By Steve Graf
Over the years, every sport has been given a “black eye.” No matter what sport it is, people are always looking for some form of illegal or unethical issues that they can bring to light. Recently, professional basketball had the controversy over a referee who was betting on games he was calling. Baseball has the infamous Pete Rose controversy with his betting on baseball. Football and baseball over the years have both gotten black eyes over the use of steroids and other performance enhancing drugs. But when it comes to tournament bass fishing, the sport continues to battle with the never-ending effects of bass dying after a tournament.
Now this is not due to a lack of concern about keeping their catch alive, as there are times when no matter what you do, you will still have a fish die in your livewell. It’s actually very important to the anglers in general because dead fish can cost them a lot of money. A dead fish can also hurt an angler when it comes to Angler of the Year (AOY) standings which usually has a cash bonus for the winner at the end of the year. So, it’s important for tournament anglers who participate in this sport to be conscious of how they take care of their catch.
Admirably, 98% of all bass tournaments do a great job of implementing rules that penalize anglers for weighing dead fish. Some events deduct anywhere from a quarter to a half pound penalty for every dead fish weighed in. While this doesn’t sound like much, it can be the difference between finishing first or tenth. It’s the difference between getting paid or going home with nothing.
Just like so many things in our world today, there are always people watching and looking for a reason to create controversy that will help their agenda. In the fishing world that would be PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals). This organization continues to target tournament bass fishing and would like to see the sport discontinued. They show up at boat ramps all across the country wearing fish costumes and making their presence known while protesting bass tournaments.
But what they refuse to see is how well and to what extent anglers go to keep fish alive. On the professional level or other high exposure events, fish care is critical. Nothing upsets an angler more than losing a fish in their livewell. I’ll give you an example of how much attention I give to fish care while they are in my possession.
In the fall, winter, and early spring months, it’s unusual to have a fish die in your livewell due to the cooler water temperatures. Hot water is the enemy of tournament anglers and during the summer months this is hard to combat. This is why I hate summer tournaments! You spend so much time babysitting your catch and constantly checking on them to make sure they are in good shape as the day progresses; it’s a job! Here’s what I have found over the years that can make a huge difference in fish care and that has worked extremely well for me.
When an angler first launches his boat on tournament morning, he should immediately fill his livewells with fresh cool water. This is because the water is at its coolest point for the day. Next, put G-Juice or any other good additive into the water to help add slime back to the fish after they have been handled. It also reinvigorates bass and keeps them in stable condition before weigh-in.
After doing these two things, turn your livewell on recirculate. The next step is crucial to keeping the water cool and is where anglers often make their biggest mistake when trying to keep fish alive. When the livewell is recirculating, add ice, or in my case, frozen water bottles. For me, I’ll mix G-Juice into bottles of water and freeze them so that I can drop one bottle in the livewell every hour. I remove the bottle cap which allows for the gradual addition of more G-Juice while simultaneously maintaining the water at a cooler temperature the entire day. DON’T ADD HOT FRESH WATER TO YOUR LIVEWELL DURING THE DAY! This is a recipe for disaster!
If anglers want to continue to have bass tournaments, they have got to become more diligent about taking care of their catch. The problem is, when people show up at a boat ramp where there was a tournament the day before and see dead fish floating, photos are taken and posted on social media for all to see! This is nothing but ammunition for organizations like PETA who want to eliminate tournaments all together.
To sum this up, tournament anglers and tournament trail organizations need to do a better job when it comes to fish care if they don’t want the sport to get another black eye. Till next time, good luck, good fishing and be conscious of taking care of your skin by using plenty of sunscreen and wearing protective clothing.