I'm coming off the most disastrous tournament in recent memory (a few weeks ago now). Yes we had a limit of fish on, but even then they weighed about 8lbs. Things Just didn't turn out our way at the Grand River D&R tournament, so we dumped our 3 and got on the road.
I don't have a whole lot of details on this one. Practice was brief for me as Amanda, Mabel, and I came home from the hospital that day. I met Shaun at the lake and immediately had to put the plug in the boat. Meaning practice was starting with me fishing in my underwear, hopefully everyone enjoyed the show. There wasn't much to see in that little bit of time, and we had nothing good to go on. If there is one place where that doesn't mean much it is the river. We just went fishing and despite catching a bunch of fish, the size was terrible. It wasn't like we were fishing places where little fish were common. But every time one would roll on the rat and then eat a bullet craw, it would be a disappointing 13 incher. That's really about all I've got to say about that one so we are going to move onto something far more important.
Let's take a bit to talk about what got us all interested in this in the first place, the fish. We are going to revisit something I brought up on my facebook page awhile ago and then talk about some other things that really bother me. Things that are apparently are going on because they were brought up to me by someone with a little bit of knowledge on what is going on with the tournament scene.
It's time to bring up cull tags again and the fact that it is unacceptable for people to be giving every fish that goes into their livewell "the shank". That's what I call the puncture style cull tags that leave giant gashes in a fishes lower jaw (I've attached a couple recent pics of shank victims Shaun or I has caught). Let me say when I first started I did the same crap, stuck the little ones with a cull tag in the lower jaw. But I remember as the day went on and they were handled more seeing their jaws turn red and the gashes develop. It didn't take long and I purchased a plastic clip style cull system (same as the accu culls I use now). Sure they didn't work perfect but I stopped poking a bunch of fish and started releasing them in better shape. What I'm saying is it isn't too late for anyone to change, is it really that big of deal to spend a few bucks to update your culling system? do we really need to poke every fish? or put a cull tag on it in general?
I have seen some dumb stuff this year. Dudes at weigh in on lake that takes 18 plus to win every time getting 9lbs out of their livewells all with shanks on them. Truly big fish with shank marks, really is a 4lber that hard to find in the livewell? Or maybe it's just tough to find that 4.5lber with all the other 5lbers swimming around? If I have to sort 4lbers in a tournament, I can probably afford the extra time it takes to find them in the livewell (and on most lakes I'm going to order pizza and ice cream too). Besides it's not like we have any draw tournaments in West Michigan. In most cases you are sorting 5 fish with 2 livewells. Bigs on one side, swimmers on the other. You may have to do some switching and swapping throughout a really good day, but in all it is not that difficult. Another thing that I hate about those cull tags is it totally promotes dragging fish around the carpet, grabbing them all out of the livewell at once by the cull tags (everyone looks cool doing that), and generally rough handling of fish. It's pretty easy to do whatever you want with them when the only way they are coming off is to un shank them or cut their jaw off.
So there are a few things we can do to prevent this. If you are set on using shank style culling clips, shank them as close to the jaw bone as you can. Without a bunch of rough handling, those fish shouldn't be in too bad of shape. But please don't shank every single fish you touch! Everyone can man up and get their hands wet, those bass aren't going to bite your hand off and you won't melt. There are a bunch of non puncture cull systems out there, try one. It's a small price to pay for keeping our bass as healthy as possible. I've got accu culls, they aren't perfect. You can't support the weight of a fish by hanging onto the cull tag. No big deal, I can see which fish is on which tag and I use the tag to guide me to the fishes mouth. Might take an extra second, but I'm not rough with the fish then and they have no noticeable effects. The most popular one out there right now is the Cali-Clip, I'm not necessarily sold on that one since the clips are huge. TH Marine has one coming out that I may look at when my accu culls go and Qwik 8 Bait Co. has another cool looking one. Until then I'm not going to worry about it. I usually don't have more than 3 fish tagged at any one time, and I've got 5 accu culls left that will eventually break. Hopefully by then someone will have perfected a non shanking culling system.
I've also heard some things about dead fish being released at the weigh in or culled and left floating in the lake. As far as I can tell culling dead fish is illegal per the Michigan Fishing Guide - It is unlawful to "Deposit litter, fish, offal, or any foreign matter in any waters of the state or any lands, private or public". Usually it is not spelled out in the tournament rules (BASS rules do), but that is how I interpret it. The only exception I can find is West Michigan Bass allows you to cull a dead fish because they allow you to bring the dead fish in with you. That is the only tournament series I've seen that allows you to have more that 5 fish in your possession in the parking lot whether they are dead or alive. So except for that West Michigan Bass I haven't seen anywhere else it is legal to cull a dead fish. Meaning the options are to either release a fish if it's struggling, work really hard to keep it alive, or risk it dying and being stuck with it. It's a difficult call sometimes, whether to risk being stuck with one or not, especially if the fishing is tough or you don't have a limit. It's even worse if it is a fish that is 2.5lbs or bigger. I've saved a couple bleeders this year by dumping G Juice right on the wound. But you must keep a watchful eye on them, because they can go quick. A little loss of equilibrium at first isn't that concerning. However if you see their eyes start to yellow and fade, you might be in trouble.
As far as releasing dead fish at the launch sites, that makes all bass fisherman look like clowns. There is no excuse to dump a dead one back in, don't chuck it in a nearby trash can either. Often times there are people fishing from shore that would love a fish to take home if you don't want to yourself. Regardless of what you choose to do with it, leaving a dead fish out in the public's eye makes us all look bad. Sometimes that means making a judgment call on if one is going to make it or not or maybe it's spending some extra time reviving one. Side note I did see some anglers at a recent even with a couple dead ones taking them with them or giving them to someone who wanted them. Good on them for doing their part!
A couple other simple things, I've got a new Reel n Smoke Recipe out. If you have ever been interested in a simple, delicious, and fun meal over the open fire than you are going to want to check this and the beer pairing out! It's a great way to take an easy meal up north with you or just have a fun and different dinner in the back yard one night.
I also want to give a huge shout out to one of Michigan's best local tackle shops, ClearH2O Tackle for keeping me well supplied with anything I need this year. I'd strongly encourage you to check out this video for some details on one of the simplest ways to order whatever kind of tackle you can dream up. The best part is if you are somewhat local you can have what you need (if it's in stock) within a day and a half without any crazy shipping charges. If it's not in stock it won't be far behind, also make sure you ask about some of the local flavors they have in the shop. Also it isn't just a great place to get tackle, but marine supplies as well. If you have any questions about how to place an order, get a hold of me and we will make it happen.
Also I've got to apologize for the lack of tournament info. I've got 2 tournaments to catch up on, the Payback Bass on the Grand River and the D&R on White Lake. I might just have to do a couple mini blogs on them in the next week. But between fishing those, dealing with an extremely colicky baby, and working some on Lake Huron it has been absolute chaos. Anyway I'm going to try really hard to crank those out this weekend. Some relaxation and the ROI Classic on Muskegon are all that's in store for the weekend, oh and maybe thinking about some king salmon jigging. It's coming soon!