Making your boat survivable for fish, pt. 1

by / 0 Comments / 98 View / June 25, 2016

Editor’s note: This is part one in a three-part-series about making your boat ready for the summer fishing season.
Today I want to talk about what you can do to make your boat more survivable for the fish you catch on Central Texas lakes. I am passionate about survivability of the bass I catch and release back into the lake. Many of us have fished tournaments and had the fish die in the live well and couldn’t understand why. We thought that we had done all the right things to make sure this didn’t happen.
Most tournaments and bass clubs have severe penalties for bringing a dead fish to the scales. Our club charges you 8 ounces for every dead fish you have. That doesn’t sound like much but when you are competitively fishing those ounces add up fast. There have been Bass Master Elite Series events won by only a few ounces.
So, what can you do to insure that you do not have it happen to you in your next tournament?
Remember that survivability of the fish is based on several things:
Part one: How you handle the fish when you bring it to and into your Boat.
Part two: How well you take care of the live well in your boat that holds the fish until weigh-in.
Part three: How you handle them and take them to the weigh-in site and return them to the lake. We will look at each aspect of these three over the next three Hook-up Articles. If you miss one and want a copy send me an e-mail to and I’ll be happy to e-mail you the one you missed.
PART 1: How you handle the fish
You have watched and probably done the same things we see the elite fishermen do when we catch our bass. We do a good hook set then crank it to the boats as fast as we can. Reeling it in that fast does not allow the bass to breathe properly and causes excessive trauma to the fish. If you have made a good hook set and keep constant pressure on the fish it’s not going anywhere but in the boat, no matter how fast you reel it in. Take some time to bring the fish close to the surface so that it doesn’t get entangled with whatever is below the water, but give it time to also breathe and take in the needed water to breathe and survive not only the fight but the upcoming stay in your live well. Next, like the pros, you swing the fish in and drop it in the bottom of the boat. Not good. Every flop the fish makes it takes some of the natural slime off of the fish’s skin leaving it open to infection; not to mention all those things in the bottom of the boat the fish is bouncing off as it tries to get off the hook and back into the water. Or, you or your partner reaches out with the net and nets the fish and drops it in the bottom of the boat so you can lay your rod down and get it out of the net. The net, especially if it’s nylon cord, also removes the slime and sometimes even pops scales loose or off the sides of the fish. This leaves the fish wide open to infection where each of the scales has popped off.
The best method for landing the fish, for its safety, is to bring it alongside and either lip or belly lift the fish into the boat. Much less trauma and damage to the fish.
If you use a net like I do in tournaments, make sure it’s one that protects the fish as much as possible. Throw away the nylon line net and spend the bucks to purchase a wide ban rubber coated net. The rubber coating protects the fish’s skin and much less likely to pop off scales. Yes the rubber coated nets are higher in cost but think how much it will aid in the survivability of the bass.
Okay, so now you have a traumatized bass due to the hookset and flopping around in the bottom of the boat who has probably also lost some scales, now you unhook her open the door to your live well and drop her in on the dry bottom of the live well. Close the door and go turn on the live well pump to pump in water to the already traumatized fish that is flopping around inside a dry live well. Stop beating up this poor fish! When you hit the water after launching the boat, take the time to fill the live wells, or at least when you arrive at your first fishing spot. This allows the well to fill up and be ready to receive the bass you catch without all of the above trauma.
Editor’s note: Part two in the three-part series will cover the things needed to do to make the live well stay more survivable for the fish.