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why is catching bass getting harder

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alot of the lakes around here were built in the early 70's.  per alot of my co workers that fished those lakes at that time catching big bass was much easier than it is today on the same lake.  in fact on one of my trips to Toledo Bend I had to go to a repair shop on the Lousiana side and the man that owns the shop has a stringer of bass he caught in the early 70's of 10 bass for a total weihgt of 108 pounds! and two other stringers with similiar days on the water. can you imagine a day like that today????  with all the catch and release and modern know how why is that kind of fishing a thing of the past??  i find it hard to beleive that a lake that big gets so much pressure that the fish have learned anything from it.  

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All lakes have there best years in the beginning. The first few years may not be so great, but it picks up as the population increases. As the lake ages, and erosion takes down trees, it creates new cover. Then as it ages more, the shoreline cover begins to thin out, then the fish pull back away from the shallows and into the deeper haunts. Sediment fills in shallow ditches and creek channels, forcing the fish even deeper. I can remember back in the mid-70s going fishing with my grandfather on Lake Fontana and catching fish almost all day long. Now some 20 years later, the fishing on this lake is some of the hardest around if you are a bank beater. There isn't much shoreline cover and what little there is, is beat to death from morning to dark. On this lake you have got to be well schooled in the art of structure fishing if you want to catch more than two bass in a day.

The exception to this would be lakes that are managed by DNR services to be fisheries. Lakes where fishing is a priorty as opposed to being 4th in line behind electric generation, flood control and river navigation. As these lakes age, DNR replenishes habit for the bass and other fish in order for fishing to stay good for long periods of time.

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with the droughts taking a toll on lakes that gives the shore a chance to grow some weeds, brush and anything else so when the water does come back up all the structure is there.  but i still dont hear of early day catches when those conditions exist.

another thing i have noticed.  when I used to live in southern california there were a few lakes that had been around for years but were not open to the public.  then after they were open up,  50 to 100 a day catches were the norm.  after a few years of this it started dropping off considerably.  these are mandatory catch and release.    

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Like all things in nature, lakes too are cyclic. In their prime of life, all checks and balances

are at optimal levels. I once read that trophy hunters focus on reservoirs in their prime of life,

those between 10 and 20 years of age. After their second decade most reservoirs undergo

a gradual decline. For instance, it may be more than coicidence that Dale Hollow yielded

the world-record at age 13 (Impounded: 1942 <> Set Record: 1955).

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It's the pressure. More people out there throwing baits. The bass start getting wise. That's when you scale down your offering, or start throwing that bait that's collecting dust in the back of your box. Try to throw things that might be different from the norm.  :)

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Well Gentlemen (I use that word loosely) ;),

    I don't know how many of you are familiar with the history of Sam Rayburn, and as a matter of fact I have never fished it. What I would like to do is to use the history of Sam Rayburn as an example. When Sam Rayburn was first flooded or created it was a good lake with plenty of fish though small they were fish. Fishing was fast and dependable, especailly in the Black Forrest section but as the Lake aged as our freind pointed out a lake will age. The conditions he pointed out are a fact of life. The heavy wood cover of the sunken forests began to lose their appeal to bait fish and therefore bass. Wood cover is most productive in the first five years and after that as it decomposes it loses the smaller branches that provide the best cover. Well as Sam Rayburn aged the cover that alot of fishermen had come to depend on was no longer productive.

      In the late 70's if I am not mistaken there was severe drought and it dropped the level of Sam Rayburn dramatically. Some people thought that Sam Rayburn was doomed, but the bottom of the lake was exposed to the sunlight and it encouraged plant growth as Sam Rayburn filled back to its original level. This plant growth is what makes Sam Rayburn one of the standards that all resivoires are judged.

      Every lake and especailly resivoir has a life cycle and as the lake changes so should the fisherman. There are different things to do as your shallow cover becomes less productive, one thing is to down size and try finnesse fishing another is to move deeper as our fellow forum member mentioned, another is to try lures that are uncommon or unused. All of these different things can play a role in helping you catch more fish. The important thing you have to do is change as the lake changes.

       Let the fish talk to you. That is a skill that takes time but it is a skill that can be learned, pay attention, keep a journal, and learn from other lakes and what they go through.

                                  Good Luck and do more catching than fishing,

                                                       

                                                                      Peter  

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In this ultra clear water where I am a lot of the locals swear the fish have earned a PHD in lure avoidance. Stealth, being sneaky, and long casts are often the keys.

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another reason - and this was alluded to already - is that years ago when those pictures were posted, Very Few People were bass fishers!   ...around here, they called them "trout" & hardly anybody fished for them.  ...i remember when i first bass fished in the Big Pee Dee River, people laughed & told me there was nothing in that river but catfish & panfish.  ...now, Whenever & Wherever you fish in the river, it's water shared with other bass fishermen.   Bass Fishers EveryWhere!  ...and, getting more by the day.

pressure is being put on the bass fish population like never before.  there's still a few big fish, but, they're harder to come by & ten thousand people wanting them.  ...sadly, the days you speak of are gone forever!

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Guest avid

There is no doubt that the best days of the major resevoirs are have probably past.  

Not only do the lakes age and become naturally less fertile, but fishing pressure is really intense.  Bass fishing has gone from a "good ole boy" passtime to a national preoccupation.  I know of several people who have never gone bassing in their lives talk to me about the "classic" and KVD"  ESPN has given bass fishing popularity that only Ray Scott could have envisioned.

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I think fishing pressure is a big part of the equation.You can go to just about any big lake on any Sat or Sun morning and see a big gaggle of boats ready to catch some bass.And on the bigger lakes,you could have as many as 5-6 different tournaments going on the same day on the same lake.Fishing pressure is ridiculous anymore.

And 10 years ago,I could cruise around the lake during the summer and see bass hanging around under docks or laid up in a downed tree,I rarely see that anymore,if I do,the fish I see are small.

Bass fishing has hit the big time now and the lure of "fame and money" draws people from near and far.The bass are getting hammered constantly.(At least where I am)

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Well, my experience has been quite the opposite. The fishing in terms of both size and numbers seem to be better than ever. I only fish Lake Michigan for one week a year, but over the past fifteen years, the smallmouth fishing has improved for me about 300%. Here in the Midsouth, we're catching more fish than ever before and the average size has improved dramatically. I also fish "old" reserviors, like Bull Shoals (circa 1932), and although there was a major largemouth bass kill several years ago, the smallmouth, walley and stiper fishing has never been better.

Things change, especially in reserviors. The easy cover fishing that "new" lakes provide may make it seem to shallow water fishermen that things have gone downhill, but for deep water structure fishermen things have gotten considerably better. I think the overall improvement in water quality has been a major factor. Catch and release may be another factor, but I don't attribute that to being important to the overall population, just for larger fish. As a matter of fact, I think we should all keep small (legal) bass.

I think the advent of electronics combined with fishing science, especially pattern fishing, has made catching bass much easier today than ever before. Catching bass is easy, finding them is the challenge. Todays technical advantages and informational resources like BassResource.com make today's fishing "Better Than It Ever Was".

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Don't you think some of it might just be a true "fish" story?  Kind of like the older it gets the better it was.  For instance my dad has a picture of him and a bass he caught when he was a teenager.  I can remember the first time he showed me the pic it was a little over 5 lbs.  Now 10 year later he says "It was a hair over 7 llbs.". ;D ;D  Stories grow with age.

I am sure there is some truth to it though on certain lakes.

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I fish hard for five different species (largemouth bass, smallmouth bass , striper, brown trout and rainbow trout). In 2005 I caught my personal best in four of the five species on heavily fished public water. I ain't that good and I'm not retired! Four out of five as a recreational fisherman. Just for fun I'll add two more PBs for buffalo and drum.

Numbers? Well, the reason I don't fish a 5" Senko is because I catch too many bass. That's right, I don't want to catch smaller fish. I ONLY fish for big fish, seriously. My fishing is the very best it has ever been and I just hope it stays that way.

The key is fishing waters that nuture big fish. You can't catch 'em if they ain't there. Find water that holds big fish, fish deep and slow and with a little patience you will catch fish and some of them might be huge!

If you can find them, you can catch 'em.

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Where I mainly fish,they drained it down to hardly a good sized pond and started over about 10-12 years ago.They stocked the lake with Florida bass among others.It's a MDWFP lake and they have really taken care of it.Before the draining you could go and catch 15-20 bass,but they were all around the 1-2 lb range.Occasionally you'd catch a trophy.I remember years ago,my wife and I fishing out of a canoe.We sat in one spot and caught 33 bass with a purple t-rigged worm.I caught 16 and Kathy caught 17.After the draining,If you catch 7 you had a pretty fair day,but now the bass average around 4 lbs if you took every bass you caught in a year in to account.Most days you'll catch 5 if you fish for 3-4 hours.They'll be very large bass.I'm basing this on the prime fishing months(not now in this weather).

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I agree with RoadWarrior completely......

and add,We are lucky that bass grow, reproduce,and stock well in a relativly sort period of time. We get to experience DNR efforts payoff big time within 3 to 5 years with some projects, some 10, and smaller efforts payoff within months. ... some of you guys think bass are like sturgeon, who live forever and only hardly ever spawn...and smart as wild trout, we wont get into that ;)......which they are neither.As a lake ages, the fish quality doesnt nessesarily go down,the cover changes and you have to change tactics to stay on the good fish.....You cant base the quality of a large fishery by what you are catching personally. If you want to know the truth talk to the fisheries guys.Plus management of most public waters today have.

Bass remember the lure that they were caught on for 5 minutes, Its not fishing pressure that turns off the fish, its all the other things that go with it. Which if a lake is fished enough, those factors like trolling motor noise etc..dont spook the fish anymore.. Locate feeding fish and i can tell you from personal experience unlike other species, Hungry bass only think with their guts......I have caught quality fish in hard fished areas close to the boat with the outboard idling. One 4 lber in recent memory swallowed a rattletrap within 6 ft of the boat, and practically jumped into the boat...He couldnt be saved so i took him home to put in freezer. before i cleaned him I looked at his mouth. he had been caught 4 other times other than when he commited suicide via treble hook......So quit whining and adjust.....

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Fly,I dont think anybody is necessarily whining,just voicing different opinions about their local lakes.You and others on here obviously have the luxury of fishing in a state where the DNR actually cares enough to do things to help out a particular bass fishery.That means alot in the bass fishing game.My Dept needs to take some training courses from your DNR.The only thing my Dept does is stock stripers,which EAT bass.

And after helping in creel surveys for a few years,the only thing the fish biologists could tell me was that the upper end has the best quantity of fish while the lower end holds the better quality fish.No mention of stocking any bass,slot limits or anything bass related.Those guys are as sorry as they come.

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Well fivebasslimit, I would like to point out that stripers do not target bass and seldomly if ever eat bass. The thought that a striped bass will target a large mouth is simply untrue. I have done a considerable amount of research on both the lmb and the striped bass and studies have shown that striped bass in resiviors. lakes. and rivers will almost never go after bass. Stripers are schooling fish and will not, no matter their size become loners as long as they are healthy. These fish feed almost strictly on shad, and when the Alabama DNR did a study on the forage of striped bass of the eighty seven stripes that they examined the content of the stomachs only one had eaten a lmb, two smaller pan fish and the eighty four had only shad in ther stomachs. that is a a staggering ratio against the idea that stripes feed on lmb's I would also like to add that LMB's cannot match stripes for fight or size! No offense I have a passion for bass fishing, but when stripes are in the area I will target them everytime unless there is money on the line.

Peter

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Fly, if it were that easy, you and I would have our own fishing show.  It just seems like the Big fish are not as numerous as the ole days.  Only a good DNR program can help highly pressured lakes.  :)

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It just seems like the Big fish are not as numerous as the ole days. Only a good DNR program can help highly pressured lakes. :)

I have to disagree - but on terminology... You heard bout more big fish in the old days, no doubt, BUT what is defined as a big fish in the old days has evolved. There are more fish in the 8 or 9 plus range coming out these days than ever in the past.

My parents generation talked of days filled with "big" fish but none of their photo albums look like mine. The difference between them and I... they considered a 4lb fish big and I don't even snap a picture unless it's over 5lbs (and I remember the camera)

But to the original topic... While it is true that a few of the lakes and resorvoirs are declining, I believe that the fishing is still great in most, but the fish relate to different things. Almost anyone can catch fish in cover... that is what built the reputations of these places. As a body of water ages and cover begins to disappear, the fish are forced to adapt to what is left... structure! What seperates the good anglers from the great... the ability to fish structure.

I considered myself a great angler (put me in cover and I still do) but since I moved and my new home lakes are "old" resorvoirs and having to learn how to fish subtle elements of stucture, I now consider myself as a newbie once again. I have had flashes of brilliance, finding a suble break line and figuring out the fish, that tell me the lakes are still great, they are just GROSSLY misunderstood. This change has been a great learning experience for me... I miss fishing freshly flooded water but I am a much better angler than I ever was before. Now that I am beginning to understand the intracacies of structure, I use that to become even more productive on big fish in "younger" lakes.

I had a year of humbling experiences but I was the best thing that could have ever happened to my fishing... as those experiences will greatly enhance every future year I fish.

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That's another topic. If an angler can learn how to read his electronics and find productive structure, it puts them way above other anglers. Most anglers beat the bank. I personally believe that the bigger fish and majority of the fish will be found on the structure. Bass have a tendency to group up on structure, beating the banks is one fish here and one fish there. Some anglers think structure and cover are one in the same. That's why I wish they would come out with some new Topo fishing maps. Every map I have see out there uses recordings that were made in the 50's. You have a good point though.  :)

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 All lakes age, and yes, lakes have cycles if conditions are met again.  A lake that is fertile early in its life will be prime for producing bass.  As it ages, it looses fertility.  The term "fertile" means that a lake can sustain all forms of life.   Starting with the planktons in the food chain.

The food chain is the primary reason lakes are healthy.   Man factors in as well.  Did we keep legal catches, practice CNR, dump chemicals in our drains, streets and etc....

As a lake ages and the timber errodes away, if vegitation hasn't started to take hold, the lake gradually dies because of the lack of oxygen producing materials in the water to support life, primarily planktons.

Sam Rayburn as mentioned, suffered through many droughts, the first real severe drought killed all the vegitations mats in the late 70's.  3 summer droughts 30 ft low and new brush grew along the bottoms and banks,  she filled up and fishing took off again.  Mid 80's same thing happened again, we call them facelifts,  couple years of droughts and new growth along the shorlines emered, but the vegitation didn't die off this last time.

Most biologists will tell you to plant as much brush as you can on the aged lakes.  Replacing as much as you can will only add fertility to the water and provide fry with the cover to survive.  No vegitation or cover in the shallows and the fry will not survive.

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Actually, as a lake ages it becomes 'more' fertile not less fertile, and this applies to both

the major trend and minor trend. In the mid-70s, one of the first Study Reports written by

In-Fisherman (Lindner brothers) defined the life cycle of lakes, which is based on the Glacial Age.

Limnologists use the term Oligotrophic to refer to a very young lake, Mesotrophic describes a

middle aged lake and Eutrophic decribes an old lake. As the glacier receded northward,

it left the oldest lakes in its southern wake, thus the youngest lakes are found in Canada

where the glacier last retreated. If you were blindfolded and taken to a lake on the Precambrian Ridge

in Ontario, where the blindfold was removed, you would know immediately that you were not in Florida.

On balance, Canadian lakes are young (oligotrophic) and therefore deep, clear, cool and bordered by

a rocky shore (STERILE). The typical lake in Florida is old (eutrophic) and therefore shallow, turbid,

warm and bordered by a soft bank (FERTILE).

On a minor trend as well, lakes tend to age (eutrophy). As a lake ages, nutrients transported by

feeder tributaries progressively build to a crescendo. The first weeds to explode are the 3 exotics:

hydrilla, milfoil and hyacinths. Unfortunately, the process of overfertiliation (particularly in Florida)

is hastened by agricultural fertilizers (phosphates) that are carried to the lake via feeder creeks.

At the end of their life cycle, very old lakes are classified as "late eutrophic" and jokingly referred to

as "Early Cornfield".

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The "whining comment" was meant with sarcasm, Just forgot the smiley ;D

If anything we have overcomplicated our fishing trying to make up for enviromental factors.

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