Click Below To Find Answers To Your Questions
Q. What is the average length of a one-year old largemouth bass?
Bill: It varies from about 2- to 8 inches. They can reach 9 or 10 inches in the second year, but it is usually in the third year. Naturally, this depends upon the location and the amount of forage.
During the first three years, a bass doesn’t really grow all that fast, but during the third year, their weigh and length really take off, especially in a warm water climate.
Q. Bill, how do fishermen rate the following fish: largemouth, smallmouth, crappie, walleye and catfish?
Bill: The largemouth bass is still America’s number one sportfish; the smallmouth rates as the gamest fish that swims in freshwater; the crappie is America’s favorite panfish; walleye are becoming one of the most important game fish in northern waters; and finally, catfish are second only to bass in overall popularity.
Q. Can you give me a little information on smallmouth fishing?
Bill: You had better believe it. Fishing for smallmouths can certainly differ from largemouth fishing.
One reason is it’s easier to approach and fool a largemouth than a smallmouth because smallies respond unfavorably to the presence of a boat or the glimpse of an angler. To make matters worse on that end, they also more often inhabit clearer water. Don’t for a minute think that smallies can’t see you, not even in deep water.
In approaching a point that might have smallmouths, the trick is to move in as slowly and quietly as possible. Ease the throttle on your big motor some distance from the spot you want to fish, so that a heavy wake doesn’t roll over the area. Then work in from the side you don’t intend to fish and get the boat right up against the bank. You generally work from the shallow to the deep, so your lure will be pulled up the point from the deep to the shallow. Fish seem to hit it better in this direction, and it is much easier to keep the bait near the bottom.
With the boat near the bank, make a series of fan casts, retrieving the lure slowly so it is just off or bouncing along the bottom. When you have covered the sector, ease the boat into deeper water about half the length of a long cast and repeat the fanning. Move again and cast the new area. Most anglers don’t work deep enough on these points, and it is good to remember that, although the fish might be a little shallow early in the morning or on an overcast day, they could just as well be in 30 feet of water.
When fishing over these flat points, always cast as far as you can. The bait should be allowed to sink to the bottom and you must remain alert while the bait is falling (maintaining a tight line), because a smallmouth could inhale it on the way down. If a fish doesn’t strike, the retrieve should be painstakingly slow, permitting the lure to skim the bottom. You can check the depth of retrieve by periodically dropping your rod tip. The lure should hit the bottom within the count of two or three, or you are fishing to fast and too high off the bottom.
Smallmouths are creatures of habit, living in the same places year after year after year. Once you find good smallmouth territory, the schools will be there next year at the same time. They don’t range very far during the entire year, moving deeper or shallower with the seasons.
Finally, the clearer the lake, the lighter the line you should be using. You will catch more fish in clear water on 6-pound test than you will on 10-pound test; and you’ll discover that by eliminating terminal tackle, such as swivels, and using a small bait, you’ll increase your chances of hooking a trophy smallmouth. Just remember that big smallmouths prefer small baits worked slowly along the bottom. They may occasionally hit a larger offering, but that is an exception.
Q. How long does it take for a largemouth bass to digest its food?
Bill: Bass usually require at least 12 hours to digest their food under the best conditions. Since digestion is a chemical process, the rate of the process is a function of body temperature. Naturally, in winter, digestion is slowest and in the summer it is faster.
Example, normally, when the water temps range from 70-80 degrees, bass digest the food in their stomach in about 18 hours. But in winter, the same bass would take four days or longer to digest their food.
Q. Here’s a question concerning largemouth bass length and body weight. “Are there any guidelines or national standards on a bass’s body length and weight? What should a healthy 16-inch bass weigh, for instance?
Bill: Well, the AFS, or American Fisheries Society, has removed some of the guesswork by setting national standards for the “average” weight of an “average” bass in an “average” body of water. These averages can vary some according to the growing season, water quality, type of forage and other factors. For example, relative weights may be higher in Alabama than, say, Pennsylvania, Ohio or Minnesota. However, a general standard, a baseline for monitoring fish, would look like this:
Target Weights by Length
8 inches 5 oz.
9 inches 7 oz.
10 inches 9 oz.
11 inches 11 oz.
12 inches 14 oz.
13 inches 1 lb., 3 oz.
14 inches 1 lb., 7 oz.
15 inches 1 lb., 13 oz.
16 inches 2 lb., 4 oz.
17 inches 2 lb., 12 oz.
18 inches 3 lb., 4 oz.
19 inches 3 lb., 14 oz.
20 inches 4 lb., 9 oz.
21 inches 5 lb., 6 oz.
22 inches 6 lb., 4 oz.
23 inches 7 lb., 3 oz.
24 inches 8 lb., 4 oz.
Q. One of my favorite bass fishing techniques for catching bass is flippin’, but even though I’m using quality equipment … a 7-1/2-foot, medium to heavy graphite rod with a 7:1 high-speed reel … I seem to have difficulty getting a fish out of heavy cover. Makes no difference if it’s a big or small fish either! Any suggestions?
Bill: Well, I think I know what you’re experiencing, because I also used to have trouble with even a 2-pounder that felt like a tuna until I switched to a slower-geared reel like a 4.4:1. With a high-speed reel you gain speed on your retrieve, but you also loose power. With a slower ratio reel, it’s the opposite — you gain power but lose speed! My suggestion for flippin’ is to think in terms of power versus speed.
Q. I live in a subdivision where we have about a 100-acre lake. It’s full of largemouth bass but they’re hard to catch. It’s gin-clear and heavily pressured every day with property owners. Any suggestions?
Bill: Being highly pressured during the day and its drinking water clear, chances are much of the bass feeding activity takes place at night. It’s during this time that big fish have their guard down and can be more easily caught. In clear lakes, you can fish with heavier line and tackle at night allowing you to land any big ’un that happens to bite. A good choice lure would be a large-sized, black single-bladed spinner bait, a 8- to 10-inch dark-colored plastic worm or big-size jig and pork combination. Don’t rule out a black buzz bait or top water if the fish are active.
Q. Are large bass more likely to stake out a prime territory (abundant food, good cover and nearby deep water) than roam around? And if a large bass (non-spawning) is removed will another large bass take that spot over?
Bill: Big bass have home-range tendencies. Some have said the true trophies are also loners, and I believe that is probably true on some waters. On the other hand, I have caught a 9-pounder and two 10-pounders on five successive casts. (Yep, I would say that was a good day afloat.)
As to whether another large bass will move in and replace the absence of another I am uncertain. It is obvious, however, that some locales on lakes are known “big bass holes.” These are locations where every so often a big bass is caught. There must be something in such spots that big bass like. A proximity to deep water is nearly always a given for such areas.
Figuring out exactly why is one issue. Finding such spots and keeping them a secret is another. (And by the way, if you do find several such spots, I will be glad to keep it between you and me, eh?)
The following quiz won’t teach you how to be a millionaire, but it will teach you to be a better fisherman. And for many, I included, that’s worth a lot.
Q. Bass exhibit a decrease in both feeding and swimming performance with a decrease in what?
A. Water temperature.
Q. When a bass is first born, what is it called?
Q. A bass reaches maturity at approximately what length?
A. 12 inches.
Q. Of all the different kinds of fresh water fish what is the most fished-for species in the United States?
A. If you said bass, you get an A+.
All right, be honest. How many of those first series did you get right? All of ’em! Well, that’s great. Let’s see how you do on these!
Q. For a bass or any fish to breathe, it gleans dissolved oxygen from the water through what?
A. Its gills.
Q. How many hearing mechanisms do bass have for detecting sound?
A. Two — the lateral line and inner ear.
Q. If a bass weighs five pounds during the winter, how much more will it weigh the following spring just before spawning?
A. Approximately 10 percent more than its winter weight.
Q. What family of fish is the bass a member of?
A. The sunfish family.
How you doing so far? Ready for a few more? Good! How about this one?
Q. The growth rate of a bass is influenced greatly by a high protein food supply and what?
A. Water temperature.
Q. What single condition affects shallow-water bass behavior more than any other?
A. Barometric pressure.
Q. What level of barometric pressure are bass more comfortable with — high, stable or low?
Q. What area of a lake in the northern hemisphere is the center of spawning activity?
Okay, tell me the truth. How’d you fare on that last part of the quiz? Let’s try these on for size.
Q. Male bass seldom get bigger than how many pounds?
A. Four pounds.
Q. How fast can a bass swim?
A. 12 to 18 mph — burst speed.
Q. What are the two top fins on a bass’s back called?
A. The dorsal and soft ray dorsal.
Q. What are the two side fins located just behind the gills called?
A. They’re called pectorals.
Q. Here’s an easy one. What’s the weight of the world record largemouth bass — 18, 20, 21 or 24 pounds?
A. No, none of these! It weighed 22 pounds, 4 ounces.
Q. Know where it was caught?
A. Did I hear you say Florida? Nope! What did you say? California! That’s not correct either. The world record bass was caught in the mouth. No, it was caught in Georgia, back in 1934.
Q. What’s the name used for one to three-year-old bass?
Q. Are bass cold- or warm-blooded creatures?
Q. When the water temperature is 40 degrees and a bass is in that temperature, what will his body temperature be?
A. Being cold-blooded, his body temperature will be 40 degrees.
Q. Why is a bass shaped the way it is?
A. Because its shape offers a compromise of forward speed and maneuverability to overcome its prey.
Let’s spin out a few more of our bassin’ quiz questions. See if you know the answer to these!
Q. To be successful at bass fishing, what three words must be applied to every fishing trip you make?
A. One is depth, two is location and three is presentation!
Q. How many Americans fish for bass?
A. Thirty-one million — 40 percent of all freshwater anglers are bass fishermen.
Q. What’s the best comfort zone for largemouth bass?
A. When the water temperature ranges from 65-75 degrees.
Q. What moon phases and times are best for catching a really big bass?
A. Typically, the three-day period before and after the new or full moon is best for big bass.
Q. Of those two moon phases. The new and the full, which is the best?
A. The new moon.
Q. What can override the effects of moon phases?
A. Weather changes!
Q. During the new moon phase, what season of the year is best for catching a giant bass?
Q. Bill, can you give me some information about schooling bass?
Bill: First note, that as far as fishing success in numbers goes, it is far better to thoroughly cover those areas where there is a chance to find a school of bass than to spend the major portion of your time snaking out a fish or possibly two from an object found here and there as covered in my bill dance fishing course. This, of course, is a personal matter, and you will have to decide for yourself which type of fishing you prefer over the long haul. But find a school, and you can catch a bunch in a hurry, for sure.
Bass spend a good part of their lives schooled up with other members of their clan; they are not necessarily the loners that some anglers make them out to be. In my judgment, bass school during at least three-quarters of the year, and they probably remain in schools for 80 percent of the time during those months.
The exception, of course, is in the spring, when they filter into the shallows to dig nests and spawn. That’s when bass refuse to be gregarious and shun their neighbors. Remember, though, that not all bass spawn at the same time, and not all bass spawn when the water temperature is best. This works two ways. It tells you that there still might be schools of bass into the spring, and it also indicates that the spawn can continue for several weeks instead of being limited to a short period.
As soon as the females spawn, they go right back into deep water, leaving the males to guard the nest and the young. When the fry swim up for the second time and scatter, the males also move back into deeper water, and for a period of a few weeks, you just can’t seem to find the larger fish. The coves, points and shoreline boast plenty of small bass, but the lunkers are gone—probably into very deep water.
By summer, however, schools of bass start to show up, and the husky fish will reappear. You might find these schools chasing shad minnows or over structure. The important aspect is that the fish are schooled up again, and they will remain in schools through the fall and winter.
Again, I emphasize that not all bass are doing the same thing at the same time of year. Even though schools of bass are present in the lake, you may have established a pattern that is producing single fish. And whether you are catching schooling fish or not, there is no reason that you shouldn’t stick with it as long as you are catching fish.
One of the basic rules of fishing is never to leave fish in order to find more fish. If you fish long enough, you will realize the odds are against you when you leave the fish you have found.
That’s all I have for this week. See you next time and meanwhile, if you go fishing, be sure to catch one for me!
Of the 50 states, how many have a state record large mouth bass that weighs 10 pounds or more?
The answer is 45 states, so five do not.
Alaska does not have an established record of any weight
In Hawaii, they’re close, with a weight of 9 pounds, 9 1/4 oz.
Minnesota currently stands at 8 pounds, 12 3/4oz.
North Dakota at approximately 8 pounds, 7 oz.
Followed by Montana, about 8 pounds, 3 oz.
And finally Wyoming at 7 pounds, 14 oz.
Just as an added thought the world recorded large mouth is still held by the state of Georgia and its 22 pounds, 4 oz
Now, how about small mouth of 46 states that have small mouth records, only three have fish over 10 pounds
Tennessee leads the trio with the 11 pound, 15oz. World Record, trailed by Alabama at 10 pounds, 8 oz., North Carolina, 10 pounds, 2 oz.
Here’s a question about vibration – and it’s not a fishing lure!
What causes a trolling motor to vibrate, and how can it be fixed?
I know the feeling – happens to all of us. Motor vibration is caused by only two things
First, is a bent armature shaft --- you may have hit something and bent the motor prop shaft – this requires service center.
Q. Can you grow large mouth bass in small water, as in lakes or ponds?
Bill: Yes, you can be it takes some things a lot of people don’t have to spend on fish management and that’s time and money.
And of course, from the start it would seem small-water owners are limited. Biologically sound reasoning dictates that there is a carrying capacity. Like any habitat, a body of water has a carrying capacity. It can only “carry” so much life.
But then too, pond/lake managers can hedge on that; they can tamper with the food sources and water quality to grow bigger bass.
Bobby Wilson, assistant chief of fisheries with the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency said he is all for such “intensive” management for big bass. However, his state has not included it in its pond management literature because it’s very expensive and most people don’t want to manage a pond that way.
“I think if these (bass) ponds are managed intensively year after year, then the results will be positive. If abandoned after a couple of years, then the pond is headed for a crash of some type,” Wilson said.
So again, growing big bass in small water takes time and money—both of which the every day bass angler/pond manager normally lacks.
Today, the traditional route to growing big bass in small water involves: stocking some sort of supplemental food source (often baitfish of some sort), adding correct lime (for correct pH levels), fertilizing and stocking with a genetically-superior bass, of the Florida largemouth strain.
Feeders are also often put in place primary to beef-up the quality of the forage fish.
Much landowner’s efforts to grow bigger bucks has spawned an industry of its own, so has the lust for very lunker large mouths.
Managers heavy into growing trophy bass say you can realistically expect to grow one giant bass every three acres—and that comes only with intense management.
Q. Do largemouth bass have a home range?
Bill: I think I have answered that one before in this column, but I am someone you can ask twice…especially when it comes to fishing questions. I never tire of talking about fishing, unless it gets in the way of catching them.
Yes, largemouth bass to exhibit a home range tendency, according to various studies.
In one study two scientists investigated the bass population in a lake in Illinois. The technique the employed was to cover the shoreline in a boat and using electrical shocking equipment, capture the bass on shoreline cover.
The fish were then marked for identification and returned to the water unharmed. Over the course of several months, the procedure was repeated a number of times and records kept of where each tagged bass was found.
One of the more interesting facts to come from this study was that only 1.2 percent of the bass were on the shoreline at any one time, on the average. That mean that most of the bass population, over 98 percent of it, was out from the shoreline, or in deeper water the majority of the time. Recaptures indicated that 96 percent of the fish that did invade the shallows or shoreline were recaptured within 300 feet of the spot where they were first captured and marked for identification.
With some fish, recapture took place three or four times, yet they were always within the same area. After wintering in deep water, the same bass returned to the same segment of shoreline.
So the next time you locate a productive area—make a mental note of it and if conditions are about the same the next time you are in the area—fish it again. Even it is a week, a month, or a year later. You might be surprised.
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