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Why are we so angry when we see someone keep a trophy bass?

Before we get into the season and everyone starts catching (and keeping) bass, I wanted to start a healthy discuss on why us bass addicts get so irate when we see a big bass being caught and kept. For this discussion I will define a trophy bass as one over 20” in length and weighing more than 6lbs.

So why is it every time we see someone report or post a mention or picture of a big bass they have kept, a huge dispute over what is ethical ensues? Usually many heated posts are made and they typically become very personal. Showing the anglers passion for the sport but also creating conflict in an unhealthy manner. So how do we move beyond flaming the angler who chooses to keep a large bass (legally)? I say we educate them on why we are so passionate and concerned with that big fish being taken.

First off let me say that I have never judged anyone who has kept a large bass for personal reasons, to eat or have a mount made, and I won’t as long as that angler is obeying the laws and regulations set forth by the WDFW:

No min. size. Only BASS less than 12" may be retained, except 1 over 17" may be retained. Daily limit
5. Bass may be caught, retained, and released alive from a livewell until a daily limit is in possession.

No min. size. Only 1 BASS over 14" may be retained. Daily limit 10. Bass may be caught, retained,
and released alive from a livewell until a daily limit is in possession.

As with most fish, the growth rate of largemouth bass is highly variable and depends on food supply and environmental conditions. Largemouth can grow to more than 2 pounds their first year under ideal conditions, but in nature about 0.5 pounds is normal. Females are normally larger than males and the maximum size of the Northern largemouth is about 10 pounds with males seldom exceeding 5 pounds.

About 5 pounds of live forage are required for annual maintenance, and 10 pounds of forage are required to add 1 pound of gain to largemouth bass. With such a slow growth season and rate for Northern Strain Largemouth bass in the Northwest, you can see that it takes many years for a bass to grow to trophy size. In some cases Northern Strain bass have been reported to be over 15 years old. So you can assume that a 6+lb bass is anywhere between 6-16 years old.

A bass over the state regulation length of 17” may seem nice as a large table fair but what most people don’t realize is that a fish of this size or greater is old and the meat is not very good. Two bass of a smaller size (say less than 12”) and youthful will have more flavor and fair than one old one. With the potential of 5 bass under 12” that may be retained, this would make for a far better meal.

On a side note, taking bass in the slot limit out of a lake, helps to ensure continued growth and balance to that particular eco system. Allowing other bass to grow and have ample forage. Example: if 5 bass fill a tank and have x amount of forage food to eat, they will only be able to consume 1/5 of the forage each. If you take the same tank and only have 3 bass with the same x amount of forage you now have 1/3 consumption of forage per bass. Every lake in the state struggles with this healthy balance and this is why a slot limit was created. Not to say that the slot limit is the answer but it does help lakes not to become over populated, leading to a stunted bass population. Keep in mind too, with all this information, lakes in the Northwest are not stocked with largemouth bass.

During spawn individual females usually contain 2,000 to 7,000 eggs per pound of body weight, with an average of about 4,000 eggs. The female usually lays a few hundred adhesive eggs at a time. Usually at spawning the weight of eggs in females will be 10 percent or more of her body weight. Larger fish tend to have larger eggs and therefore larger fry but fewer eggs per pound of body weight.

When trophy bass spawn not only are they laying less eggs, but those eggs are carrying very strong genes. The chances that those eggs of a trophy largemouth grow to be another trophy are very high. Thus, quantity gives way to quality. This is one of the biggest factors avid bass anglers become indignant when someone has kept a big bass. That bass has the potential to bring life to more quality fish and to do so for many years. And just about every trophy bass is going to be a female.

I want everyone to see both sides of the coin here. It is completely legal to keep one 17” or larger bass. At the same time realize the passion us bass anglers feel toward these trophy largemouth and the damage it can cause toward that particular lake by taking them out. By putting that big fish back, not only are you ensuring future quality spawned fish, but the chance someone else will have the joy of catching it again are 100% greater. I hope this helps any young or old anglers to understand why we bass fisherman feel so strongly about our large quarry.

Sited Information:
SRAC Publication No. 200
WDFW Rules and Regulations


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Comment by Aaron Christel on February 20, 2010 at 11:50pm
Fishnislife, I heard the exact same story about the record from several people. So, yes, it is suspicious. What was the weight on the fish Tag is holding?
Comment by Jeremiah Partyke on February 19, 2010 at 4:58pm
Eric, it is what I have heard over the years from different anglers that has formed my personal opinion.
The fact that he had just returned from Cali right before the record was recorded. Never had it been identified as a Northern or Florida Strain. Have you known Banks to produce huge largemouth? To state record size? I have heard he isn't the nicest guy to talk to expecially when it comes to the record. I don't know, when it comes to turning in a record you better be willing to give it all up. Rod, reel, line size, bait, pics, maybe even location, if it's havested why would it matter.
All hersay and rumors, I don't know Carl personally but I sure would like to interview him. Like I said before, this is my opinion of it and it would be easily changed if someone would truthfully clear the air. But it really doesn't matte since Tag's state record will be broken this year anyways.

Comment by chad huffman on February 18, 2010 at 2:12pm
wow that is huge! I was just wondering what people thought in that situation honestly i respect tag alot for putting that fish back. I dont know if i would do the same. im average fisherman and i have caught plenty of bass none that quality. A few of my buddies and i have been talking about our goals this season. Mine is to catch a bass over ten pounds in washington. I fish a couple lakes that have that potential and have seen a few in the 8 to 9 pound range. my best being 7 for largemouth and 5.8 smallmouth.i know this is a lofty goal but im confident it can be done.
Comment by Eric DeLay on February 18, 2010 at 6:27am
I didn't know there was any controversy surrounding the Banks Lake record. What is the dope on that?
Comment by Jeremiah Partyke on February 17, 2010 at 9:20pm
The bass community knows who holds the true WA State Record Bass.

I think it takes a bigger man to put a phat bass back then to keep it. The respect Tag has got from his move has not only made him a Wa Legend, but in all our books, he holds the State Record. Besides, to much controversy comes with the supposed Banks Lake State Record. Which, I personally don't believe.

To answer you question chad, yes you would have to harvest a state record to make it "official". But I think more ppl have respect for Tag and the impact he has had on the sport and his record than that guys whos name is in the books. What is it?.... Carl Pruitt. What has he ever done?
I'd put it back.

Comment by chad huffman on February 17, 2010 at 8:03pm
ok this is a great post the way i feel about this is mixed. i do keep bass out of lake sixteen but there are way to many of them. not the big ones were talking 9 to 10 inch. same with banks and conconlly. those are also lakes with abundance of small fish. i do also fish lakes for big bass but i release those theres no need to keep them because i fill my freezer with smaller ones from lakes that are over ran. one thing i learned though specailly with my buddies is its hard for them to throw big fish back. i have made them throw them back and dooing so they wont fish. i dont know the best way to deal with this we need more people in this sport but if we criticize people for catching and eating there catch then we will lose alot of future anglers. And i do have a question for everyone if someone was to catch a state record bass should he not keep it. for it to stand as a legitimite record dosent it have to be weighed by officals. just wondering because honestly i could never fault a guy for keeping a record bass but thats just me. ok lol tear my head off tell me i dont deserve to live haha wont bother me.
Comment by Rodney Heupel on February 17, 2010 at 7:15pm
Well written, the state has a tough job to manage the lakes to please all that use them. Catch and Release was introduced by Ray Scott and BASS at a time it was needed. I have said it befor, Selective Harvest, as promoted by the In-Fisherman may very well be what is needed now. Bottom line its all about education and management. I believe if the state had more money to study the population of each and every lake in the state and envoked regulations to each body of water to match the lakes capacity, it would be a total nightmare to enforce. So I believe we need to do our part to educate all fishermen, bite our tongue if needed, and last do our part to report violations to the game and fish regulations.
Comment by Trent Hale on February 17, 2010 at 6:02pm
Just to read the posts I feel some of the guys on here just fish for fun.lol I did keep every fish that would eat the baits. But that was years ago I have a buddy that kept a 9.25 LMB and I have caught hell ever since. IT IS LEGAL TO KEEP 1 OVER 17" . So don't bash me because I didn't throw him out of the boat. I C&R every fish no matter if its a wall hanger or a bait stealer. But if a guy is fishing with me and they want to keep a fish then thats their deal. Fish and be happy that we can. It may not be this way forever. Marc has learned to C&R when he's in my boat.
Comment by Jeremiah Partyke on February 17, 2010 at 4:27pm
I know Chris. And so does he. He didn't catch that 9 and it wasn't his choice. He feels bad to this day just for being in the same boat, but nothing he could do when the guy wanted to get a mount of it. Again, not knowing that a replica would be just as good. I think if John G was in the boat that that big girl might have went home. Great post John. My favorite part is "last thing I say is so let me get this right you fished for years with only catching small fish & now you are going to keep the big ones & you wonder why you only ever catch small fish."
Right on guys, great discussion and post. We'll except for that Clif guys posts. Who names their kid Clif anyways?

Comment by Chris Blandi on February 17, 2010 at 12:02pm
Make sure Trent reads this post, friends don't let friends keep 9's.

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