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Aliens Abducting My Fish

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My home lake has a 13-16 slot limit. When bass school on shad 99.9 % of the time the fish you catch are 15"15/16 or smaller. Where do these fish go after they get to be "overs?" I have only seen "overs" school on shad 1 time on my home lake. Please no "throw a Spinner bait or a DD crank and get under the schooling fish." How many of you guys believe that there are 2 kinds of bass, school bass that are pursuit feeders that never get big / structure fish that don't chase shad all over the lake out in open water. This has been a myth to me for a long time now.

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My home lake has a 13-16 slot limit. When bass school on shad 99.9 % of the time the fish you catch are 15"15/16 or smaller. Where do these fish go after they get to be "overs?" I have only seen "overs" school on shad 1 time on my home lake. Please no "throw a Spinner bait or a DD crank and get under the schooling fish." How many of you guys believe that there are 2 kinds of bass, school bass that are pursuit feeders that never get big / structure fish that don't chase shad all over the lake out in open water. This has been a myth to me for a long time now.

I absolutely believe that there are open water/shad chasing fish and structure oriented fish. Of course they will do the other thing occasionally, but for the most part i think that they prefer one or the other.

I dont fish shad balls and expect to catch big fish.

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Good observations on both parts. LMB, will feed by size groups, they are not true schools. True schooling fish have a genetic marker that ID's them as part of the school, they form defensive formations and are co ordinated feeders. To see what I mean by that picture a flock of birds flying away from something how the pattern and the size of the whole flock ,varies and moves in a cordinated pattern\

 Or watch Bluefish feed, they have a cordinated attack when they push bunker into a bay. Bass do not act like this.

I would bet as they grow older and there are less of their similar size year mates is when the bigger fish relate more to structure. I am about to research this as my January Project.

I do not have nearly the biggest fish on the board, and one guy will point that out, but LMB are not true schooling fish.

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Im not saying bass arent schooling fish, but they definitely work together.

It is not completely uncommon to have many large bass work in a wolf pack in our trout lakes. Sometimes they will get trout pushed into the back of a cove. Some fish will close off the opening while others go in and kill trout. Then they switch. Pretty cool.

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Hey Fourbizzle, anywhere I should start reading about this?

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i couldnt point you towards anything mudd. all ive got are my own suppositions and those of my fishing buddies.

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How many of you guys believe that there are 2 kinds of bass, school bass that are pursuit feeders that never get big

i believe half of this.  yes there are school bass that are pursuit feeders, but if they are eating well and don't get caught or die, then yes, they have to get bigger.  

i have seen the same thing on one of the lakes i fish.  i can't catch anything out of schooling fish any bigger than 3 pounds no matter how hard i try.  i think once these fish get bigger than 3 pounds, they adopt different feeding patterns or perhaps even somewhat of a different forage base.  i think that's why it seems that the schoolies stay the same size and never get bigger, because it's usually the same year classes of fish that adopt this behavior each year.  the ones that did it the year before, if they haven't been removed from the system, are probably doing something different now.

at least that's what i think.  i could be wrong.  

i will say that even though the biggest  fish in the system might not be mixing in with the schoolies, a few probably still at least loosely relate to the feeding frenzy.  several times i have seen a huge bass come up and eat one of the 3/4 pound bass in the school that is chasing the shad if the dink strays too far from the rest of the pack.  it's a mind blowing sight for sure.  :o  that's why i'm going to start throwing swimbaits around the schools from now on.

hope this helps.  like i said, these are just my ideas.  i'm far from an expert on schooling behavior.  

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Question #1: Ever see Big bass ,knocking off the smaller bass that are feeding on the shad?

Question #2: Do the larger bass , stay on the bottom underneath said shad balls?

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#1 no

#2 not unless that ball of shad happens to be over prime big bass structure ;)   <---- in my experience

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Good observations on both parts. LMB, will feed by size groups, they are not true schools. True schooling fish have a genetic marker that ID's them as part of the school, they form defensive formations and are co ordinated feeders. To see what I mean by that picture a flock of birds flying away from something how the pattern and the size of the whole flock ,varies and moves in a cordinated pattern\

Or watch Bluefish feed, they have a cordinated attack when they push bunker into a bay. Bass do not act like this.

I would bet as they grow older and there are less of their similar size year mates is when the bigger fish relate more to structure. I am about to research this as my January Project.

I do not have nearly the biggest fish on the board, and one guy will point that out, but LMB are not true schooling fish.

Muddy, what the heck does the size of your largest fish have to do with your thoughts or observations? There are people writing and making money about subjects that they are not completely educated on. I would value your thoughts reguardless of the size of , or how many you have caught. Go for it and give us a report. Looking forward to your research.

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Good observations on both parts. LMB, will feed by size groups, they are not true schools. True schooling fish have a genetic marker that ID's them as part of the school, they form defensive formations and are co ordinated feeders. To see what I mean by that picture a flock of birds flying away from something how the pattern and the size of the whole flock ,varies and moves in a cordinated pattern\

Or watch Bluefish feed, they have a cordinated attack when they push bunker into a bay. Bass do not act like this.

I would bet as they grow older and there are less of their similar size year mates is when the bigger fish relate more to structure. I am about to research this as my January Project.

I do not have nearly the biggest fish on the board, and one guy will point that out, but LMB are not true schooling fish.

Muddy, what the heck does the size of your largest fish have to do with your thoughts or observations? There are people writing and making money about subjects that they are not completely educated on. I would value your thoughts reguardless of the size of , or how many you have caught. Go for it and give us a report. Looking forward to your research.

i agree totally fishfordollars. well said bud. what's considered a big bass is relative anyway. a 7 in some places is much more impressive than a 10 in others. and you are right. this is the information age. anyone can do just a little research on the net or at the library. then they try to claim "guru" status even though they are totally unwilling or unable to provide any solid evidence to support their outrageous claims.  

muddy, the next time someone tries to dis you on here regarding your fish, tell 'em your stories weigh just as much as theirs and your pictures weigh more.

sounds like you've done your homework on this topic muddy and i trust what you're saying.  

sorry slo-roll for being  .  just a pet peeve of mine.  i'll shut up now.

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Man I have so much to learn, please I don't even trust myself, which is why I am taking it to you fellas.

I found 2 papers, current on LMB. All of the stuff I read is research on Salt Water species, like Anchovy Schools.

It is so confusing because most of the fellas I respect here speak of bass schooling yet the biologists say it is behavior resembleing but not true schooling. I need to see this myself, because all of the water I fish, it is not this way, but then again Shad are not the primary forage, so bass behavior is not being dictated by shad, or trout for that matter.

 The last time I tried to understand the difference between what you fellas are seeing real time and what I was reading I was repremanded by a guy who said I did not know what I was talking about and   he had caught the biggest fish. It is obvious that I do not know what it is about, I am trying to learn about this, gotta start somewhere.

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Mudd, maybe just avoiding a hard line stance on the schooling/not schooling thing will make it easier to grasp.  I, by no means, am any kind of expert. What little things I KNOW are things that I have seen for myself.

I generally dont fish bait balls unless I am spooning or throwing a spook. I choose to take a stance of general disinterest when it comes to bait balls around here, because the reservoirs that I fish all have very small shad/pond smelt. I feel that the bigger fish GENERALLY are not going to waste their time chasing these and work really hard for small meals.  I think they are much more content to stay on their structure, and ambush bigger meals as they pass. I choose to focus on the trout/kokanee interaction in my fishing, but I believe that this applies when they are after panfish/bass/carp/hitch/etc.

Maybe they arent true schooling fish, they definitely dont move in a "school"  in the pelagic sense that the term probably denotes.

They DO group together, thats not in doubt. I believe that they hunt together as well. Maybe its just a coincidence that what they view as self interest ends up helping the group, i dont know.

I must however, call BS on the genetic make up thing. If this specific trait is purely genetic, and not present in bass, I pose this question: What about bass fry? They most definitely move as a group and use their numbers for defense and security. So if genes are neccesary for schooling, fry have them, and obviously so do adults. If they are not neccesary for schooling, then what is? Is it merely the presentation of a situation where schooling becomes beneficial? Is it something that is perhaps learned by a localized population of bass, say in one lake, to thrive in their own special situation? I dont know, all ANY of us have are our own observations and other peoples word. Neither of which should we trust implicitly. ;D

I resort back to my original position that some fish have the innate desire/ability to work together to capture prey. In my waters, big fish do not consistantly chase shad/smelt over open water. This is just how I have chosen to look at it, and it has made me practically ignore these bait balls when I have big fish on the brain. Very rarely i will go and spoon these balls in the winter, just to remember what a fish feels like but I have no confidence in getting a big fish out of them at my normal lakes. Clear Lake and the Delta are an exception for me because the bait gets much larger there than at my reservoirs. I will often fish boils with a spook, for smaller fish, just because it is too much dang fun to watch shad jumping everywhere and bass smacking your spook around, lol.

Thats my take on it, for what its worth.

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Thanks , I am printing that. It will be my kick off point. I gotta try and open my mind, which is not always that easy.

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Great thread! Great input by Muddy, paul, and fourbizz. From what I understand (seen and read) of this topic, all your ideas are sound.

Here's some stuff I can add that might help:

I believe bass do school, when they are young; from fry up to (in my waters) about 10 inches. In my ponds, larger size range schoolies can be seen traveling in tight groups of up to 30 fish or so. But bass are not well suited to this kind of feeding. Unless there is a ton of concentrated prey, groups break up and do better hunting individually and/or in loosely coordinated groups. It's as though they still can work together but it doesn't pay off well enough to support large groups. What's left are often called aggregations, simply because good numbers of bass are often found collected in good habitat areas. But there seems to be more to it than bass simply aggregated in the same areas because bass do hunt together, using each other to gain advantage on prey. Bass are primarily stalker/flushers, which many anglers mistakenly call ambushing. True ambushing is something different a lie in wait strategy that usually involves a sedentary lifestyle and extreme camouflage. Bass, esp LM, may ambush to some degree, but it is not a primary tactic. Most bass actively hunt by cruising and flushing, using structural characteristics (cover, substrate, and surface) AND EACH OTHER to gain advantage on difficult prey (All healthy prey is difficult most of the time).

In waters with large numbers of shad (lots of concentrated food) it appears that bass can continue to hunt successfully in schools. From what I gather this seems more likely in southern waters with threadfin shad as these shad are small enough as adults not to grow beyond the gape limits of most bass. But gizzard shad (more common in the north) grow fast and get too big in their first growth year for most northern bass to continue eating. Bass leave these shad schools by mid to late summer. This summer break-up may also be furthered in many waters by the increase in cover (weeds) allowing bass to more effectively employ the tactical flushing they are primarily adapted to.

One of the problems bass have against open water prey species is that they (the bass) are too slow and do not have the stamina for effective open water pursuit feeding. This can be likened to hunting in raptors, where open country birds like doves are too fast for all but the falcons, while accipiters (gos, Coopers, sharp-shins) are short range structure/cover specialists, keying on passerines. This speed issue may be especially true for larger bass. Some bioenergetic models have predicted that larger fish are faster than smaller because of increased muscle mass, but this is not believed to play out with bass because healthy bass get so much bulkier as they get larger, which slows them down. Some lab studies have shown that body lengths per sec does decrease as bass get larger. In the wild, larger bass may simply get better at being bass becoming better, more circumspect, tacticians. The alternative is starvation.

Does this mean that larger bass cannot feed on open water prey? No! Are there times and places where larger bass might key on open water prey? Yes! But, as fourbizz describes, they are more apt to do so around appropriate structure/cover. (However, I have read CA and TX anglers describing huge bass as bullies with complete dominance over prey. I find this hard to believe for a number of reasons, but, I have no experience here, so it's an asterisk in my lexicon.)

Here's a GREAT post about mixed school feeding frenzies. Russ shows a lot of knowledge about the differences between predator feeding strategies and does a great job describing his observations:

From Russ Comeau:

11/14/2008 3:52:01 PM

I have far more time and experience in saltwater with striped bass than with largemouth or smallmouth.

But fresh or salt, mixed catches of gamefish don't mean mixed schools. I haven't really known gamefish schools to mix freely. True, in the story above, we caught a mixed bag, often a striper, largemouth or smallmouth in succession, but the species were not mixed into a homogeneous multi-species school of gamefish.

They all just happened to be going after the same prey in the same area. Yes, the largies and smallies were taking advantage of the stripers hard efforts in corralling bait, but were not mixing into a multi-species gamefish school.

Often the largemouth and smallmouth bass will uncannily anticipate where the stripers will push bait, and will line up and be waiting on strategic spots on structure or in cover for that striper bait push to happen - even before the stripers start to get active. It's like waiting for a parade to come down the street. The bass somehow anticipate the striper push will come their way, and it usually does!

Also, bass will become active below, on the perimeters of or immediately before or after the stripers push through. Now keep in mind, the stripers may make multiple pushes or charges, time and again, first one direction, then the other, and the largemouth and smallmouth bass let the stripers do all the hard work. If no stripers were present? The bass would have to make the hard effort themselves, and sometimes do. But they prefer to let the stripers do that. Actually, the stripers are better at it than bass - so if stripers are on the scene, the bass just can't compete in that situation. The bass will wait with anticipation on structure or cover for the stripers to push bait at them during the height of the striper activity. And the bass will come out of structure/cover to do their thing on the outskirts of, under, just before or after the stripers push through.

I am not so sure that one gamefish species risks or fears being eaten by the other gamefish species at these times. The bass sticking to structure or cover have a strategic feeding advantage there that stripers do not.

Even in the ocean where schools of oceanic gamefish, say stripers, bluefish and weakfish (northern sea trout) are all hitting the same bait school, they stay apart from each other. This is just so they can do their own thing efficiently.

Sometimes a surface-feeding blitz or underwater feeding frenzy witnessed on the electronics may seem like a mixed, multi-species free-for-all to us the anglers, and you can catch stripers, largemouth, smallmouth, walleye or whatever on successive casts - but if you could really see what is going on. you would probably realize the gamefish are somewhat stratified into free-wheeling vanguards or cadres, moving with a group mainly of their own species.

They will even stratify by size simply because it is easier for medium or larger sizes of gamefish to maneuver on prey schools with cohorts of their own size.

True, the smaller size vanguards do get bullied and squeezed into the marginal feeding area whereas the bigger size vanguards take the prime positions on the field (same as school kids lining up to get ice cream cones, left unsupervised, the bigger kids are going to naturally command the head of the ice cream line. Ditto with gamefish lining up to feed.

Overall, getting back to Powell, the stripers are best suited for open water. They were the last species introduced (relative to smallies and largies), and they have taken over the open water domain simply because they are more efficient there.

On Powell, the smallies (introduced years after the largies) have taken over deep clear water structure. Simply, they are the best of the three species (stripers, largies, smallies) in mastering that domain.

The largies, which were there before smallies or stripers, still maintain the shallow cover domain as their stronghold. They are the best at that. Also, largemouth are strong in some deepwater situations, mainly cracks, cuts, crevices or other indentations in canyon walls in deep water. Also, deep wood of any kind. In such niches, largemouth can perform as good or better than smallies. But on points, rock slides, sheer bluffs, deep ledges, humps for example, smallies tend to perform better, and largemouth tend not to compete too much in those domains if smallies are present.

If only largies were in Powell (as in the beginning) they would have the run of and occupy all domains - shallow cover, deep structure, open water. But the smallies beat them out on the deep structure, so it has become rare to get largemouth deep once smallies took advantage of much of the deep structure. A good comparison is a similar impoundment and you could say neighboring Lake Mead. There, smallies have not taken on a strong hold yet. So on Lake Mead, yes, the largies are caught on deep structure there, simply because the largies can be efficient on deep structure, but not when smallies are present.

Likewise, if stripers were never introduced to Powell, it is likely the large and smallmouth would pursue open water bait, but with the stripers, it is simply a lesson in futility and eventually, starvation for smallmouth or largemouth bass to try to compete against stripers in the open water on Lake Powell. Stripers are better at it.

So, it is not that bass fear stripers in open water, and it is not that largemouth fear smallmouth on deep structure. It is just one species can outperform the others in that species ideal domain, be it largies in shallow cover, smallies on deep structure or stripers in open water. Any one of these species would be free to use all three kinds of lake areas - until one of the better-suited species are introduced and outperform the others in the survival game in one of those niches.

Now, realize that while, say, LM might potentially be relatively efficient in open or deep water, this varies not only with competition with other species, but also very much within the LM themselves dependent on size class of both bass and prey, and availability and configuration of structure and cover -as I tried to describe above.

It's tough out there, for fish, MUCH tougher than most anglers realize. There are very real limitations out there, in fact, they define the forms and functions of fish species. One things for sure, those bass that get big (or even mature) are doing some things right.

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Wow Great stuff, that's 3 posts printed  from this thread. I find it amazing when the fellas here ask what magazine has the most info: NONE, ask the right question AND IT"S ALL RIGHT HERE AND THEN SOME>

I am searching for an old thread that I believe Matt Fly started and or CATT: Know your prey... has a lot of relevant stuff to apply here,

Thanks Fellas

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