Catch and Release Works: 13-pound Bass Caught Again

By Walker Smith

I spent the large majority of my childhood and adult life chasing that elusive double-digit bass. I worked like a dog to save money for new fishing lures and better fishing rods, but after a lot of trial and error, I realized it wasn’t necessarily about the gear or the money spent. It was about conservation.

Two recent catches have proved to me the effectiveness of catch-and-release bass fishing. We’ve always been told it works, but experiencing something like this has really put things into perspective for me.

(1 of 4) THE FIRST CATCH

I’m not going to go into a whole bunch of details because I’ve chronicled the entire catch in this article. But I’ll give you the condensed version.

On the evening of November 2, 2017-not really the time of year you imagine catching your first double-digit bass-I was bank fishing at a pond I have managed for many years. I was talking with the pond owner about deer hunting and mindlessly pitching a Zoom Baby Brush Hog to the exact same limb of a laydown for about 30 minutes. I didn’t expect to catch anything. I was chewing the fat with an old buddy.

After countless pitches, I had a very small “peck” at the end of my line. I figured it was a bluegill, but as it started slowly swimming towards deep water, I knew something special was happening. I set the hook and she came up and jumped-or tried to jump-and there wasn’t a doubt in my mind that she was over 10 pounds. It’s just like meeting your spouse for the first time. You just know.

To make a long story short, I finally managed to land her and she weighed 13.14 pounds. I took measurements and Steven Bardin, a leading fisheries biologist, verified the weight with the numbers I gave him. I finally did it-I finally caught a giant.

I made a concerted effort to be delicate and very careful while handling her. I didn’t hold her vertically because I wanted to avoid any additional strain on her jaw. I cradled her tail and I was careful not to torque her jaw. After roughly 30 seconds out of the water and several dips back into the pond between pictures, I swam her back and forth with my hands and she took off alive and well. She lived to fight another day.

(2 of 4) I COULDN’T BELIEVE IT

17 months after my catch-long after I mounted her fiberglass replica over my office desk-I was at my small-town barber shop getting a haircut and a beard trim. One of the barbers, Brad, is the only other person who has permission to fish this pond. As I walked in the door he ran up to me with his eyes bigger than ping pong balls and his phone in hand.

“You ought to see the ded gum bass I caught out of there yesterday,” he yelled. “Caught her crappie fishing on 6-pound line and an ultralight!”

He showed me the photos on his phone and I couldn’t believe what I saw. It was the exact same fish I caught 17 months ago. Except she was even bigger.

Now, before you run off and call me a liar, this fish is incredibly unique and very identifiable. As you can see in the photos, she has bright yellow coloring surrounding her gill plates and hardly any dorsal fin. Not to mention, she has a faint spot-almost like redfish-right on her tail. We compared videos and photos on our phones with the whole barber shop gathered ’round. Without a doubt it’s the same fish.

I was tickled pink and couldn’t stop talking about it for the rest of the week. Like I said earlier, we always hear about catch and release working. It’s a known fact in bass fishing. But man, when you witness the results of it first-hand, it’s an incredible feeling. She was released again for the second time and Lord willing, a young kid can catch her next time.

(3 of 4) BIG TAKEAWAY ON LOCATION

In addition to the importance of catch and release, these two catches reiterated something I’ve written about until I’m blue in the face.

Big bass prefer shallow cover adjacent to deep water.

The tree from which I caught that giant was tailor-made to hold a huge bass. The base of it was in two feet of water and the branches extended over a break line and hovered over 10 feet of water. That big bass had the best of both worlds right at her proverbial fingertips-she could quickly move up to feed and corral unsuspecting bluegill before sliding out to towards the deeper end of the tree when she’s inactive. With a single kick of her tail, she could completely change her living situation.

When Brad caught her 17 months later, she was on the only other similar tree in that pond. It was on the steepest bank with the base in three feet and the branches extending over 12 feet.

That’s not just coincidence. That’s the drawing power of shallow cover with adjacent deep water.

(4 of 4) MY FINAL THOUGHTS ON ALL OF IT

I think there is a strong parallel between bass fishing and deer hunting. You can’t shoot big bucks if you kill the young ones. Big bucks have great genetics-that’s how they get so big. Allow them to reproduce as much as they can and you’ll have a much healthier and impressive herd on your property.

I’m a firm believer that bass fishing is the same way-and there’s plenty of scientific evidence to support that. Look at the giants they’re growing and re-stocking with the Texas ShareLunker program. Big bass also have excellent genetics. The more successful spawns these big females have, the more they spread their genetics. So if you can keep letting these big fish go, you’ll have a healthier and larger population of bass over the years.

It’s tempting to keep these fish for mounts. But with technology these days, fiberglass reproductions now only look better than skin mounts-they last longer, too. Don’t just toss ’em in a cooler. Carry some measuring tape and a scale with you. Take detailed, well-focused pictures of the bass. If you take the measurements and photos to a taxidermist worth their salt, you’ll have a sharp-looking mount without ever harming the fish.

The next time you’re lucky enough to catch a giant, I just ask that you consider these things. I’m not saying that my thoughts are the gospel-I’m simply trying to help you, and those who come behind us, catch more big bass.

The 10 Best Snacks You Should Bring on the Water

The 10 Best Snacks You Should Bring on the Water thumbnail

The 10 Best Fishing Snacks You Should Always Take With You on the Water

Once the waders are fastened on, the rod is rigged, and the boots have touched the water; there isn’t much that can distract an angler in pursuit of some hungry trout…that is until their own belly starts rumbling. Fly fishing can be a physically demanding hobby, whether you’re fishing from gravel put in, or spending your nights in a tent in the high Sierras: your engine needs fuel. Instead of wasting time off the water finding a meal, or simply procuring one from your adventure mobile, pack one of the snacks we’ve listed below in order to get the calories you need to stay focused and haul in that once in a lifetime fish.

1.The Protein-Packed-classic: Nature Valley Protein Chewy Granola Bar

Image from FAB News

With 5 grams of Protein packed into every bar, whether you’re heading out from base camp or driving up the street, this snack is essential in every anglers’ pack. With energy crammed into every bite: this snack is easily transportable, lightweight, and most importantly TASTY. Grab a couple of these guys before a day on the water and you’re sure to beat the mid-day hunger wherever your trip takes you.

2. The Meat Lovers Heavy Hitter: Chomps Beef Jerky

image by Urban Matter

Grass-Fed Chomps Beef Jerky is a step above the rest when it comes to an on the go meaty snack. Not only does Chomps provide a large variety of flavors such as jalapeno beef to Salt & Pepper Venison, but they contain no added hormones, no sugars, and are made from 100% grass fed Livestock. Chomps has it all for the hungry carnivore looking for a protein boost to keep them tossing heat cast after cast.

I mean hey…why should monster browns get all the meat?

3. The Nutty-Nature Power Pack: Power Up Trail Mix

Image by Danavento.com

Because what’s better than sticking to your crunchy roots? Power up Trail mix is a specially crafted mix designed to provide a late afternoon boost and kick fatigue in the butt. Made from 100% all-natural ingredients, Power up trail mix has mixes to cater to any dietary restrictions including gluten-free, and vegan options: all still made with fresh delicious ingredients. We recommend packing a baggie of these in the top of your waders and saving the rest for a job well-done treat on the way back to home base.

Be careful… once you have a handful it’s hard to stop

4. The Sweet Tooth’s Guilty Secret: Gummy Worms

Image by Delish

Just because you’re not throwing worms to fish doesn’t mean you can’t have some for yourself! Yes, while we don’t recommend substituting a meal for a sugar-filled treat, we know there’s no way ALL those vest pockets are filled with gear. Why not indulge your guilty pleasure and pack a sugary snack to brighten up a fishless day, or even put down with some water to keep that blood sugar steady? However you choose to enjoy these tasty worms, it’ll put a smile on your face and always manage to calm down that insatiable craving that manages to strike at the worst times.

Fishing with your kids? Bring a pack of these bad boys… you can thank us later.

5. The Long Tripper’s Fatigue Fighter: GreenBelly Meal 2 Go

Image by GreenBelly Meals

While this isn’t technically just a snack, it sure can be eaten like one. Greenbelly is a meal sup. for hikers, made by hikers. Containing 1/3 of your daily value of fats, proteins, and fiber; this supplement is perfect to throw next to your reel in the day pack and head off the beaten path. Whether your hiking through the rugged mountain terrain or sloshing around a salty cove, this portable meal guarantees you’ll have the power to focus on your mission—not your hunger.

6. Natures Candy Flavored Cravings Killer: Dried Fruit

Image by Afooda

Dried fruit, specifically picks like dried mango’s, dates, and apricots; are the true definition of natures candy. Being light and portable, a few bags of these are the perfect snack for a hot day in the sun. Filled with natural sugars and vitamins, these little delights can be consumed by the handful as a guilt-free pleasure, and while you can’t fit an entire apple in your fly bag, a small bundle of dried apples can be conveniently stowed next to your nymph box as a quick and easy snack to be had in-between changing flies.

Feeling really hungry? Drink water with your fruit. The fruit will absorb it and expand in your stomach to hold you over until that next meal.

7. The Twisted Trout Targeter: Mini-Pretzels

Image by The Conversation

No, this snack won’t actually target the trout for you, but it WILL make sure you have the energy to do so. Pretzels are a classic, and a great source of a little bit of salt, a little bit of sugar, and a healthy dosage of carbohydrates to keep the all-day angler sharp and energized. These snacks can be kept in (almost) any crevice there is on an angler and can be readily accessed for a carb boost that will make sure the hands on your watch don’t determine how much time you have left on the water.

Need an extra boost? Pair pretzels with some portable peanut butter (try saying that 3 times fast).

  1. The Produce and Protein Power Combo: Carrots and PB

Image by Live Strong

This snack combo has been in the pockets of anglers since the beginning, and there’s a good reason for that. Carrots and Peanut Butter are a killer combo that has essential vitamins, sugars, and loads of protein sure to satisfy any adventurer running on low. The healthy mixture of some fresh veggies and a mouthful of peanut butter can’t be beaten when it comes to refueling in-between fishy holes.

Feel free to use celery as well. Heck, it’s practically designed for holding PB.

9. The Beyond Belief Energy Bean: Sports Beans

Image by Promo Marketing

So much power in such a small, tasty snack. Power beans are jelly beans infused with carbohydrates, proteins, and tons of vitamins. These are real magic beans that taste like candy but work like an energy shot. Put a couple of these in your pocket and you’re off to the races. These little guys can be consumed with such convenience, you could pop a few in your mouth with one hand and wrangle a meaty fish with the other! (though truthfully, we wouldn’t recommend it…)

10. The Pescavore’s Pleasure: Pescavore Ahi Tuna Jerky Strips

image by @pescavore_seafood

Some people like to keep their fish, and some prefer to let them go. However, instead of making the hard choice, just carry around a few sticks of Pescavore’s delicious Ahi Tuna Jerky strips. These jerky sticks are finely crafted to be delicious, and with each stick being an impressive 12G of protein and a solid source of Omega3, how could you say no? Oh, did we mention their caught responsibly with minimal ecosystem disturbance, and without the use of FADs? With this jerky, you can enjoy a healthy snack, as well as a healthy conscious.

BONUS SNACK: Caviar

Video credits to @Tyonthefly and @skinnydrifter_insotightwaders

Buy Them Here!

Nature Valley Protein Bars 

Chomps Beef Jerky

Power Up Granola 

Gummy Worms 

Meal 2 Go

Dried Fruit 

Pretzels 

Peanut Butter 

Sports Beans 

Pescavida Ahi Tuna Jerky

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This article was written by Flylords Team Member Wills Donaldson. 

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