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Group Title: Circular Florida Cooperative Extension Service
Title: Guidelines for conducting live-release bass tournaments
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Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00014468/00001
 Material Information
Title: Guidelines for conducting live-release bass tournaments
Series Title: Circular Florida Cooperative Extension Service
Physical Description: 7 p. : ill. ; 28 cm.
Language: English
Creator: Schramm, Harold L
Publisher: Florida Cooperative Extension Service, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida
Place of Publication: Gainesville
Publication Date: 1986?
Subject: Bass fishing   ( lcsh )
Genre: government publication (state, provincial, terriorial, dependent)   ( marcgt )
bibliography   ( marcgt )
non-fiction   ( marcgt )
Bibliography: Bibliography: p. 7.
Statement of Responsibility: Harold L. Schramm, Jr.
General Note: Cover title.
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Bibliographic ID: UF00014468
Volume ID: VID00001
Source Institution: University of Florida
Holding Location: University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier: ltqf - AAA6889
ltuf - AEH7532
oclc - 14990187
alephbibnum - 000879748
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Full Text

Circular 708




Harold L. Schramm, Jr.

Florida Cooperative Extension Service Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences
University of Floiida a John T. Woeste, Dean


Harold L. Schramm, Jr.

Bass tournaments are becoming an increasingly
prevalent recreational use of our aquatic resources.
On some waters, the number of angling hours ex-
pended and the number of bass caught by tournament
participants can exceed one-third of the total bass
fishing effort and catch in a given year. Because of the
increasing frequency of bass tournaments, there is a
hazard that competitive bass fishing could severely
reduce bass populations in our fishing waters. De-
creased abundance of bass results in decreased catch
rate of bass, fewer large bass caught, and undesirable
changes in the entire fish community.
Bass tournaments have been viewed with disdain
by many people. This is partly due to a lack of con-
sideration by some tournament anglers for other
people using the water and adjacent public areas
(parks, boat launch facilities, etc.). Most of the
negative sentiment, however, stems from the belief
that tournaments result in the removal of large
numbers of bass from a lake or river.
Awareness of these problems has resulted in the
increasing prevalence of live-release tournaments.
Well-organized tournaments with desirable fish
handling procedures and with the participating
anglers skilled at maintaining their catch alive can
achieve greater than 90% live release of tournament-
caught fish. A previous publication1 provided informa-
tion useful to anglers to maximize the survival of the
fish they catch. The purpose of this publication is to
provide information on fish handling procedures to
groups and individuals conducting tournaments so
that high survival rates of tournament-caught fish
can be achieved. The first part of this circular
discusses desirable procedures for conducting tour-
naments that end with a weigh-in and release. The
second part of the circular discusses alternatives to
the "weigh-in" tournaments.

Procedures for Weigh-in Tournaments
Live-Release Policy
Weigh-in tournaments must have a live-release
policy that serves as an incentive for anglers to keep
their catch alive and healthy. The vast majority of
tournament-caught bass that die are a result of stress
from (1) angler negligence and (2) inadequate livewell
systems. Therefore, it is essential to have a dead-fish
penalty system and to require aerated livewells. In
the second part of this publication alternatives to the
standard aerated livewell rule and dead-fish penalty
are suggested.

Procedures for Handling Fish at Weigh-in

At any tournament with a weigh-in, fish must be
moved from the boat livewells to the scales, weighed,
and released. This is critical portion of the tourna-
ment, because typically several "steps" are included
in the weigh-in procedure. At each step, the fish are
stressed by additional handling and are held out of
desirable conditions. Obviously, fish should be han-
dled quickly, gently, and only when essential and
returned to desirable conditions as soon as possible.
ITransporting Fish to the Weigh-in Station The
fish should be transported from the boat livewell to the
first station of the weigh-in in water-filled, plastic
bags or mesh bags. If plastic bags are used, provide
heavy duty bags so that the fish cannot puncture the
bag and the bag will not tear when filled with fish and
water. Have plenty of bags available and encourage
the anglers to put at least three gallons of well-
aerated water and no more than 10 pounds of fish in
each bag. (Hint: get a sponsor to buy your bags; the
sponsor's name or logo printed on the bag at very
modest cost is good advertising.) If mesh bags are
used, select woven knotlesss) nylon mesh bags with
1/4-or 3/8-inch mesh. Treating these mesh bags with a
plastic net coating makes the bags last longer, dry
more quickly and with less odor, and, most important-
ly, facilitates removal of the fish from the bags.
A tank of water, with water temperature main-
tained at a desirable level, must be available to im-
merse the fish-filled bags while the contestants await
weigh-in. If plastic bags are used, this tank of water is
used to suspend the plastic bag and prevent rapid
warming or cooling of the fish. If mesh bags are used,
the water in this tank should be well aerated. Aera-
tion and temperature control are discussed below (see
"Fish Holding Thnk").
Fish Judging Station Because a penalty or
bonus is assessed for dead fish or live fish, respectively,
each contestant's catch must be inspected for number
of dead and live fish. This is also a convenient time to
check the size of the fish if a size limit has been im-
posed. Numerous alternatives are possible for inspect-
ing and judging fish. The best one I have seen is an
open-top box with an outlet at one end (Figure 1). The
box is operated by pouring fish from the bag into the
box, quickly counting the live and dead fish and check-
ing the size of small fish, then sliding the fish through
the outlet into a container (mesh bag, plastic con-
tainer) for immediate weighing. The box can be of any

1Schramm, H.L., Jr. 1985. Keeping your catch alive. Florida Cooperative Extension Service, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences,
University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida 32611. Circular 691.
* Harold L. Schramm, Jr. is Assistant Professor and Fisheries Science Specialist, Department of Fisheries and Aquaculture, School of Forest
Resources and Conservation, IFAS, University of Florida, Gainesville.

Figure 1. Live Release box.

size desired. The vertical sides of the box should be at
least 8 inches high to prevent fish from jumping out.
Legs can be installed to elevate the box to a height
comfortable for the person judging the fish. The box
can be made of a variety of materials, but the bottom
surface should be smooth and level with the outlet to
minimize abrasion or scale loss to the fish. The bottom
surface of the box should be kept wet; do not drill drain
holes. All fish should be handled with wet hands.
Fish Weighing A variety of suitably accurate
scales are available for weighing fish. Use a direct
reading scale; they provide a weight reading more
quickly than a balance. "Instantaneous weight"
scales are ideal for weighing live fish. These scales,
however, are expensive and require a 110 V AC power
supply. Weighing fish in mesh bags is quicker and less
injurious to the fish, because they move less in the
mesh bag than in a basket or bucket. Simultaneously
using several mesh bags can expedite a weigh-in. The
bags can be adjusted to equal weight by first soaking
the bags in water and then sewing an appropriate
weight of stainless steel washers to each bag.


Holding Fish In general, it is better to return fish
to the lake or river immediately after weighing. When
this is not desired, or if good water for releasing fish is
not close by, the fish should be held in a large volume of
clean, well aerated, cool water. Use water from the
lake or river where the fish were caught. Commer-
cially-available fish transport tanks make good
holding tanks. Custom holding tanks can be made to
specifications by aluminum or fiberglass fabricators.
Tanks can be made of wood. The following factors
should be considered in the design or selection of a
holding tank:
1. the tank should have smooth interior walls with
no obstructions to trap or injure the fish;
2. the tank should be able to hold one gallon of
water per pound of fish;
3. the tank should have easily operated hatches to
prevent fish from jumping out of the tank and
allow quick opening and closing for introduction
and removal of fish;
4. the tank should have a completely removable top
with several small, hinged hatches;
5. the tank should not be more than 4 feet high and
water depth should be less than 3 1/2 feet; and
6. the tank should have a 1 1/2 inch or larger drain
(1/2 inch mesh screen attached to the inner tank
wall will prevent fish from becoming trapped in
the drain).
Adequate aeration of holding tank water is essen-
tial. Aeration is most efficiently and economically
accomplished by a compressed oxygen-diffuser
system. Diffusers can be made of porous plastic pipe
and PVC pipe. The porous plastic pipe can be
cemented to standard, 1-inch PVC pipe and fittings
with PVC cement to make a diffuser manifold. For a
large holding tank, construct two manifolds to fit
length-wise in the tank (figure 2). Install these
manifolds parallel to each other. The diffuser


Figure 2. Fish holding tank and oxygen diffuser manifold.

manifolds should be weighted or, preferably, fastened
in place to the tank bottom they will become very
buoyant when the air is turned on. Only a small
amount of porous pipe is necessary. Use 6 to 12 inch
lengths of porous pipe interspersed with PVC pipe.
Install about 1 foot of porous pipe for every 100 gallons
of water the tank will hold. Each manifold can be con-
nected to an airline by drilling and tapping a PVC end
cap to accept a threaded male airline fitting. A single
stage regulator connected to the oxygen cylinder is
used to regulate air flow. A valved "Y" allows connec-
tion of two manifolds to one regulator. Adjust the air
flow so that a thin curtain of air rises from the porous
pipe. Tb prevent damage to the regulator, fittings and
plastic pipe connections, close the regulator complete-
ly (turn the T-handle all the way out) and open any
inline valves completely before opening the cylinder
valve. Open the valve on top of the oxygen cylinder,
then slowly open the regulator to achieve desired air
flow (usually about 5-15 psi). If using two manifolds,
equalize the air flow to each manifold with the "Y"
valve or inline valves.
Temperature control is important because water
temperature affects the fish metabolism, affects the
oxygen content of the water, and can significantly
stress the fish. The tank water temperature should not
exceed 85 F. If the lake water temperature is below
75 F., the tank water temperature should be the same
as the temperature of the lake water. If the lake water
temperature is 75-90 "F, it is desirable to keep the tank
water temperature 5 F cooler than the lake water.
Plenty of block ice should be available to maintain con-
stant, desirable water temperatures.
Use of live well additives is a popular practice among
many tournament fishermen and these additives are
occasionally used in holding tanks at tournaments.
Use of these commercially available formulations is
not recommended. Chemicals contained in these
livewell additives are not approved by the US Food
and Drug Administration for use on food fish.
Although your intention is to release all fish alive,
some will die and these fish are typically given to peo-
ple who plan to clean and eat the fish. Similarly, fish
anesthetics should not be used. Use of salt is recom-
mended. Salt reduces stress to the fish and stimulates
mucus secretion. Sea salt is preferred, but rock salt or
uniodized table salt is effective. Salt should be added
to the holding tank at a rate of 0.5% (0.7 ounces of salt
per gallon of water).
Fish in a tank will excrete waste products. At a high
density of fish, the waste products can increase to
stressful concentrations. The simple way to prevent
this is to release the fish as soon as possible. At high
density (1 pound of fish per gallon of water) the fish
should be released in two hours or less.

Releasing Fish
Fish should be released as soon as possible at a loca-
tion where they have immediate access to deep, cool
water with good water quality. Research has shown
that healthy, unstressed tournament-caught bass will
move great distances after release. Stressed bass,
however, will seek desirable water conditions but
often remain in the area where released. To maximize
the chances of fish survival, release them directly into
water with the best possible conditions. It is difficult to
provide a useful definition of "good water quality",
because tournaments are held on diverse waters and,
with the exception of temperature, a tournament
group would likely not have access to the instruments
used to measure water quality parameters. In lieu of a
definition, the following guidelines may be useful for
selecting a release site with good water quality:
1. release fish into the least turbid water available;
2. do not release fish into areas with low water cir-
culation (for example, small bays, areas of dense
aquatic plants, canals, etc.);
3. do not release fish into areas with organic
matter suspended in the water;
4. do not release fish into busy, public use areas;
5. do not release fish into water discharged from
power plants water treatment facilities, or
industries; and
6. do not release fish into areas affected by storm
runoff, marsh drainage, or watershed alteration.
Do not release weak or injured fish. Because some
post-release mortality is to be expected, even of fish
that appear healthy, fish should be released into areas
where dead fish will not be readily conspicuous or
create a nuisance.
On some waters it may be necessary to transport the
fish to a release site with deep, cool, good quality
water. When this situation occurs, a boat (or a truck, if
overland transport is more practical) equipped with an
aerated fish holding tank is needed. Alternatively,
have the contestants assist you. After a contestant's
fish are weighed, return the live fish to the contestant
and inform him or her where to release the fish. A
check boat at the release site can observe the release of
the fish. A bonus-penalty system can be used to
enhance compliance.

Tournament Site Selection
The water to be fished and the weigh-in site are two
important considerations that can strongly affect the
mortality rate of tournament-caught fish. Avoid
waters with a history of fish kills during times of the
year when these die-offs are known to occur. Schedule
tournaments during the cooler seasons and do not con-
duct tournaments on waters with water temperatures
exceeding 90 F. Avoid lakes or rivers where most bass
are caught in water deeper than 30 feet.

Select a tournament weigh-in site immediately adja-
cent to good-quality water. This will facilitate live
release of the fish after weighing, and will provide a
source of good quality water for anglers fishing from
boats with livewell systems that rely solely on the
input of outside water for aeration. The weigh-in site
should be in a shaded area to facilitate temperature
control of holding tank water.
All rules and procedures should be clearly and suc-
cinctly stated. Printed copies of these rules and pro-
cedures should be distributed to each contestant.
Announce your weigh-in procedures before the start of
the tournament and at the end of the fishing day
before the weigh-in commences. It is important that
the fish be out of aerated holding facilities for the
shortest time possible. Tb avoid contestants waiting in
line with fish in bags, tell the contestants when to bag
their fish and bring them for weigh-in. Arrange your
weigh-in site so that contestants can quickly move
their fish from the boat livewell to the weigh-in
Have plenty of people to work. Under the most
organized conditions for a tournament with 40 to 60
boats, at least eight people are required: two people to
distribute bags and keep contestants coming to the
scales, one person to keep the contestants organized at
the weigh-in stations, one person judging size and live-
dead, one person reading the scale, one person record-
ing data, and two people releasing fish. Additional
workers are desirable. All people assisting with the
tournament should be fully cognizant of all rules and

Alernatives To Weigh-in Tournaments
The above guidelines will help tournament organizers
attain high survival of tournament-caught fish.
Research on survival of tournament-caught
largemouth bass indicates, in properly conducted tour-
naments, that mortality of the fish is primarily the
result of the improper design and use of boat livewells.
Therefore any procedure that results in use of better
livewell facilities, provides incentive to properly main-
tain and use a livewell system, reduces the number of
fish held in a livewell, and reduces the time fish are
held in the livewell will increase the survival of
tournament-caught fish.
The following alternatives to the standard "fish for 9
hours and weigh your fish" tournaments may improve
the live-release rate of tournament-caught bass. The
ideas presented here have been collected from a varie-
ty of sources including state agency fisheries
biologists, bass fishing clubs, and individual
fishermen. All these alternatives certainly would not

be implemented in every tournament, and this list is
undoubtly far from complete. These alternatives are
presented for your consideration to improve the sur-
vival of tournament-caught bass in your next tourna-

Dead Fish Penalty Most tournaments impose a
dead fish penalty (typically 2 ounces is subtracted
from the total weight for each fish weighed in dead) as
an incentive to participating anglers to maintain their
catch alive. Higher penalties may provide a stronger
incentive; however, higher penalties inappropriately
penalize the conscientious angler who only occa-
sionally will weigh in a fish that died due to a hooking
injury. An incremental (sliding scale), dead-fish penal-
ty may provide a stronger incentive to the anglers. For
example, one dead fish receives a 2-ounce penalty, the
second dead fish receives a penalty of 4 ounces (6
ounces total penalty for the two dead fish), and the
third dead fish receives a penalty of 6 ounces (12
ounces total penalty for the three dead fish), etc.
Do not impose a "live fish only" rule. This
encourages anglers to replace dead fish with live fish
and can result in removal of more fish from the lake or
river than would normally result for the usually low
rate of mortality resulting from your tournament. On
the other hand, a rule allowing the culling of live fish
only would keep the mortality of tournament-caught
fish at a minimum.

Functional Livewell Rule Require an aerated
livewell; it is impossible to maintain fish alive without
one. However, areated livewells do little to insure sur-
vival of fish if the livewell is too small, has a poorly
designed water circulation system, if the aeration
system fails and there is no back-up system, or if the
anglers are unaware of, or negligent in, the proper use
of a livewell. An appropriate dead-fish penalty will
provide some incentive to the anglers to properly
maintain and use their boat livewell. Rather than
simply requiring an arerated livewell, require a
minimum total livewell volume. As a rule of thumb,
total livewell capacity should be at least 1 gallon of
water for 2 pounds of fish. If your tournament is held
on a lake where the two anglers in a boat may catch 30
pounds of bass, the minimum permissible total
livewell volume would be 15 gallons for each boat. This
rule should not deter anglers from fishing, because an
accessory livewell can be built for any boat from a
48-quart or larger cooler and a bilge pump2. Rather
than require a boat simply to have an aerated livewell,
require boats to have functional livewell aeration
systems. Livewell operation can be checked before the
anglers leave the launch site. Livewell pump failure
does occur, but it is not an acceptable excuse for

2Schramm, H.L., Jr. 1985. Keeping your catch alive. Florida Cooperative Extension Service, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences,
University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida 32611. Circular 691.

weighing dead bass. Back-up livewell recirculation-
aeration systems are commercially available or can be
installed at low cost. It may be desirable on some
waters to require contestants to have a back-up
livewell aeration system. At the very least, require
each contestant's boat to have a bailing device. This is
a US Coast Guard requirement on some waters. The
bailing device can be used to supply fresh water to a
livewell if the pump fails.

Reduced Limit A reduced limit can promote sur-
vival of the fish because fewer fish are held in a
livewell and eventually processed at weigh-in. Fewer
fish in the livewell results in better water circulation,
decreased rate of oxygen consumption, and decreased
rate of accumulation of toxic waste products. The
reduced limit increases the probability that con-
testants will catch a limit of fish early in the tourna-
ment. When additional fish are caught they are re-
leased immediately or a smaller fish is culled from the
livewell and released. Whatever the tournament catch
limit is, it should be clearly stated and enforced that
this is the maximum number of fish that can be in the
boat at any time (except immediately after the limit-
plus-one fish is caught). A reduced limit accomplishes
little if a large number of fish are held in the livewell
all day and a tournament-limit of bass is culled from
the livewell at the end of the day.

Size Limit On some lakes a larger minimum size
limit may be an effective way to reduce the number of
fish in the livewell. A form of size limit is a number-by-
size limit. For example, the tournament limit may be
six fish per angler, 12 inch minimum size limit, and
only three fish may be smaller than 15 inches.

Total Length Rather Than Weight If all boats
contain identical measuring boards, fish can be
measured to the nearest 1/4 or 1/2 inch, witnessed by
the other angler in the boat and released immediately.
Best catch can be based on the sum of length
measurements. If desired, length measurements can be
converted to weights on a small calculator.
Appropriate weight-length relationships can be
obtained from regional fisheries biologists. It may be
desirable to use a combination of measure-release and
weigh-in. For example, each angler may keep the
largest one or two bass caught in the livewell for
weigh-in and measure and release all other bass. The
total weight is equal to the lengths of released fish con-
verted to weights plus the weight of the fish weighed-

On-Water Weigh-in Weighing fish at a conve-
nient, on-water site can facilitate the release of the fish
after weigh-in and possibly help organize the anglers.
Having this facility available to the anglers
throughout the day could also improve survival rate of
the bass because of the shorter average in-livewell
time. A higher dead-fish penalty or an early weigh-in
bonus may be necessary to provide incentive to the
anglers to weigh their fish throughout the day.


Procedures and facilities used by individuals or
groups conducting a bass tournament can affect the
survival of tournament-caught fish. This circular
presents guidelines and suggestions for conducting
tournaments to insure the maximum survival of
tournament-caught fish. Important considerations to
attain maximum survival of tournament-caught fish
in weigh-in tournaments include:

1. A live release policy enforced by a dead fish
penalty and requiring all boats to have a func-
tional aerated livewell;
2. handling the fish at weigh-in as gently, and as lit-
tle as possible, and returning the fish to desirable
water conditions as soon as possible;
3. design and use offish holding facilities to insure
fish are held under the best possible conditions to
insure survival;
4. selection of desirable fish-release sites;
5. selection of tournament sites; and
6. the importance of a well organized group of peo-
ple conducting the tournament to insure all
necessary information is collected and the fish
are kept out of desirable conditions for the
shortest time possible.

In properly organized and conducted tournaments,
the mortality of the fish is largely a result of
the angler negligence and improperly designed
livewells. Some of the alternatives to the standardized
weigh-in tournaments that will reduce angler-caused
mortality include:

1. alternative dead-fish penalties;
2. require functional livewells;
3. reduced number limits;
4. higher size limits;
5. ranking catches by length or a combination of
length and weight; and
6. on water weigh-in.

The following list provides information about where to lease or purchase necessary materials. Inclusion of a vendor on this list is
not an endorsement; other vendors are likely available for each item.

Fiberglass transport tank

Plastic net coat
Nylon mesh bags
(can be ordered
already net coated)

Oxygen cylinder,
80 cubic feet

"Y" valve
Airline with couplers
Porous plastic pipe

Sea salt
Rock salt

Memphis Net & Twine Co., Inc.
2481 Matthews Avenue
P.O. Box 8331
Memphis, TN 38108
Memphis Net & Twine Co., Inc.
Nylon Net Co.
7 Vance Avenue
P.O. Box 592
Memphis, TN 38101
Welding Supplier

Welding Supplier
Welding Supplier
Welding Supplier
P.O. Box 1303
Homestead, FL 33090
Aquarium/Tropical Fish Supplier
Farm Supplier

$600- $850

$32/5 gal.

Purchase $130
Lease $1-3
Tank fill $11
$17/3 ft.

$17/16 Ib bag
$5/80 Ib bag


Carmichael, G.J., J.R. Tomasso, B.A. Simco, and K.B. Davis. 1984. Characterization and alleviation of
stress associated with handling largemouth bass. Transactions of the American Fisheries Society
Clugston, J.P. 1973. The effects of heated effluents from a nuclear reactor on species diversity, abundance,
reproduction and movement of fish. Doctoral dissertation, University of Georgia, Athens, Georgia.
Coutant, C.C. 1975. Temperature selection by fish -- a factor in powerplant impact assessments. Pages
575-597 in Environmental effects of cooling systems at nuclear power plants. The International
Atomic Energy Agency.
Hart, J.S. 1952. Geographic variations in some physiological and morphological characters in certain
freshwater fish. University of Toronto, Biological Series No. 60.
Schramm, H.L. Jr., P.J. Haydt, and N.A. Bruno. 1985. Survival of tournament-caught largemouth bass in
two Florida lakes. North American Journal of Fisheries Management 5:606-611.

This publication was promulgated at a cost of $792.00, or 40 cents per copy, to inform bass fishermen, fishing clubs,
and organizations sponsoring bass tournaments about procedures for keeping bass alive and in good condition for release
during tournaments. 4-2M-86

SCIENCES, K. R. Tefertlller, director, In cooperation with the United States Department of Agriculture, publishes this Infor-
matlon to further the purpose of the May 8 and June 30, 1914 Acts of Congress; and Is authorized to provide research, educa-
tlonal Information and other services only to Individuals and Institutions that function without regard to race, color, sex or
national origin. Single copies of Extension publications (excluding 4-H and Youth publications) are available free to Florida
residents from County Extension Offices. Information on bulk rates or copies for out-of-state purchasers Is available from
C. M. Hinton, Publications Distribution Center, IFAS Building 664, University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida 32611. Before publicizing this
publication, editors should contact this address to determine availability.

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