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Fb4 Classic

Fb4 Classic

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Published by Bob Wattendorf
Fish Busters Bulletin about the 2006 BassMaster Classic in Florida.
Fish Busters Bulletin about the 2006 BassMaster Classic in Florida.

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Published by: Bob Wattendorf on Jun 24, 2011
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01/03/2014

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 Florida Fish BustersApril 2006
THE BASSMASTER CLASSIC—WE’RE ALL WINNERSBy: Bob Wattendorf, Division of Freshwater Fisheries Management, Florida Fish andWildlife Conservation Commission
The 2006 Bassmaster Classic played out in realtime on ESPN’s networks and thrilled nearly22,000 fans attending the live weigh-ins at theOrange County Convention Center. In this 36
th
 Classic, the world’s best tournament bass anglersbroke record after record. Preston Clark, of Florida, claimed the record for the heaviest basswith an 11-pound, 10-ounce lunker that eclipsed a30-year-old record of 8 pounds and 9 ounces, andseveral other fish broke the record as well duringthe three-day tournament. The heaviest single dcreel of 29 pounds and 6 ounces was set the firstday by Luke Clausen. His five-bass limit set the all-time record for the Classic, even exceethe best previous seven-bass limit. He went on to win the $500,000 grand prize with a record-breaking three-day haul of 56 pounds and 2 ounces.aydingThe Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission(FWC) was a proud participant in the Classicworking behind the scenes to help ensure the bestpossible survival of the bass after the weigh-in.To begin with, the tournament was permittedunder Florida Administrative Code (68A-9.002),which sets the framework for issuing permits forblack bass tournaments. Any club or organizationthat complies with the requirements of the rulecan apply for these permits atMyFWC.com/permits. The permit requirescompliance with strict handling guidelines in aneffort to release 100 percent of caught fish alive. In return, the permit allowed tournamentanglers to temporarily keep more than one bass over 22 inches in total length. Without thepermit, both tournament and non-tournament anglers may each legally harvest and remove fivebass daily, but only one can be over 22 inches in total length each day. Although tournaments like the Bassmaster Classic, and even local club tournaments, can becontroversial, they help to generate a great deal of attention and interest in recreational fishing.The number of spectators attending the Classic and viewing live coverage of the event on
 
ESPN's networks bear this out. Over three days and five telecasts -- including live on-the-watercoverage and each day's weigh-in — more than 9.5 million viewers tuned in. From ourperspective, recruiting new anglers that care about our fisheries resources, invest in the future of fishing and learn early the value of catch-and-release (a concept that was stimulated by theprevalence of fishing clubs and tournaments) is an important benefit of the Classic.Based on research findings (e.g., M.S. Allen et al. 2004. Simulated Aspects of Tournament-Associated Mortality on Largemouth Bass Fisheries. North American Journal of FisheriesManagement 24:1252-1261) a measurable negative impact would not be anticipated from thistype of tournament on fish populations of the Kissimmee Chain of Lakes. This has beenthe consistent conclusion of Florida’s fisheries researchers, since FWC fisheries biologists firstpublished their findings on tournament impacts in 1983. Subsequently, in the 1990s, anotherFWC project evaluated tournament practices and helped anglers and event organizers enhancetheir live release skills. Research from universities, our own biologists and biologists in otherstates has consistently indicated that bass tournaments do not disproportionately impact basspopulations.Creel surveys on Lake Tohopekaliga in fall 2005 showed 16,171 bass caught at a rate of 0.52bass/hour. Of those, 13,750 (85%t) were caught by non-tournament anglers (who may keep upto 5 bass/day). Both groups reported an identical catch rate of 0.52 bass/hour. In LakeKissimmee, 23,081 bass were caught (0.64 bass/hour), with 13,774 (60%) by non-tournamentanglers at a rate of 0.51 bass/hour. These catch rates are more than double what is considered tobe a good average catch rate, indicating the system is still producing a healthy fishery. The FWCwill continue to monitor and evaluate the actual impacts of tournaments, the very-limitedcommercial freshwater fishing that exists and recreational anglers to create appropriate rules tomanage bass populations for their long-term well-being and for the benefit of people.With 51 anglers participating the first two days of the Classic, 25 anglers the third day and afive-fish per day bag limit, the maximum number of bass that could be brought to the weigh inwas 635 bass from an area of 77,000 acres, or at most 1 bass per 300 acres/day. The actualnumber weighed in for the entire three-day tournament was 595. Even if all perished that wouldnot be enough to impact the fish population, especially in comparison to the normal non-tournament angler harvest. FWC biologists supervised the weigh-in and reported an initialmortality of 5, 1 and 2 bass during the first three days. Realistically, however, our research onother tournaments held during January or February in Florida, using live cage studies to evaluatedelayed mortality, have indicated 0-2 percent die subsequently. Using the higher figure (595 x.02) and adding in the known initial mortality indicates approximately 20 fish died followingthree days of tournament fishing. Florida tournaments during warmer months, although lesslikely to impact spawning, can result in delayed mortalities of up to 16 percent (the highestdocumented by our studies during a three-year investigation). Consequently, cool weathertournaments are preferable. Bass in the Kissimmee chain began spawning in January and typically spawn during at least athree-month period. Both gravid and spent females were observed during the tournament. It ispossible that some were displaced and failed to spawn, but again in the big picture, the impact isnegligible. Fry production is not a limiting factor in these lakes. A single pair of spawning bass

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