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Do You Know Your Bass From A Hole In The Ground? The Largemouth

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The Largemouth Bass is known by many names. Its scientific name is Micropterus salmoides, but it is also known as the widemouth bass, bigmouth bass, black bass, bucketmouth bass, the green bass, green trout, largie, and greenie- just to largeename a few. The largemouth is the state fish of Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, and Florida. Largies are yellowish to olive green in color and colors vary in clarity and brilliance depending on time of year, water conditions, structure and other factors. The lateral line of this species is marked by a series of dark, sometimes black, blotches that form a jagged horizontal pattern not unlike a cardiogram readout or the readout from a sound check. The upper jaw of a largemouth extends beyond the rear edge of the eye socket. Female bass grow faster and generally larger than their male counterparts. The largemouth is the largest of the black basses. The upper limit of length for the largemouth is estimated at 30 inches and the maximum weight could be 24-25 lbs. – but a monster this size has not yet been documented. On average, barring an untimely meeting with a skillet, Micro Sal has an average lifespan of 12-16 years. It has established itself as the most popular game fish in the USA, but here remain some mysteries which I willlarge roadside attempt to reveal.

First, let’s establish the parameters for a lunker. I spend much of my time shuttling between Detroit Metro and the mid-Atlantic states. In my region a six pounder is considered quite an achievement. While that might be good for a tournament bag in the south/south central states, there you only really start to brag when you’ve caught a 10-pounder. So a Northeastern/Upper Midwest 6-pounder holds the same bragging rights as a Southern 10 or maybe a central states 8. Got it? California is a whole different story since more top 10 fish have come from that state than any other.

The All-Tackle record for largemouth is arguably the most sought after game fish record in the world, sort of the “holy grail” of fishing. According to the International Game Fish Association, the official keeper of world records, the current world record for Bass kuritelargemouth bass is held by both George Perry (1932, Montgomery Lake, Georgia) and Manabu Kurita (2009, Lake Biwa, Japan) at 22-pound, 4-ounces. Kurita’s fish was a 29-inch monster. Perry’s was weighed but not measured to our knowledge. His record stood alone for 77 years- and still stands today as quite an achievement. At the time, Perry was a 20-year-old farmer fishing with longtime friend Jack Page. The two were taking turns with a single rod and reel, casting a Creek Chub Fintail Shiner from a wooden Jon boat. Perry was later quoted as saying, “I thought I had hooked a log, but then the log started moving.” He played the bass out from a submerged treetop, finally boating a fish which was bigger than anything he or Page had ever seen. They beached the boat and headed for town where they officially weighed it at 22 pounds, 4 ounces. What it weighted before the journey to the nearest scale is anyone’s guess. Perry’s sole ownership of this record came to an end on July 2, 2009 when Japanese angler Manabu Kurita pulled his own 22-pound, 4-ounce largemouth from Lake Biwa after it ate the live bluegill he was using for bait. Although it occurred large rayon the other side of the globe, news of Kurita’s catch spread rapidly and the doubters circled like vultures waiting for every detail to be authenticated. The IGFA and Japanese Game Fishing Association (JGFA) went as far as to administer a polygraph test to Kurita to ensure the catch and documentation met all  IGFA rules. After months of rigorous review, the IGFA granted Manabu Kurita a tie for the coveted All-Tackle largemouth bass world record.

Raymond Easley holds the title of King of Lake Casitas with his massive 21 lb. 3 oz. largemouth boated on 8 lb. test! What an incredible knee shaking, bone aching, achievement! Caught March 4 1980, it was the largest bass anyone had recorded since Perry’s. Easley’s fish was caught while demonstrating to some friends how to fish a live crawfish in deep water. His bait was crushed, and after a mercifully quick fight, considering the light line, Easley was able to large crupiweigh-in on a certified scale not far from the lake. His 8-pound line class world record still stands today. The catch sent shockwaves through the angling community renewing long dormant dreams of catching the next world record largemouth, especially for anglers in southern California. Ten years later, on March 9, 1990, Robert Crupi pulled in another 21-pound lunker, this time from the renowned Castaic Lake in Southern California.

Let’s start the life-cycle discussion with the spawn- every article should have its spice, right? Well, perhaps to no one’s surprise, there is a lot of bumping and grinding going on during the spawn. Male bass bump (that’s with a B) the females to stimulate the release of eggs and hurry the spawning process along. It’s a bizarre mating ritual somewhat reminiscent of a domestic battery case I saw on a “Law & Order” episode. One interesting fact that you may not know- the bigger they large bedare, the earlier in a season they will spawn. No one really knows why. Some scientists think it is a sort of metabolic impetus while others think it could be a Darwinian “to the biggest go the best spawning beds”- sort of right of first mating. Regardless of the reason, the bottom line is, if you fish the beds, you will likely find the big girls are the first at the Dance.

Unlike with a lot of other species, these big girls are not going to win any prizes for maternal instinct. Drop and run is pretty much the female bass’ approach to egg laying and nest tending. It is the smaller male bass that take on the egg-guarding role. This means the window to pick off a large female on the nest is limited. After dropping their eggs they move smartly to take up position on post spawn ambush type structure. They are looking for easy meals to regain energy without expending much of the same.  All the while the female is laying her eggs, the male is into his role as largemouth-love-stumpssecurity.

Largemouth have adapted to a wider range of water temperatures and oxygen levels compared to their cousins the smallmouth. While largemouth have preferred temperatures- as evidenced by the fact that their size varies by geographic climate, they still move from the depths to the shallows and back again depending on time of year and temperature of the water– functioning well in water from 30 to 90 degrees Fahrenheit. Their ultimate preference? The low 80s.

Debate amongst biologists and fisherman alike has gone on for many years as to the intelligence of largemouth bass. Are their actions the result of genetic imprinting and impulse or is there indeed an element of learned behavior and decision making? Most agree that bass behave in a manner which, suggests they are the smartest of the common game fish. Most fisherman agree that if you want to catch a bass with a specific presentation, you had better get it right the first time. There is evidence that suggests that if a largemouth slips your hook(s) it may indeed avoid similar situations in the future.large pic

Although one of them is not determining the mortality of Bruce Willis, largemouth do have six senses that help them defend against or deal with the various aquatic threats or situations they are likely to encounter. These senses are facilitated by their lateral line which, while accentuated by its geometric pattern, is really a series of pores filled with water and nerve endings. These pores allow the bass to detect extremely low-frequency vibrations in the water and enable the fish to determine the source, and in course, develop a reaction to it.  Bass can link different frequency patterns to things as specific as types and location of both predators and prey. Therefore, for a bass, a specific pattern of sound waves will elicit a specific response.

Another of these senses is sight. It has been determined that bass are attracted to the color red. While scientists do not believe a bass can see colors, they have determined that bass can frogwowdiscern red better than any other color in the light spectrum. Bass biologists have also determined that bass cannot adjust their eyes to sunlight. This may be the key to understanding bass movement and structure preference during certain weather conditions and times of day. It is, however, a myth that bass avoid bright sunlight because it hurts their eyes. While bright sunlight won’t bother a bass, bass cannot adjust their eyes to sunlight. In addition to not having eyelids, bass have fixed irises, so they can’t internally block light before it reaches the retina. That light doesn’t hurt their eyes because bass have unique dark color pigments around their photoreceptors that dampen the harshness of the light.

When it comes to taste, a list of all the foods consumed by bass would lead you to conclude they do not have a picky palate. While they may not be picky, what a bass eats is one of the key things that determines the overall health of the bass population in a particular body of water. Recruitment, or better said, how many baby bass grow to adults, what kills bass, and how long they live, is often determined by what foods end up in their stomachs- not that different from humans. Where as we say “you are what you eat” bass more directly tell us “as you eat so you will live”. In well managed bodies of water, biologists help bass eat better by stocking forage fish such as shad, herring or alewives. But then, almost every lake, pond, river and stream have at least some food bass will eat, so these efforts are more like dietary supplements to manage the overall health and growth of the bass population. Bass will pretty much eat anything- insects, crayfish, frogs, lizards, snakes, other fish, baby birds and even small rodents end up on the bass a la carte menu.largie

Common angler wisdom contends that you will find bass by focusing on cover, structure, and proximity to deep water. But these elements do vary by the water being fished. In impoundments it is often brush and timber that hold fish. In natural lakes fish related to various types of aquatic plants, and fallen trees along the shore. bottom structure such as humps, underwater points, rock piles, old roadbeds, and edges of a creek channels also are key places for bass “hangouts”. If you really want to think like a bass, think of places from which you could launch an ambush. Oftentimes this means a place that is fairly close to deeper water. The proximity to deep water, or location of features in deep w  ater is more significant the clearer lakes or body of water you are fishing. As a broad summerrule, big structure will hold fish in quantities, but a bigger fish must be thought of as being more isolated. For example, a small clump of sticks, a lone tree stump, or an isolated pod of milfoil could each be just the spot where a big bass might be waiting for its next meal.

So what about seasonality and time of day? Like most creatures, bass have a keen awareness of seasons. Whether from the amount of day light, temperature of the water, behavior of forage, or other factors, largemouth know the season, even in regions where the changes are more subtle, and they behave accordingly. Seeking the thermocline in the winter, warmer waters in the spring, cooler waters in the summer and following forage in fall are all seasonal behaviors. As for catching largemouth, you can catch them all year long in just about any climate. Seasonal patterns have been the subject of many articles on the iBass360 blog so I will leave further details to those authors.

Time of day is a different matter. Time of day for best fishing really has to do with how well the angler understands how summeerthis pectoral eating machine adjusts his feeding patterns to the basic elements- water temperature, light intensity, and human activity. If you understand how a largemouth will select cover and water depth to put itself in the best position to get an easy meal, then you should have no issue selecting the right places to fish during any particular time of day, as well as the right lure to represent that easy meal. Look at the amount of human activity that occurs on a given body of water. It’s mostly in daylight hours, and heaviest in the nicest weather of summer- typically bright, hot days. Plug all these seasonal, temperature, light and human factors into your thinking process and you’ll see patterns emerge. For example, in summer your best bet for big bass is either in periods of low light or places of heavy cover. In spring you have the best opportunity during the warmest part of the day in areas of warm water. In Winter, the main time is the warmest part of the day in places the sun has had a chance to warm or in deeper water where you can identify concentrations of forage. Finally, in fall they will be wherever they can best load up on food during the day.

The last comments I will make regarding largemouth relate to bass baits. Many fishermen use big lures to catch big bass. There is nothing wrong with this approach. Anglers need to also be flexible and recognize that under tough conditions, t07.23.2015 -- Sam Cook -- cookBASS0802c2 -- A largemouth bass leaps in lily pads along the shore of Big Lake near Cloquet in an effort to throw the hook from a plastic frog. Doug Pirila of Proctor caught the bass, which weighed about 2 1/2 pounds. Sam Cook / scook@duluthnews.comsmall lures can also catch big bass if presented the right way and under the right circumstances. A similar corollary is that a big part of presenting the right way is to fish very slowly. Forget about the physical differences between smallmouth and largemouth. The biggest difference is that smallmouth are athletes, speedsters, and acrobats when it comes to feeding. On the contrary, largemouth are muggers lurking in dark alleys waiting for the ambush- a quick overpowering burst and then back to the shadows. This is why they are more about worms, jig and pig or soft plastics, swimbaits, and surface plugs- they can all be fished very slowly in a manner that allows them to linger and entice the brute to strike. Oh and when it happens, LIVE THE PASSION!

State Weight Location Angler Year
Alaska           N/A                      N/A       N/A  N/A
Alabama      16 lbs, 8 oz            Mountain View Lake Thomas Burgin  1987
Arizona        16 lbs, 7 oz            Canyon Lake Randall White  1997
Arkansas        16 lbs, 5 oz              Lake Dunn Paul Crowder  2012
California    21 lbs, 12 oz              Lake Castaic Micheal Arujo  1991
Colorado    11 lbs, 6 oz              Echo Canyon Reservoir Jarrett Edwards  1997
Connecticut    12 lbs, 14 oz              Mashapaug Pond Frank Domurat  1961
Delaware    11 lbs, 10 oz              Wagamons Pond AJ Klein  2016
Florida    17 lbs, 27 oz              Unnamed Lake Billy  O’Berry  1986
Georgia    22 lbs, 4 oz              Montgomery Lake George Perry  1932
Hawaii      9 lbs, 9.4 oz              Waita Reservoir Dickie Broyles  1992
Idaho 10 lbs, 15 oz              Anderson Lake Mrs. M.W. Taylor   N/A
Illinois    13 lbs, 1 oz              Stone Quarry Edward Walbel  1976
Indiana    14 lbs, 12 oz              Unnamed Lake Jenifer Schultz  1991
Iowa    10 lbs, 14 oz              Lake Fisher Patricia Zaerr  1984
Kansas 11 lbs, 12.8 oz Private Pit Lake Tyson Hallam  2008
Kentucky 13 lbs, 10.4 oz Wood Creek Lake Dale Wilson  1984
Louisiana 15.97 lbs Caney Lake Greg Wiggins  1994
Maine 11 lbs, 10 oz Moose Pond Rodney Cockrell  1968
Maryland 11 lbs, 2 oz Private Pond Rodney Cockrell  1983
Massachusetts 15 lbs, 8 oz Sampson Pond Walter Bolonis  1975
Michigan 11 lbs, 15.04 oz Big Pine Island Lake William Maloney  1934
Minnesota 8 lbs, 12.75 oz Tetonka Lake Joseph Johanns  1959
Mississippi 18 lbs, 2.4 oz Natchez State Park Lake Anthony Denny  1992
Missouri 13 lbs, 14 oz Bull Shoals Lake Marvin Bushong  1961
Montana 8 lbs, 12.8 oz Noxon Rapids Reservoir Darin Williams  2009
Nebraska 10 lbs, 11 oz Sandpit Near Columbus Paul Abegglen Sr.  1965
Nevada 12 lbs even Lake Mead Micheal R. Geary  1999
New Hampshire 10 lbs, 8 oz Lake Potanipo G. Bullpit  1967
New Jersey 10 lbs, 14 oz Menantico Sand Wash Pond Robert Eisele  1980
New Mexico 15 lbs, 13 oz Bill Evans Lake Steve Estrada  1995
New York 11 lbs, 4 oz Buckhorn Lake John L. Higbie  1987
North Carolina 15 lbs, 14 oz Private Pond William H. Wofford  1991
North Dakota 8 lbs, 7.5 oz Nelson Lake Leon Rixen  1983
Ohio 13 lbs, 2 oz Private Pond    Roy Landsberger 1976
Oklahoma 14 lbs, 12.3 oz Cedar Lake    Benny Williams Jr. 2012
Oregon 11 lbs, 9.6 oz Private Pond    Randy Spaur 1994
Pennsylvania 11 lbs, 3 oz Birch Run Reservoir    Donal Shade 1983
Rhode Island 10 lbs, 6 oz Johnson’s Pond    Brandon Migliore 2016
South Carolina 16 lbs, 2 oz Lake Marion    P.H. Flanagan 1949
South Dakota    9 lbs, 3 oz Hudson Gravel Pit    Richard Vierick 1999
Tennessee 15 lbs, 2 oz Chickamauga Lake    Gabe Keen 2015
Texas 18 lbs, 2.8 oz Lake Fork    Barry St.Clair 1992
Utah 10 lbs, 2 oz Powell Lake    Sam Lamanna 1974
Vermont 10 lbs, 4 oz Lake Dunmore    Tony Gale 1988
Virginia 16 lbs, 4 oz Connor Lake    Richard Tate 1985
Washington 11 lbs, 9 oz Banks Lake    Carl Pruitt 1977
West Virginia    9 lbs, 9.9 oz Dog Run Lake    Eli Gain 2001
Wisconsin 11 lbs, 3 oz Ripley Lake    N/A 1940
Wyoming    7 lbs, 14 oz Private Pond    Dustin Shorma 1992





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