Friday, April 14, 2017

Best Practices When Handling Bass

Following is a two part article regarding best practices when handling and releasing bass alive. Part 1 will cover initial actions when catching a bass and what can be done to help them survive the process.

Recently, the University of Florida conducted a study of how handling a bass impacts its ability to survive after being handled by anglers. The study focused solely on the grip used to hold a bass out of water immediately after being caught. The person conducting the study was not a highly knowledgeable angler or one who had any experience with catching and releasing large bass.

When the word got out that this study was going to be done I contacted Fish and Wildlife and asked why anglers like myself or other guides were not contacted for input on the study. The response I got was that the study was being controlled by University of Florida and they awarded the money to the person doing the work.

Not the best answer I could have hoped for considering this study might get some merit simply because it had a university's name on it.

The results of the study? No definitive results could be concluded from the study. Feeding times of fish handled after being caught varied slightly based on angle at which they were held but not at a consistent level to be considered scientific.

With all of that being said I like to propose a broader approach to handling a bass that starts from the moment they are caught to the moment they are released. The thought behind this approach is based on 15 years of guiding, handling numerous big bass and releasing them alive. Many that were caught on more than one occasion validating the success of how they were handled.

Some situations will make my proposal more difficult to follow. If you are fishing in a river system with strong current or a lake with lots of trees please make the best attempt to follow the following suggestions as you can.

To begin let's look at a scenario of hooking a bass and the actions that take place after it is hooked.

Once a bass is hooked it has an initial response to pull back and fight. The struggle and energy the bass expends will put a strain on it's muscles and just like humans will push lactic acid into them. The longer the fight, the more lactic acid that ends up in their muscles.

Think of when we lift weights and the effects we feel afterwards. The pain is the result of the lactic acid that is pushed into the muscles and the blood that follows trying to heal broken down cells. This pain takes some time to clear our bodies and allow us to get back into the gym.

For a bass this is one part of how they can struggle to survive being caught and surviving afterwards. Catching a bass in a tournament and releasing them alive gives us the idea that they survive but this is what isn't always known. Not all bass float to the surface and die. Some take days to die and still do not float to the surface.

The only way we can do something that helps this is to reduce the lactic acid build up. How do we do this? The best way is to slow down the rate at which we try to bring the fish in. Once a bass is hooked it only takes a second to slow down and in turn, the bass will calm down.

Many might doubt my thoughts on this but for 15 years I've done with with countless anglers and watched as they have proven my theory to work 100%. I personally have done this will small mouth and know it works on them as well.

The added benefit to doing this is your catch rate goes up significantly and lost fish rate goes down to about 1%. For tournament anglers this is money in the bank.

The photos above are of a fish we named Frankenstein. We caught and released this bass 9 times over a 3 week period. 

By Steve  Boyd
Owner - Florida Bass Adventures
Orlando Trophy Bass Fishing Guide

Monday, January 16, 2017


As I write this scouting report for the upcoming Bassmaster Southern Open on the Harris Chain of Lakes, I can't help but think of the competitors that will have probably seen more big bass on beds during prefish than they will once the tournament launches. For many it can cause quite the conundrum.

For David Dudley in 2008 there was no question of whether or not he would swing on a trophy bass on the last practice day. And during his interview he wasn't shy about letting it known that he yanked a giant off the bed. His reasoning? He probably wasn't going to get there in time to catch it anyway, so why not.

Many felt he was trying to sabotage any angler that pulled up on that fish before he could but there is more to consider. Anglers from all over the world come to Florida for the fish of a lifetime during the winter months and when tournament anglers see any of our lakes on the schedule, it's the first thought they have.

The one downside to being a competitive angler is that a high percentage have never caught a bass over 10lbs and it has nothing to do with lack of skill or lack of effort. My personal best in competition is just over 7lbs. Timing of many tournaments isn't in the favor of anglers being able to target trophy bass unless you fish on the Elite Series or FLW Tour. And during practice most will focus on locating good fish without really wanting to catch the big fish.

So, here we have anglers coming to prefish the Harris Chain hoping for perfect weather and the opportunity to catch the biggest sack of the year. What do they find? Air temperatures in the high 70's, water temps on the rise approaching 70 degrees and bass everywhere looking to make babies!
Every angler asked about pre fish will comment on how they wish the tournament will have been held a week earlier because the fishing is on fire! After the last cold front conditions were perfect for bass to move up in a large wave into shallow water as it brought water temps down to ranges they needed to spawn shallow.

And this is where the decisions that any angler who found these bass would have been faced with. Dedicate time to a big bass on a bed and go full David Dudley, risking others around seeing them or pass up the fish of a lifetime. I'm going Double D's all day! Hoping any big fish will still be there a week out isn't worth passing it up.

The trend leading up to the tournament will not favor high numbers of big bags but will see some big fish caught that will make the big bass competition something to watch. Warm weather will continue pushing fish into areas that will make them difficult to see but for those that stay shallow they will be dissappointed with culling a lot of dinks.

Another trend that will probably cause issue for those relying on site fishing will be consistent fog and cloud cover early in the mornings. Bass will be feeding early and late so patience will be testing for anglers who make the long run into Griffin as they may miss the best activity times.

High water will be another challenge for anglers as warm winter rains have raised water levels as much as 8 inches in area lakes. High water is always a challenge as it tends to put fish in areas that are hard to get to. But for anglers that adjust it could be crucial. There are many overflow type ponds that normally are not accessible but because of recent water increases will be wide open. Shaw Grigsby took advantage of this situation to win here in 2011.

Areas that are expected to produce for this tournament would be the Ocklawaha River into Lake Griffin and Haines Creek into Lake Eustis as both will have current flowing. The canals coming out of Lake Dora will get a good flow of water and bait that will push bass further back into the residential canals that always produce well this time of year.

I would also expect The Dead River canals and any residential canals on Lake Eustis to be productive. But all of these areas will get a great deal of attention so my expectation would be for the tournament to be one off areas that are closer to the launch point and are able to reload bass each day without pressure. Big And Little Lake Harris have offshore vegetation that could be key to located bass that others may not find because of shallow water beds that kept them away from areas of the lake that are in 8-10 feet.

Quite a few years ago I won a tournament on the Harris Chain off one stretch of bank working grass beds in 8 feet of water throwing crankbaits, rattletraps and Texas rigs. I lost more big fish that day than I care to remember but the situation this week is very familiar.

I haven't guided any of the competitors for this tournament but my tips would be fish deeper water areas looking for staging fish that can replenish. I would also recommend fishing close to the launch area and maximize fishing time. Even though warm weather has kept fish active I would still approach the areas with slower, more precise presentations rather than fish for aggressive bites.

Winning weight should be in the 17-19 lb a day range and to make top ten anglers will need to catch a consistent 14lbs a day. Low weights for Florida but it should be a tight competition among the top 15 with places changing daily.

Steve Boyd is a Former Marine and owner of Florida Bass Adventures Guide Service located in Orlando, Florida. For more information visit our site Florida Bass Adventures Orlando Bass Fishing.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Trophy Bass Fishing in Orlando

Today I had Shawn Gudauskus out for an 8 hour combo trip. The last few days have seen a lot of fog and changing wind directions or no wind at all.

Our first two spots didn't pan out very well so I did what I do best. Execute an Amphibious Assault in search of the elusive Big Fat Fatty!

Not just any fish can be a Big Fat Fatty without meeting certain requirements. First and foremost it must be a female and this is the really important part...have a lot of junk in the trunk!

And if she happens to take a big ol' dump on your carpet while taking her photo, you've got a winner!

Once the Big Fat Fatties location was determined Shawn commenced to whacking that ass and the photos below tell the rest of the story.

Big fish weighed in at 9.4lbs
Florida Bass Adventures Orlando Bass Fishing Guide

Friday, December 2, 2016

Catch And Release Orlando Bass Fishing

Catch and release during our Orlando Bass Fishing trips is great for maintaining a fisheries trophy bass population but it's also great for sharing fish! We've now caught the same fish 5 times and named it Frankenstein. That's 5 different people who have gotten to catch and experience catching this pig.

Today it was Sam and Michael fishing on Lake Toho and the first fish is my buddy! Training fish is a guides secret job!

Of course it helps that each time we catch Frankenstein I feed it two shiners! Yeah, I'm nice like that!

Friday, November 18, 2016

Early November Orlando Bass Fishing Report

Our clients have been having excellent fishing trips throughout the Fall Season in Orlando with the bass feed leading up to the first wave of spawning. Late September brought the first cold fronts of the year but unlike most years, the cold weather continued into October and November. It's not cold by Northern standards but anytime morning temps stay in the low 60's in Florida it's considered chilly.

Each wave of cold fronts gradually brought water temps on Lake Toho and Orlando Lakes down allowing bass to acclimate to changing temperatures rather than shock them for a time. This has grouped up numbers of bass into areas that have large amounts of bait fish and they have not been shy about eating.

Today's trip, November 18 was with Al Weilacher And his son Brian for 4 hours of fishing on Lake Toho. Having both fished in Florida before on the St Johns River they had experience using live bait and were looking forward to a fun morning of fishing.

I was a bit more skeptical because for the last week after a strong front we had been catching high numbers of bass (20-30) on 4 hour trips, the larger fish were inconsistent.

So, for this outing we started out on what I considered my best big fish spot and went to work. What happened can only be described as one of those days as a guide you wish every client could have. With water temps in the high 60's they proceeded to catch 20 bass with their best 5 going for 29lbs. Of course one of those catches can't really be counted twice. Dad caught the second largest of the day, a 6.2 lb bass that could have weighed 8lbs but it was skinny early and then 30 minutes later his son caught the same fish. 

One unbreakable rule on my boat, I don't post photos of the same fish with multiple clients holding it. Unless, it was caught again after we released it. Then, it's just unbelievable luck that has to count!
Anyway, here are there photos from the trip with Al's 8.2 as the biggest. If you would like to see yourself on this page with a story like this, pick up the phone and book a trip! It's the only way it can happen.

Florida Bass Adventures Orlando Bass Fishing

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Proper Rod Position For Increased Hook Ups When Bass Fishing

Today's tip is one that is designed to increased your percentage of bass landed after the hook set. If you are a tournament angler or trophy bass hunter this tip is important because landed bass or missed bass can make the difference between a tournament win or trophy catch of a lifetime.

Wherever you live more than likely, you have been taught to keep the rod down especially for anglers that predominantly fish for smallmouth bass to keep them from jumping. Unfortunately, what has been passed down from generation to generation has been inaccurate with no ability to prove that it works. Like most of my tips I will emphasize the understanding of physics and the use of our senses to help determine the correct choice for the best outcome. 

From my observations of clients there is a strong belief that keeping the rod tip down can prevent a bass from jumping, but the reality is nothing can keep a bass from coming to the surface. Bass use the path of least resistance to determine what response is best once they have been hooked so you don't have to have a physics degree to know that if we are pulling down, the easiest path for them is up. This is true whether you are in deep water or shallow water but shallow water fish have less of a choice so they are more inclined to seek the surface. Smallmouth bass are nomadic type bass that leads to them being a stronger fish with more endurance than a largemouth meaning surface jumping to attempt to shake a hook is always a possibility. 

So, if pulling down isn't the best option, what is? First, lets start at the hook set and what you can do immediately after. Once you set the hook the most important thing you can do is hold there for a second and feel what direction the fish is headed, the size of the fish and consider any obstacles that might be in the way. I would call this assessing the situation and it allows time to slow things down and make correct decisions and adjustments to what the bass is doing. The other benefit to taking that second is calming yourself down and in turn not begin to reel too fast or horse the fish into the boat. I can't begin to tell you how many clients I have shown that when you stop yanking the fish to the boat they actually calm down and will swim towards the boat rather than fight for their lives. It's why clients sometimes call me the "Fish Whisperer". 

How I found out that a fish will follow like a dog on a leash was while I was fishing a lake here at home in about 16 feet of water. I had pulled up some line during a cast and felt it would be a good idea to get it out of the lake. As I pulled on the line I felt a slight tug and new there was a fish on. As I slowly pulled up the line I could see it was a big bass. It swam almost all the way to the surface only trying to swim away at the last minute as I began to lip it. From that moment on I knew bringing fish to the boat became more of a process of staying in the moment and not getting carried away. 

Now, as I said earlier bass will attempt to surface regardless of what angle you pull. The benefit of keeping the rod up is having the ability to see the line and as it begins to go horizontal, you can bring the rod down and pull the fish back into the water forcing it to swim. Then bring the rod tip back up to once again have visibility on the line. This is the action/response that should happen between the angler and fish once hooked. The fish will make a choice and it is up to us to respond accordingly. Just remember there is always more than one option to the action.

 One last thought. It is always good to consider what we lose by keeping the rod tip down and what is gained from keeping it up. The first thing we lose when holding the rod tip down is our ability to see the line and one of our senses, vision. If you are setting the hook upward, by going down with the rod, you immediately take away line sight. Being able to see the line tells us what direction the fish is going and allows the opportunity to make adjustments to what they are doing.

Getting a bass to bite your lure in my opinion is the hardest part of catching them. After learning that once on the hook my response and actions to what the fish is doing will be the ultimate factor in whether or not I end up holding them has meant more catching and less fishing. Give it a try and hopefully you will too.

Thanks for reading,
                                Steve Boyd
    Owner - Florida Bass Adventures Guide Service

Monday, October 31, 2016

Casting Into The Wind

Today's tip is about casting into the wind. To avoid backlashing and maintain distance into the wind the actual speed of the rod needs to increase as well as the force that the lure is moving into the wind. Try to avoid thinking of casting harder but rather generating more speed during the cast.

Try and think of the movement during a cast as building up energy to push the lure forward. The more kinetic energy generated during the movement, the more the lure will have when released. 

The best way to get better at this is going to the middle of the lake or an open area and casting into the wind. Not trying to catch fish, but perfecting the cast. Pay attention to each detail during the cast and try to make improvements. A GoPro would be good for this.

Have fun and hope this helps,