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.