Category Archives: Bass Fishing

Bass Fishing Information

Lake Martin Annual Tournament

In our annual three club two-day tournament at Lake Martin last weekend, 27 members weighed in 244 bass weighing about 357 pounds. We had 26 five-fish limits on Saturday and 21 limits on Sunday. There was one zero for both days. There were only 36 largemouth.

Lee Hancock won with 10 bass weighing 21.96 pounds and had big fish with a 4.38 pound largemouth. Doug Acree was second with ten at 19.87 pounds, Tom Tanner placed third with ten weighing 18.04 pounds and Kwong Yu was fourth with ten at 17.94.

We pay out the top four and big fish each day based on that day’s catch. Saturday, Tom Tanner won with 11.10 pounds, Kwong Yu was second with 10.94, Raymond English was third with 10.76, Lee Hancock was fourth with 10.36 and I came in fifth with 10.0. Raymond English had big fish with a 3.33 pounder.

Sunday Lee Hancock won with 11.60 pounds, Doug Acree had 9.97 for second, third was William Scott with 9.33 and his partner Dylan Lawrence was fourth with 8.95. Tom Tanner placed fifth with 8.77. Lee Hancock had big fish with his 4.38 pounder and was the only fisherman to win money both days.

I went over Wednesday in the pouring rain and set up camp at Wind Creek State Park. Thursday, I tried a few things and thought I had a pattern of decent size spots on deep rocky points. I caught my biggest fish, a 2.5-pound spot, from a blowdown so I hoped that was a back-up plan. But I did not catch fish in the tournament on either!

Friday, I got up before daylight and thought I had found some fish on a shallow point at first light. I didn’t fish much, deciding to come in and rest.

Saturday, I caught two decent spots on my first stop. Then I spent the next six hours catching small fish on the two patterns from Thursday that I knew I did not want to weigh in. I needed bigger fish.

At 2:00 I cast a jig under a dock and caught a bigger spot, about 2.5 pounds, so I started fishing docks. I soon caught another 2.5 pound spot, then landed a 2.63 pound largemouth, under other docks, before 3:00. Although I fished docks hard for the last two hours I did not catch another keeper.

Sunday I again caught two fish on my first stop, but they were small spots I hoped to cull. So, I started fishing docks but could catch only small spots. I had a limit at 9:00 but they were small and my best five weighted in only 6.25 pounds.

At noon I decided to try other things and caught as few small spots. I probably should have stuck with docks since the fish started hitting around them after lunch the day before. As usual, I wish I could go back and do something else.

I love Lake Martin and camping at Wind Creek. On my first trip there in 1975 I caught my first spotted bass ever. And we usually catch a lot of fish, as all the limits in the tournament show. It is a fun place to fish and the bass bite good all fall.

Justin Lucas Wins BASS Angler of the Year

Justin Lucas: The Path to Angler of the Year
from The Fishing Wire

Justin Lucas wins BASS Angler of the Year


This time, just one year ago, Justin Lucas watched the Angler of the Year championship tournament come and go from the sidelines. 2017 would mark his worst year on the Bassmaster Elite Series and leave him without a bid to the following Bassmaster Classic. With only a short winter to reflect and prepare for the 2018 season, Lucas went to work.

“I had a tough year last year. I’m not exactly sure why, but I think it was because things got out of whack in my fishing,” said Lucas, referring to his season in which he finished tied for 64th place. “I put too much emphasis on practicing to win instead of practicing to do what I do best. I’d fish a technique that I wasn’t good at just because I thought that was the way to win.”

Frustration and forcefulness has proven to be the downfall of many anglers’ seasons. For Lucas, there’s no question in defining what set him free on his route to winning AOY.

“The birth of my son, Cooper Jack, had a huge impact on me. It’s unbelievable what something like that can do to your thinking. I realized that regardless of how I fished or where I finished in a tournament I had a responsibility to help take care of him and to set an example for him, even at a young age.

“Recognizing that there were other things more important in life than the tournament I’m fishing in allowed me to relax and just do my thing. In the end, that was what I needed to get things back on track.”

From the first cast of this season, it was noticeable the tides had turned. The 50th year of Bassmaster and the 2018 Angler of The Year would belong to Lucas.

With most of his focus on becoming an elite father, Lucas settled back into the zone on the water. Lucas relied heavily on a set of techniques he perfected through a childhood on the California Delta and nine years on professional tours. Whether flipping, finessing, or showing off topwater dominance, Lucas tallied five straight top 12 finishes doing what he does best.

“I had something to prove to myself this year. Nobody else. I didn’t want to be that guy who had three awesome years and couldn’t come back.”

There is no path leading to an AOY title. No formal coaching or game script that guides young anglers. Lucas was no exception to the uphill climb. He owed his introduction to the sport to his grandfather Jack, but the journey thereafter, to an internal fire. Passion and intensity fueled a progression from local tournaments through the ranks, into the forefront of the Fishing League Worldwide (FLW) tour and, ultimately, to hoisting a Bassmaster AOY trophy.

I feel like I’m the most competitive person I know. Others might see me as this 5-foot, 9-inch guy. But I’m the most intense person I know. I hate to suck.

– Justin Lucas, 2018 Angler Of The Year

Amongst recent dramatic shifts in the professional bass fishing landscape, this victory serves as a testament to the next generation of anglers. Young and hungry, Lucas exemplifies that the baseline of a champion is a humble appreciation for sport and pursuit. But throughout each elite performance and the persistent competitive drive, the bond that tied skill and success was Cooper Jack Lucas.

“He’s not going to learn to be the man his mother and I want him to be if all I show him is that winning a tournament is what matters in life. A real man is honest and has integrity. He lives a life that makes everyone around him proud. I’d like to be the man who teaches Cooper Jack to be like that.”

Looking ahead to the 2019 season, Lucas said, “There’s no way to know what next year will bring. I hope it’s good on the fishing side of things but more importantly I’m going to do my best to make things good everywhere else.”

Congratulations Justin Lucas, Angler of the Year.

Trying To Catch Bass At Sinclair

Last Sunday 12 members of the Spalding County Sportsman Club fished our September tournament at Sinclair. After seven hours of casting we brought 26 12-inch largemouth weighing about 33 pounds to the scales. Thankfully no spots are showing up at Sinclair yet. There was one limit and three people did not catch a keeper.

Raymond English wore us all out with five weighing 11.40 pounds and had big fish with a 5.37 pounder.
Robert Proctor placed second with three weighing 5.46 pounds and had a nice 2.96 pounder, Chris Davies was third with three weighing 4.47 and fourth was George Roberts with four at 4.21 pounds.

I’m very glad the hot summer fishing is about over. I managed to place fifth with three weighing 3.69 pounds for the second time in the last two tournaments. It can be very frustrating this time of year, but I keep telling myself I am just happy to be able to be out there.

First thing that morning I thought I could catch some fish on topwater, but I guess I started at the wrong places. I did hook and lose what looked like a short fish on a buzzbait and missed a hit on a frog, but those were my only two bites the first hour.

At 8:00 I gave up and started fishing brush with a shaky head worm. I quickly caught a keeper in some deep brush, then 15 minutes later caught a small keeper from some shallow brush. After running to another cove, I caught my biggest keeper out of some brush beside a dock, then caught a short fish in more brush.

At 9:00 I felt pretty good with three keepers in the live well and five hours left to fish. I spent another hour fishing brush but never got a bite. I was mostly letting the sun get higher and creating shade under docks.

Usually I can catch some small keepers at Sinclair this time of year by skipping a weightless Senko under docks, but after trying that for three hours without a bite from even a short fish, I gave up.

The last hour I went back to fishing brush and rocks but never got a bite in the last five hours of the tournament. I must have been in the wrong places using the wrong bait at the wrong time, or maybe the bass were just not eating.
____________________________________________________

New Major Bass Circuit

Changes in the Works for Major Bass Circuits

By Frank Sargeant, Editor
from The Fishing Wire

Pro fishing

Bass Pro


B.A.S.S. announced historic changes to the Bassmaster Elite Series last Monday, a move seen by many as triggered by the kickoff of a competing circuit just announced by former Bassmaster Elite Pro Boyd Duckett of Guntersville, Alabama.

According to Bruce Akin, CEO of B.A.S.S., which is headquartered in Birmingham, the 2019 Elite season will see a smaller field, vastly increased payouts, dramatically reduced entry fees and the promise of more exposure through the company’s media platforms.

First, the 2019 Elite Series field size will be based on 80 anglers, down from 110 last year. This reduction in the number of competitors will not only allow the pros to get more exposure through B.A.S.S. media platforms, according to Akin, but also will improve their odds of winning and qualifying for the Bassmaster Classic.

The new format features three no-entry fee events that will payout $1 million each: the Toyota Bassmaster Texas Fest, the Bassmaster Angler of the Year Championship and the Bassmaster Classic, generally recognized as the Superbowl of bass fishing. Additionally, the eight regular-season Elite Series events will now pay the entire field of anglers, a first in the world of professional fishing. First-place prize will remain $100,000, but now the last-place angler will earn $2,500.

Alongside the three no-entry fee events, B.A.S.S. cut regular-season entry fees by $5,375. So, the season entry fee for Elite Series anglers is now $43,000. Because every angler is guaranteed to make at least $23,500, the total out of pocket expense for entry is cut to $19,500.

Akin said B.A.S.S. is also providing a $20,000 credit to anglers who competed in the 2018 Elite Series season and who take advantage of an early entry fee offer, giving these fishermen a $500 surplus above participation fees.

“For the first time in the history of professional bass fishing, anglers are actually being paid by the league to fish,” Akin said.

In total, B.A.S.S. is investing an additional $3 million in payouts and reduced entry fees for the 2019 Elite Series.

The organization also announced an increased investment in exposure opportunities for the pros. Starting with the 2019 season, the popular Bassmaster LIVE show on Bassmaster.com will be produced all four days of Elite Series events. Plus, there will be live-streaming cameras on every boat on semi-final Saturday, as well as Bassmaster LIVE cameras on every angler for Championship Sunday.

The Bassmasters TV show is being revamped with a renewed focus of on-the-water footage featuring more anglers, catching more bass. Other opportunities for Elite Series anglers to get exposure for their sponsors include Bassmaster Magazine, which has a readership of 4.4 million; B.A.S.S. Times, which reaches 100,000 of the nation’s most avid anglers; Bassmaster Radio, which airs on 200 stations on the SB Nation network; and Bassmaster.com, which averages over 1 million unique visitors per month.

“We want the world to know that B.A.S.S. and our stable of sponsors are committed to growing the sport of bass fishing,” Akin said. “Ray Scott launched the sport and industry 50 years ago with the creation of B.A.S.S., and we will continue to push his vision forward for the next 50 years.”

Meantime, Boyd Duckett has announced that the new Major League Fishing (MLF) Tour also has plenty of financial and media muscle behind it. The 80-angler, invitation-only trail is a collaboration between the Professional Bass Tour Anglers Association (MLF anglers) and Outdoor Sportsman Group, which is parent company of the Outdoor Channel and BassFan. Title sponsorship is from the largest player in the industry, Bass Pro Shops.

Regular tour events will pay out more than $700,000 per event, with the championship purse exceeding $1.2 million. Competing anglers will also have a seat at the table for decisions affecting the competitions, according to Duckett.

According to John Johnson at BassFan, the identities of all of the invitees are not presently known, but the list includes many of the top names in the sport and the majority are current Bassmaster Elite Series competitors. It includes the 28 anglers who compete at MLF’s Cup level (Tommy Biffle, Denny Brauer, Brent Chapman, Jason Christie, Mark Davis, Ott DeFoe, Duckett, Brent Ehrler, Edwin Evers, Shaw Grigsby, Greg Hackney, Tim Horton, Mike Iaconelli, Alton Jones, Kelly Jordon, Gary Klein, Jeff Kriet, Bobby Lane, Aaron Martens, Mike McClelland, Ish Monroe, Andy Montgomery, Takahiro Omori, Keith Poche, Skeet Reese, Dean Rojas, Kevin VanDam and Jacob Wheeler).

The made-for-television format will follow an immediate catch-and-release regimen, with all scorable bass weighed and let go on the spot. Anglers will know their place in the standings throughout each tournament day. The anglers will be asked to make a 3-year commitment that will not prohibit them from fishing with any other organization, but will make concurrent participation in the Elite Series or FLW Tour likely impossible due to simple logistics.

If the new circuit succeeds—and it seems possible given the players behind it—the national bass tournament scene may open up added slots for new anglers to become big names, while at the same time pulling away some of the famed fishermen who have built their reputation on B.A.S.S. and FLW events. On the other hand, how much the market will bear in high-entry tournaments requiring expensive gear and extensive travel expenses remains to be seen—2019 should present an interesting tournament scene.

Tough Times At Bartletts Ferry

Last Saturday 14 members of the Potato Creek Bass Club fished our September tournament at Bartletts Ferry Lake. We landed 23 spotted and largemouth bass. There were no limits and five people did not have a 12-inch keeper after casting for seven hours.

William Scott won with four keepers weighing 5.22 pounds and I was a very close second with four weighing 5.21 pounds. But my 2.15 pound largemouth was big fish, beating William’s biggest fish by the same amount, only .01 pounds! Kwong Yu placed third with three at 3.81 pounds and Donnie Willis was fourth with two weighing 3.31 pounds.

I was surprised when I got near the ramp. Folks were backed up 200 yards from the boat ramp entrance, waiting to put in. We found out there were at least three other clubs taking off at about the same time as us.

Kwong and Zero both offered to help me get my boat in the water since I was by myself. That is the way it is in bass clubs, we try to help each other. Even nicer, Kwong kept my keys until that afternoon. As I pulled into the cove to take out, he saw me and had my trailer in the water by the time I got to the ramp.

That morning I should have known better to start right at the ramp, but there is a security light on the bank in front of a nearby house, and I can almost always catch a fish or two before the sun gets bright. It is a very shallow bank and so many boats ran by it when they took off that big waves washed it. I never got a bite.

I had a plan. My next stop was a deep bank that stays shady most of the morning. But there was another boat on it. Same for the third place I wanted to fish. So I stopped on a point I had not planned to fish. At 8:00 I caught two short spots on it.

Since the lake was crowded I decided to stay on that point longer than I normally would have, and it paid off with a keeper spot at 8:20. At 8:40 I cast to some deep brush on the side of the point and caught another keeper spot, this one a little bigger.

At 9:00 another cast to that brush got a hit. When I set the hook, the fish was tangled in the brush. After sawing it back and fourth a couple of times it locked down tight, a bad sign. As long as I can feel the tangled fish moving I have hope it will come out but when it does not move it usually means the line is wrapped around limbs.

As I eased the boat directly over the brush the fish suddenly came free and started fighting. I was worried since I knew my line had to be frayed. But I managed to get the fish to the boat and net it. It was the 2.15 pounder that turned out to be big fish and I guess it was one just meant to get caught.

For the next four hours I fished several places, often pulling in as another boat left. I did catch one short spot and lost a fish I did not see on dropshot in deep brush.

With an hour left to fish I went back where I had caught my first three but got no bites. I remembered some brush on a nearby point and stopped on it with about ten minutes to fish. I needed to leave at 1:50 to get in on time and at 1:49 caught my fourth fish out of the brush. All four keepers hit a shaky head worm.

I am glad the water is cooling and fishing should get better soon!

Tough Fishing At West Point

Last Sunday six members and guests of the Flint River Bass Club fished our September tournament at West Point. We brought three 12-inch keeper spots and one 14-inch keeper largemouth to the scales after eight hours of casting. There were no limits and two folks zeroed.

Alex Gober won and had big fish with the only largemouth weighing 3.27 pounds. Brent Drake was second with one at 1.50, Don Gober was third with one weighing 1.11 and my barely keeper spot weighing .92 was fourth.

I had hopes of catching a few fish and started on the point where Zack Presley and I had both caught keeper largemouth two weeks ago in the Sportsman Club tournament. We had also both missed fish on topwater lures there, too. After two hours and a variety of baits, I never got a bite.

My second stop was a point where I had caught two keeper spots and lost one in the last tournament, but I never got a bite there, either. At 10:30 I was on another point and got a bite on a shaky head worm. It didn’t fight much so I thought it was a small spot, but as I lifted it out of the water I saw it was a keeper.

I watched as it came off the hook, hit the windshield, flopped on the deck then went back into the water. The next two casts to the same brush produced bites and I landed both, but they were not keepers. The fish were hitting strangely, especially for spots. I never felt a hit, my line just started coming toward the boat.

After 30 minutes casting to the same place with the same bait I got a similar bite, set the hook and landed my only keeper. I stayed there another hour but got no more bites of any kind. I guess I used up that point!

Although fish were swirling around me, hitting shad on top, I never got a bite the rest of the day on a variety of places I tried. I think they were small spots and hybrids but could not get them to hit.

I was just happy to be fishing!

West Point Club Tournament

Sunday, August 26. 14 member, guests and youth fished our August tournament at West Point. After 8.5 hours of casting, we brought in 26 keeper bass weighing about 39 pounds. There were only 6 keeper largemouth 14 or more inches long, the rest were spots. Two members had five-fish limits and there were four zeroes.

Kwong Yu won with five weighing 9.17 pounds and had big fish with a 4.05 pound largemouth. Raymond
English placed second with five at 8.19 pounds, Jay Gerson placed third with three weighing 5.01 pounds and Chris Davies was fourth with tree at 3.71. Jackson Terry won the youth division.

I had a very frustrating day, catching a keeper largemouth on a shaky head about 7:30, then a spot on the same bait at about noon. I got my third fish, a keeper spot, on a drop shot a few minutes later. Those three gave me fifth place,.02 pounds out of fourth and getting a check!

Fishing One Day of a Two Day Tournament at Lake Weiss

We lucked out at Weiss last week with the weather, but not with the fish. Clouds and breezes kept it bearable since it was a little cooler. But the fish did not seem to care that we were more comfortable.

I thought the turnout for the Flint River tournament at Clarks Hill was bad, but the Potato Creek turnout was worse. Only three of us showed up to fish a two-day tournament at Weiss! We landed eight keepers weighing about 15 pounds and nobody had a limit.

I won with four weighing 8.69 pounds. Raymond English was second with two at 4.68 pounds and had big fish with a 3.20 pound largemouth. Kwong Yu fished with Raymond and had two at 1.74 for third.

My trip started badly. I had a blow-out on a trailer tired about two miles from where I was staying at Crossroads Campground Wednesday afternoon. George and Shelia, the campground managers that helped make my stay very nice, suggested OK Tires in Centre.

I spent last Thursday morning riding ledges and humps, looking for deep fish. There were some beautiful drops with brush, stumps and rocks on them, with what looked like fish holding on the cover, but the only bites I got were taps and I never hooked a fish. I think they were either crappie or bream pecking at my worms with the tails dipped in chartreuse JJs Magic.

Thursday afternoon when it got hot I took my tire to the tire store and Tim was great. He got a tire on my rim and balanced in just a few minutes even though they were very busy. I also found out he was a tournament fisherman and gave me some tips. He said some of the ledges I ran that morning looked good to him, too, but he had never hooked a fish on them, either.

Friday morning was cloudy, so I decided to fish shallow. The first rocky bank I tried I caught a good keeper largemouth on a buzzbait. Then on a deep bank with docks on it I got two good spots about 2.5 pounds each on the buzzbait. That told me where to start the next morning and gave me hope.

I got a call Friday afternoon that I had a doctor’s appointment Monday morning. I had planned to stay

Sunday night and rest up before the drive home, but the appointment was too early to do that. I thought about driving home tired and sleepy and decided I might just fish one day of the two and drive home Sunday.

Saturday morning, I started on the deep bank, throwing a spinnerbait since it was still dark.
After fishing about 300 yards down it with no bites
I was disgusted, but then a 2.5-pound spot hit my spinnerbait right at the boat and I landed it.

I went back over that bank with a buzzbait but got no more bites. I then went to another bank I like and finally caught a keeper largemouth on a crankbait at about 10:00. Two hours later I went to another deep bank and caught a keeper spot on a shaky head. I was happy with three keepers with three hours left to fish.

With an hour left to fish I was back on the deep bank where I started. I cast a shaky head worm behind a dock, got a tap and set the hook. Then I realized my line was over the corner of the dock.

I pulled a 2.97 pound largemouth out of the water. It was hanging in the air, thrashing around. I grabbed my net and went to it but as I reached out with the net the line came off the dock and the fish took off. Somehow, I got it back to the boat and netted it.

It was my biggest fish and a miracle since my line was badly frayed for a foot about two feet above the hook. Some fish are just meant to get caught.

I decided to sleep in Sunday morning and drive home. I later found out Raymond and Kwong gave up at noon rather than fish until 2:00, as planned.

If you go to Weiss I highly recommend Crossroads Campground if you camp. A good ramp at the Spring Creek bridge is only half a mile away. And if you have tire problems, OK Tires will treat you right and you may even get some fishing tips!

Lake Michigan’s Smallmouth Bass

Learning about the habits of smallmouth bass in northern Lake Michigan
Here’s an interesting update from Michigan’s DNR on a study of Lake Michigan’s smallmouth bass populations and their growth and migration.
from The Fishing Wire

Nice Smallmouth


For so long it was believed that smallmouth bass didn’t travel that far or intermix their populations – especially in a large waterbody like Lake Michigan. But early studies, originating in the

mid-1950s by Dr. Carl Latta, hinted that smallmouth bass just may travel much farther than researchers initially understood.

Historical data on the northern Lake Michigan smallmouth bass population was collected via very limited surveys from the mid-1950s, through the late 1990s. Then in 2005, an ongoing smallmouth bass survey was launched jointly with Central Michigan University (CMU) to look at population trends in the species.

When the study was initiated, the Beaver Island Archipelago area was chosen as the main study area. It was the location of CMU’s biological station and more importantly the residents of Beaver Island were concerned about the local bass population believing increasing numbers of cormorants locally were the direct cause of the decline in the local bass population. In 2009, the study area was expanded to include the Waugoshance point area, then again in 2014 to include Grand Traverse Bay.

“Historically the local bass fishery was considered world-class and drew in a lot of anglers,” explained a DNR fisheries research technician out of Charlevoix, John Clevenger. “All of a sudden the fishery was low – the cormorant populations were high – and we wanted to try to see what truly caused the bass to decline.”

The initial study started to unravel some of the mysteries of these local bass – not limited by cormorants but rather these fish traveling to other areas of the lake. Researchers use small trap nets to capture smallmouth bass, place metal jaw tags on them and then return them to the water. In the first couple of years of the study, a select few bass were also surgically implanted with an acoustic tag. These fish were then tracked almost daily throughout the summer months to determine their whereabouts.

“We very quickly started finding fish – courtesy of jaw tag returns from anglers – outside of the Beaver Island archipelago area,” said Clevenger. “We started to realize these fish do move great distances. This study is now helping us understand how and why.”

The “why” is still a big question that has yet to be answered through the course of this 60-plus year study. Researchers have some good guesses, but specifics are hard to pinpoint.

“At some point in their life these fish are wandering,” said the DNR fisheries biologist out of Traverse City, Heather Hettinger. “They might be looking for food or for better habitat.”

That wandering is part of the reason the study expanded to other areas, with the potential for Lake Charlevoix to be added in the future. And while the “why” continues to go unanswered, lots of other great information is gleaned.

Hettinger explains between the fish captured or recaptured through this study each year – plus the jaw tags reported by anglers – they’ve developed this immense spread of data that gives a pretty clear picture of how the fish are growing and how the pattern of the population lays itself out. That information becomes critical when working on potential regulation decisions – particularly when concerned members of the public report a lack of big fish in the area.

“We have these great graphs that allow us to look over time and watch how these fish grow and where the patterns are,” she said. “If we hear concerns we can refer to these graphs and point out where we’ve seen drop-offs in larger fish or where we can refute their claims.”

The area currently has two different sets of bass regulations – Waugoshance and Grand Traverse Bay are the same but the harvest opener at Beaver Island opens later in the year. All three points are very popular with bass anglers – further proving the value of this study as the department manages the fishery for future (and current generations).

See below for graphs showing length distribution of smallmouth bass in the three areas this study covers.

Length Distribution

length distribution

Another distribution

Secrets About Bass Populations

Electrofishing At Night Reveals Secrets About Bass Populations
by Mark Latti, Maine Inland Fisheries & Wildlife
from The Fishing Wire

Boat for electrofishing


The electrofishing boat has two booms which deliver an electric current into the water.
Each year during late May and early June, the regional office gets a phone call or two about some strange things happening during the wee hours of the morning on some local lake or pond. I even had one caller exclaim once that a UFO had landed on the pond! If you see such a thing, rest assured it is probably not a UFO, but rather your regional fisheries staff working late nights to collect fishery resource information.

Each year about this time, the regional fisheries staff of the Sebago Lakes Region sample 2-4 different waters to collect baseline information on the bass population(s), as well as determine the relative abundance of other fish species. Sampling is done at this time of year during the night, because the fish are more likely to be in shallower water spawning and are less likely to be spooked by the approach of a boat.

Each bass is measured and weighed, so biologists get a clearer picture of the bass population in the lake.
This sampling is performed with an electrofishing boat. A what? An electrofishing boat has an onboard generator that delivers an electric current into the water, which temporarily stuns the fish so they can be collected with nets. Because the work is done in pitch black conditions, there are lots and lots of lights, beepers, and motor sounds…no wonder we get mistaken for aliens!

Prior to sampling, we survey the shoreline habitat of each lake (in daylight) and categorize the shoreline habitat into different habitat types (i.e. sand, cobble/rubble, muck with weeds, etc.) and mark the start and end of each with a GPS unit. Since most lakes are too large to sample the entire shoreline in a night. We then take the habitat data for the entire lake and develop partial sampling transects of each habitat type relative to their proportion in the lake. Once determined, coordinates for these sampling transects are entered back into the GPS, so we can navigate in the dark.

The boat hugs the shoreline and biologists are ready to net any fish that are temporarily stunned.
The boat is operated by a crew of three, one boat driver and two netters. Fish are stunned, netted, and placed into a live well for each transect. After one or two transects are sampled, the bass are anesthetized then each is measured, weighed, and returned to the lake or pond to recover. This work is repeated for each transect until completed, which is typically sometime between 2:00 and 3:00 a.m.

Sometimes the night drags into early morning, but the onboard work lights allow biologists to accurately measure and record the data they need.
To date, we have collected baseline data on about 50 regional bass waters. This baseline length, weight, size class structure and catch per unit of effort data (abundance) on bass gives us a basis for categorizing waters by fishery quality, comparing populations or performance among other regional waters, and for evaluating changes in population characteristics over time due to varying regulations, environmental conditions, or other variables.

The next time your “upta camp”, beware of those nocturnal biologists. Hopefully, we will not be interrupting your peaceful evening, but if we do…it’s all to evaluate, protect, and enhance our important fishery resources.

The controls at the helm of the electrofishing boat are a little more complex than most center consoles.

Once the fish are measured, they are released back into the water, so lunkers like this one can be caught again.