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TrophyCatch Research

 

TABLE OF CONTENTS:

Best Handling Practices

Hook Removal Techniques

Weighing Your Trophy

Measuring Your Trophy

Best Live Well Practices

Release Tips

 

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A largemouth bass can live for weeks without food, but only seconds without oxygen. The most important thing to your bass is the ability to breathe oxygen from the water.

 

30 Second Timer

 

  • Keep all measurement and documentation tools (scale, camera, measuring board) readily available.
  • Set the hook quickly to avoid deeply hooked bass.
  • Land the bass as quickly as possible. The longer a fish is fighting the more potential stress and exhaustion it undergoes. It will need ample oxygen from the water while recovering.
  • Use a soft, knotless landing net.
  • Remove the hook while the bass is in the water if possible.
  • Use de-hooking tools and heavy cutters to cut and remove hooks.
  • Learn more about removing hooks in the Hook Removal Techniques section
  • Keep the bass in water while you prepare your measurement and documentation tools. Consider using an aerated live well or in the absence of a live well (e.g., canoe/kayak, jon boat without any plumbing, etc.), leave the bass on the hook temporarily, leave the bass in a submersed landing net, or place the bass in a large enough water-filled cooler, etc. until you are ready. This will aid in achieving a healthy release of your fish.
  • Do not hold a bass in the live well for extended periods. This unnecessarily stresses the fish and can lead to delayed mortality. Additionally, only one largemouth bass 16” or greater may be possessed at any time unless you are fishing in an exempt permitted tournament.
  • Wet all objects/surfaces that will be in contact with the bass including your hands, measuring board, or scale to protect the bass’ slime coat. Do not place fish on hot, dry, or rough surfaces such as: metal boat floor, concrete, grass, dry towel or dry carpet.
Post It Note
  • Handle the bass only when measuring (length and girth), weighing, photographing, and placing in it the live well.
  • When documenting your catch, avoid keeping the bass out of water for more than 30 seconds at a time (approximately as long as you can hold your own breath). Quickly take your photos/videos to document your catch so you can release the fish within the ideal timeframe. See Weighing Your Trophy and Measuring Your Trophy for more information. 
  • Keep the bass near the location where you caught it to assure a quick release.
  • When releasing the fish, place it gently in the water headfirst, and use your other hand to support its belly. If necessary, move the fish in a gentle figure eight to pass water over the gills (do not pull it backwards). See Release Tips for more information.

 

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  • When possible, use circle or barbless hooks to limit deep hooking.
  • Use de-hooking tools to avoid damaging gills or other parts of the fish’s mouth.
  • Hook location may vary, having several types of de-hooking tools handy will be helpful.

 

Dehooking tools

  

  • Deep Hook Removal:
    - Cut the line and gently pull the shank to reverse the hook. See below images.
    - If the fish is large enough, maneuver the hook through the gill opening.
    - Using pliers or de-hookers, gently remove the hook.
    - The approach to deep hook removal may require more time than simply cutting the line close to the hook eye. Use your judgement prior to considering deep hook removal if you are not an expert.

 

Deep hook removal

Graphic from B.A.S.S. “Keeping Bass Alive”. Used with permission.

 

  

  • Deep Hooked Bass:
    - Removal of a deep hook may require a lot of time out of water or cause further physical injury to the fish.
    - If the hook cannot be removed quickly and easily, leaving the hook in place and cutting the line as close to the hook as possible can give your bass a better chance at survival and may be the best option to reduce stress and injury to the fish. Studies have shown that bass can shed deep hooks through time.
    - If the hook is cut and left in the bass’ mouth, remove any soft plastic lure that may be attached to the hook. 
    - If soft plastic lures are not removed and get ingested by the bass they could remain in the stomach and lead to potential starvation. 
    - Soft plastic baits do not degrade well over time and absorb water and swell up. Furthermore, anglers should do their best to avoid having any used or discarded soft plastic bait left in the water, where they could be eaten by fish or wildlife.

 

 

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Be prepared and understand how to read your scale
  • Have a functional scale on your person or handy in the boat and be familiar with its operation. There are several types of weighing scales (e.g., digital, spring, pan) available to anglers, and within those common styles of scales there are potentially hundreds of different models. Weights can be displayed in several different units (e.g., pounds ounces, grams) so we recommend that anglers familiarize themselves with their scale(s) and read through the manufacturer’s user manual.
    - Some digital scales display weight in pounds and ounces. Pounds are displayed first and often “LB” is listed next to the number and ounces are displayed second and often “OZ” is listed next to the number. Frequently, a large space or colon also separates pounds and ounces. The scales in the photos below display 8 pounds 4 ounces (8.25 pounds).

 

 

 

- Some digital scales display weight in pounds and decimal pounds. Usually just “LB” is listed on the screen next to the numbers. In the photo below, 8.24 lbs could also be recorded as 8 pounds 4 ounces (0.25 pounds).

 

Decimal digital scale

 

- The BogaGrip scale (Model 130) measures in half-pound increments. The numbers on the scale representing the weight of the fish are displayed below the respective line. This scale example is displaying 14.5 lbs. We can see the “14” on the right side below the line representing 14 pounds and the indicator is resting on the increment above this (14.5).

 

Boga Grip style scale

 

- This table shows the conversion from ounces to decimal pounds. For instance, an 8.06-pound bass could also be reported as 8 pounds 1 ounce. 16 ounces = 1.00 pound. This information can also be found on the TrophyCatch Submission Form via a drop down menu.

Weight conversion table

 

Methods of weighing your bass

  • Keep your bass in the water by any means possible (e.g. live well, knotless landing net) while you get your scale ready to weigh the fish.
  • It is preferred that no additional holes are punched in the fish’s mouth membranes as this could lead to infection or injury. Multiple types of hanging scales achieve this by gripping the bass’ jaw for a quick weighing.
Biclamp Scale

 

  • Pan scales do not require any perforations either and support the weight of the bass across a larger area. These are the type of scales that FWC biologists use. Be sure to wet and cool the surface before weighing the bass. Place basket on the scale prior to zeroing out the scale and weighing your bass. Be sure that the entire weigh pan, scale, and fish are included in the photo/video.
Pan scale


OKAY:

  • “Hook-style” hanging scales have been the mainstay for recreational anglers weighing bass for years. They generally require suspending a bass from the isthmus (the "V" under the jaw) or by punching a small hole in the mouth membranes. Anglers should minimize the size of the hole if using this method and avoid puncturing locations that will further tear when the weight of the bass is fully supported. If suspending a bass from the isthmus, anglers should be careful not to hook and support a bass from its gill arch.
Hook scale

 

  • Many hook-style scales can easily be modified with the addition of a lip-gripper, which eliminates the need to punch holes or suspend fish from sensitive locations near the gill arches. These modifications bump the equipment to the “preferred” category.
Grip scale


AVOID:

  • Suspending bass from oversized hooks guarantees that a large hole has been created in the mouth membranes. These wounds compromise a bass’s ability to feed and open the door for pathogen infection.
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  • With the fish’s mouth closed, make sure the tip of the fish’s nose is touching the end of the measuring board or on the “0” mark on a tape measure.
  • Lay fish flat and straight on the measuring board or tape.
  • Pinch the fish’s tail (aka, caudal fin) to get an accurate total length.
  • Double check your length photos to make sure the length readings are easily legible.
  • NOTE: All Hall of Fame (13+ lbs.) winners who submit a length photograph will win an additional $50 Bass Pro Shops gift card.
  • If measuring girth, run a soft tape measure around the widest point of the fish (perpendicular to the length). Keep the tape snug against the fish’s body. Note: that point at which the tape overlaps itself is the girth measurement.
  • Other items (e.g., string or fishing line) maybe used to measure girth. If using a piece of string, note the point of overlap and measure the distance between the two points on a ruler.
Total length and girth

 

 BEST:

  • Use a cool, wet, smooth surface to support your fish while measuring. Good measuring boards come in a variety of materials (e.g., plastic, plexiglass, wood).
  • Make sure to wet your hands and the measuring board with water to help cool the measuring surface and help minimize loss of slime coat while handing the fish.
  • Use your hands to gently secure the fish on the board to prevent the fish from flopping around and potentially off the board.
  • Store measuring board in an easily accessible location out of the sun (i.e., storage hatch) to keep cool.
Measuring a fish

 

OKAY:

  • If a smooth surface is not available for measuring your fish, at least make sure that it is cool and wet.
  • If using a soft tape or metal ruler to measure:
    - Use a wet towel on which to lay your measuring device and fish.
    - Lay fish on top of the measuring device.
Measuring a fish

 

AVOID:

  • Never measure fish on hot and/or dry surfaces (i.e. pavement, metal boat floors, ground) since this will result in injury to the fish.
Bass on ground

 

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A largemouth bass can live for weeks without food, but only seconds without oxygen. The most important thing to your fish is the ability to breathe.

 

TIPS:

  • Keep the fish at the location where you caught it to assure a quick release after you document your catch.
  • Keep measuring and documenting tools (scale, camera, measuring board) readily available.
  • Wet all object that might touch the fish including hands, measuring board and scale (if applicable).
  • Consider using your live-well or leaving the fish in the net in the water. Keeping your fish in water while you prep your equipment will benefit the health of your fish.

 

BEST:

  • When you land your fish, remove the hook, place it on the scale and take some pictures. Then quickly release the fish back into the water from where you caught it. All of this should be completed within 30 seconds. Perhaps hold your own breath while weighing, measuring and taking pictures and you will know when it has been too long!

 

OKAY:

  • If photos cannot be completed within 30 seconds, perhaps fill your live-well and put the fish in it while you prepare for the photo session. Once ready, you can take your photos and release the fish within the ideal timeframe. In the absence of a live-well (e.g. canoe/kayak, jon boat without any plumbing, etc.) keep the fish in the water by any means possible (e.g. leave fish on the hook temporarily, leave fish in a submersed landing net, place fish in a large enough water-filled cooler, etc.) until you are ready.
  • Holding the fish out of the water for up to one minute.

 

AVOID:

  • Holding your fish out of the water for longer than one minute.
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Thank you for taking the time to take care of your bass, and thanks also to our conservation partners including Bass Pro Shops who make TrophyCatch possible!

Bass Pro Shops logo

 

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Scale images are from Rapala. Bass graphics by Duane Raver, Jr.