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By Chuck Bauer
How often do you hear the story about the ENORMOUS fish that was caught, yet, it never made it to a scale or graced the lens of a camera? Or what about the guy who caught the lake record yet the fish was disqualified because his fishin' license had expired? Or, what about weighing a big bass on the bathroom scale? These types of stories are part of OUR legacy as it relates to fishin' and just when we thought we have heard it all, usually a new and unbelievable story will pop up.
Almost 100 years ago on January 2, 1911, William Howard Taft and Theodore Roosevelt helped establish the Boy Scouts of America. On that day way back when, the Scouts adopted a motto that many of us are very familiar with. As kids, most of us had to memorize that "official" motto. Of course you remember it's . . . "Be Prepared!"
Reflecting back on when the motto was established, I wondered what ever could have led these very famous individuals to come up with such a profound statement, other than their outdoor experiences. My reflection caused me to dig a little deeper. I looked up the word "Prepared" in the dictionary. It said that "Prepared," outside of its normal definition, is associated with other words like intelligence, wisdom and foresight . I believe history has attached those words to the likes of Presidents Taft & Roosevelt.
So, how can we prevent ourselves from becoming just another one of those crazy fishin' stories? Well, it's easy. Let's use a little intelligence, wisdom, foresight and most importantly, let's Be Prepared!
Some of you might be saying "I'm already prepared." Of course, most are. Just look at your organizational or preparedness skills when it comes to your fishing equipment or tackle. Some of your garages rival the best stocked aisles or shelves at Bass Pro Shops, you are so organized. Yet, are you REALLY prepared? Do you REALLY know how to certify a big fish? What if you are fishin' a small pond or large lake, are you ready? Many of us dream of that moment in time when mother nature delivers up that once-in-a-lifetime experience. Yet, I'd venture to say that 99% are not prepared for that exact moment.
Being prepared means forming habits and procedures that are implemented and used at all times. First off, day-to-day habits take about thirty days to form, or in other words you'll need to do the same procedure about thirty times in order to form the habit. You see, certifying and being prepared for those big fish takes a consistent effort in organization and preparedness. Regardless of fishing a pond or lake, I gather the tools of my trade and follow the same procedures each time. I am always prepared.
SO BE PREPARED WITH THE FOLLOWING PROFISHIN'L TOOLS:
A certified scale.
Yes, my scale is certified. Now, some would say "How do you get a scale certified?" Well, it's easy. First, you need a decent digital scale (the De-Liar is not a digital scale!). I use the Berkley Scale that is sold in most stores and it can handle a fish up to fifty pounds. Then, look up in your yellow pages or on the internet and find a business that sells and services scales. In most cases, they will be able to take your scale and certify its accuracy. They will perform different tests and if the scale passes, your scale is then certified. The certifying company will provide you with documentation on the test they performed along with the test results. Beyond that, they will place a sticker on your scale. The sticker provides basic documentation, who performed the tests, the phone number of the certifying company, etc. My investment to have my scale certified was about twenty-five dollars.
A tape measure.
A simple investment of about two dollars will get you a tape that will run out seventy-two inches or six feet.
I use a simple 35 mm, or you can use one of the digital cameras. When I started to certify fish back in 1997, I started with a 12 exposure disposable camera made by Kodak. The main point is having a camera to document your fish. Additionally, if you are using a 35mm, make sure to buy your film in rolls of twelve exposures. When you bang a big fish, you can get your photos in to a one hour film developer, especially if you are certifying for a contest, etc. You will need to get your film developed right away and your information sent in to the particular contest.
Be sensitive to how you take your photos. Make sure to be careful of background, standing too close or too far, shadows, how your face may look with the shadow of your baseball hat and for you movie stars remember to remove your sunglasses!
A fanny pack.
A great tool to use and have on your person at all times when fishin'. Some items that are found in my pack are my tape measure, needle nose pliers, hooks, scale, pen light, polarized glasses, band aids, extra film, fingernail clippers, etc. Mine even has a small outside pouch that is a perfect fit for my cell phone. My camera case has a loop that allows me to attach it to my fanny pack. Important stuff all in one place.
A certification Notebook.
I use a three ringed binder that includes all my certification rules and procedures, predetermined mailing labels, copies of my fishin' license, copies of my driver's license, photo labels, etc. Because I am entered into three major contests each year, I have each specific contest's guidelines in my notebook. I also include the I.G.F.A. rule book and the State Of Texas Share-A-Lunker toll-free phone number which is (888) 784-0600 or cell phone (903) 681-0550. Being in the boat and near water, I use clear plastic sheet protectors to protect the documents from any water. And if you are planning to bang multiple fish, you'll need copies of all the different certification forms for each contest you're entered into.
The photo labels are ones that I make myself on my home computer. With each photo, I place the label on the back side and it reads like this:
The mailing labels I use contain the name and addresses of the three contests that I am enrolled in. Because one fish can qualify for all three, it's much easier to have all the addresses preprinted on labels so I can insert the photos and certification forms in an envelope, place the corresponding address label and right away mail the information.
Type of fish:
A 100 plus quart cooler and a 5 gallon bucket - for pond fishin' without a boat.
I fish local ponds in or around the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex on a frequent basis so even then I need to Be Prepared. I have in the back of my Suburban a 120 quart cooler and a 5 gallon bucket. Now, there are many reasons for this. First, if I catch a huge fish, I want to get it in my tank, settle it down, and not be in such a hurry to take the measurements and photos. By placing the fish in my "tank" it gives the fish an opportunity to settle down as well. And if I am fishing by myself, then it gives me time to locate someone to be the witness and take photographs (once, I had a woman who was pushing her baby in a stroller be my witness!)
The second reason why I want to have a large tank with me is for that rare occasion where I bang two large fish. You can tank your first fish and go back for more! One of my most popular fishin' photos is when I was holding a 9.0 and a 7.8 pounder side by side, which were caught out of a local pond here in Dallas. I have other photos with me holding a 9.9 and a 9.6 pounder. On my fishin' website (worldrecordbass.com) there is a photo of Paul Duclos with a 14 and 11 pounder side-by-side. These are career moments that should be recorded and shared with others, and a tank will help you do that!
Now, here is the reason of why you want to be this prepared. When you bang a fish that is that once-in-a lifetime experience you have been waiting for, most fisherpeople will LOSE their minds! They get so wrapped up in the moment, hootin', hollerin' and all those other emotional things (yes, admit it, bass fisherpeople have emotions!) that go on when catching a big fish they forget to follow the correct procedures it takes to certify a fish properly. So, when I bang a big fish, I can lose my mind for a few moments, hoot and holler, then revert back to my certification book that will remind me of all the things I need to do before releasing the fish back to the lake.
This may seem like a lot of work, but being prepared will be worth it in the end, especially when that once-in-a-lifetime moment occurs. It's not enough to have all your rods organized perfectly in your rod box or to have your tackle boxes just a certain way. Count on banging a big fish, then Be Prepared to act on it when it happens, and it will.
Chuck Bauer is a noted Big Bass Specialist who has been recognized many times by various organizations, including Bassin' Magazine, Texas Fish & Game, North American Fisherman Magazine, Outdoor Life, Texas Hunting and Fishing News, The Dallas Morning News, and Texas Outdoor Times Magazine. Chuck is a Professional Member of the National Speakers Association and he is on Pro Staff for Kick-n-Bass.
Chuck also does free fishin' seminars in and around the Dallas/Ft.Worth Metroplex.