Lakecaster Online

OF BASS & GALS
By: Sue Crochet

What a great time of year! Air and water temperatures are cooling down and all of nature preparing for the upcoming winter months. What does this mean? Well, for those of us who enjoy bass fishing, it means that just about anyone can go out there, throw a lure in the water, and catch fish! Shad are beginning to bunch up and folks, where there's shad, there are bass. Any kind of lure that looks like a shad (spinnerbait, buzzbait, Shad Assassin, Rat-L-Trap, crankbait) is likely to put the biggest bass you've ever caught in your boat!

I know how thrilling it is to catch the biggest largemouth bass of your life. I managed to land my first 9-pounder on the final practice day of a Bass 'N Gal event on Sam Rayburn a couple of years ago. I don't mind telling you, earlier in my bass-fishing career, I wouldn't have thought twice about mounting that fish. My largest prior to that day was 6.50 pounds and regrettably, it's sitting on top of the television in the den at our house.

There was only a slight chance of catching that fish again during the tournament, so my decision to release her was based more on my years of experience in the tournament-fishing arena. Having bass fished for many years before he met me, my husband has impressed on me the need to practice catch and release. But, our involvement in several organizations that encourage good conservation practices, have heightened my awareness of the need to preserve our natural resources.

On the day I caught that big fish, the water temperature was cool, and I had a good camera in my boat. So, here's what I did. I put her in the livewell and ran to the marina to get an accurate weight recorded on certified scales. The Bass 'N Gal crew was around to help us get some good photos of me and the fish ... in my Bass Cat boat, holding my Allstar rod, rigged with a Jawtec watermelon-seed French Fry. Then, I ran back to the spot where I caught her and watched as she slowly swam back to safety.

Yes, I did go back to that area during the tournament and, no, she wasn't there. Actually, the water was rising each day and she probably moved further back into the trees or brush to "do her thing". But you know ... to this day I don't regret releasing that fish. This bass had just begun to spawn, weighed 9.83 pounds, and was only about half full of eggs. A few more days and she probably would have weighed over 10 pounds. Just think how many eggs she laid and how many bass are in the lake because I released her!

"Why are you telling us this?" you ask. I don't know about you, but we have several mounted bass around our house. They're getting old now and are mostly dust-collectors. A fin broken here and a tail cracked there. No matter how good your taxidermist is, as these fish age, they begin to look pretty ragged. And they take up quite a bit of room, too! On the other hand, if you take good pictures of your large fish, these will last FOREVER. You can display them on a "Wall of Fame", with tags identifying the size of the fish and the date and location where they were caught. Or, you can collect them in a "Bragger's Scrapbook", just laying around for friends and family to flip through when they visit. If you don't want to keep your good camera in the boat, the throw-away cameras on the market today take some pretty darned good pictures.

My point is ... unless you plan to eat your catch, please consider putting them back into the water for future generations to enjoy. Many states have established minimum length limits, as well as maximum quantities, on designated "trophy" lakes. These lakes are watched pretty closely by Parks and Wildlife officials to assure these laws are followed. However, there are a large number of impoundments that do not limit the size or number of fish taken. Before you keep all those fish you're catching, please ask yourself these questions ....

Am I going to eat these fish? If so, how often do I eat fish and how many do I really need? Do I go fishing often enough that I need to keep fish every time I go? Do I know someone who will take the fish I don't eat or will they go to waste?

The maximum daily creel of legal largemouth bass on Toledo Bend is eight (8). Do you know how many people you can feed with eight largemouth bass in the 2-4 pound range? So, my next question ... is there any reason to keep fish over 4 pounds? If you've ever caught a 4-pound or larger fish, you know how much fun this can be. How about putting those big fish back into the lake so someone else can experience the same thrill? Then, pass these conservation practices along to your children and grandchildren. Maybe one day you'll be able to take pictures of them catching their personal best!

NEWS ... Bassin'...Her Style will be holding their first-ever women's team championship on Sam Rayburn, out of Twin Dikes Marine, on October 30 & 31. The WBFA (Women's Bass Fishing Assoc.) will be holding their Nation Championship on the Red River, out of Alexandria, on October 15-16. If you're near either of these events, you might want to stop by for the weigh-ins and cheer these ladies on. One more thing ... there's a new women's bass fishing organization trying to get off the ground. It's called L.A.S.S. (Lady Anglers Sports Society .. I think) & they'd love to hear from you. If you'd like to know more about this new organization, you can call (903) 765-2462 or e-mail microg@peoplescom.net.

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