Tips for Keeping Bass Alive in Summertime Tournaments by Brandon K Jenkins
It is something that all of us tournament anglers struggle with this time of year, keeping fish alive during the dog days of summer. Nothing bothers me more about summertime tournaments than to go by the weigh-in and see fish that have not survived the long day in a fisherman’s livewell. Most of the fish that are weighed in are mature spawning bass and are very critical to any given lake’s fertility. I always shake my head and think about what could have been done to prevent the large numbers of dead bass at the tournament.
First of all I must lay blame where it belongs. One, the tournament director should change the number of fish weighed in to a 3 or 4 fish limit, instead of the normal 5 fish limit. This is something that I have seen implemented on Pickwick and I think that it makes a tremendous difference. The less fish you have in a livewell, the more oxygen there is to go around. Also, all boaters should be made to prove their livewells have a working recirculating pump/areator. Some of the better pumps available through Bass Pro Shops are the Pro Air System Air Livewell Pump (retail $74.99), the OXYGENATOR Pro Livewell Flush Mount (retail $149.99), and the Mayfair Basspirator Livewell Aerating System (retail $76.99). Second, the anglers should make sure they have a device to release a bass’s swim bladder if it is caught in deep water. Some of you may call this “fizzing” or venting a fish. This is something that every angler who fishes deep in the summertime has a responsibility to learn and implement. Bass Pro Shops carries a few venting devices that are both inexpensive, and very easy to use. Two of the more popular items that we stock are the Ventafish Fish Venting Tool (retail $14.99), and the Othero Vent for Life (retail $8.99).
Taking care of the fish is not that difficult; it just takes patience, ice and livewell additives. One of the more popular additives that we sell here at Bass Pro Shops is the U2 Pro Formula Livewell (retail $12.99). I believe that every angler has the responsibility to keep his fish alive, and in the heat of the summer should make sure they have several bags of ice to use during the day to add to the livewells. Ice cools the water, which slows down the metabolism of the bass. This reduces their oxygen demand, compared to what they need in hot water.
Keep a temperature gauge in the livewell and check it every 30 minutes. Add ice to the livewell throughout the day so the water temperature stays below 65 degrees. Keep in mind that chlorinated water kills fish, too, so freeze some unchlorinated water to make ice, or partially fill some plastic soft drink bottles with water, put them in your freezer, and then take a few of them in your boat’s ice chest. That way no chlorine will get in the water as the ice melts.
Next keep your aerator on at all times. Most boats have 2 settings on their aerator system: a constant on and a timed system. If the water is moving, it generally adds enough dissolved oxygen to keep the fish from dying. You don’t have to continually change the water over if you just keep it moving, this will allow the water to stay cooler with ice, and keep the livewell additive in the tank.
I also see many anglers keep all keeper-size fish until its time to weigh in. While one partner is getting the boat, the boater is culling the fish; and often several of those keepers are dead before they get to the weigh in. You need to cull your small fish immediately upon catching them. Overcrowding the livewells is the worst thing you can do to keep fish alive in the heat.
It is up to all of us to conserve the great outdoors. Be an angler who cares. Make smart decisions to keep your fish alive, and keep our lakes productive tournament lakes for years to come.