many, many variables play into whether a bass is going to bite your bait. Some we understand. Some we think that we understand. And some we don’t even know about. That watery world below the surface is so different from ours that we simply can not know it in the same way that we know our air environment.

Once in awhile, we really do catch bass because we have chosen the “right” bait. Other times, they hit because they are in an aggressive, feeding mode, or because we have found a concentration of fish that stirs itself into a competitive frenzy when a lure passes through. During such times, just about anything in your tackle box might work.

Secret: So, when you are catching bass on a confidence bait (or a new lure that you just bought at the store), pay attention to more than just what is tied on the end of your line, its color, and the way it moves in the water.  Look at water depth and clarity. Determine where the bites occur in relation to cover, structure, and current. Note the weather conditions and wind direction.

In other words, benefit from the “confidence” that throwing a favorite bait gives you, but also be smart enough to realize that bass probably aren’t biting it because it’s your favorite or because it is vastly superior to others. Likely, they are biting because of a complex combination of favorable variables, of which the lure is just one.

(The above is from my first book, Better Bass Fishing. It is filled with content that will make you a better angler, from revealing how weather affects fish and fishing to bass behavior, patterns, and techniques.  It's available at both Amazon and Barnes & Noble. But Amazon frequently sells out. My second book, Why We Fish, is more a celebration of the joy that fishing brings, but also contains information that can make you a better angler.)