Big Bass Live Where They AreBig Bass Live Where They Are While there's no guarantee what you do will work, here's three shining examples where good lake management has paid off.
By Bob Lusk
It's a dream many pondmeisters share. Young son or daughter, in the boat, enjoying the outdoors. Birds flit above, something spanks water's surface not far from the boat.
For years, people manage their lakes and ponds. Proper stocking, adding cover, feeding, fertilizing, dealing with runaway plant growth.
Long years, short years, go by raising the family, working hard at what you do. Stealing time to fish, and enjoy the outdoors.
Recently, there's been a number of pond owners let us know what they are doing is working, and they are having a ball. Here's a few photos and some stories to share.
Johnny Tanner, III is a wonderful family man from Carrollton, Georgia. He takes care of a fourth generation grocery business while being the quintessential husband and father, doing what good men do. Of course, his bride takes pretty good care of him, too. She makes great chicken pie. I know that, first hand.
Johnny lives on a lake, plus has property with its own lake, a pet project dating years ago. Five or six years ago, Johnny renovated the lake just outside of town, restocked it, and is doing everything he can do to have the greatest bass lake he can create.
He is exceptionally passionate about it.
In the meantime, Johnny has spent countless hours doing what he can do with the lake behind his home. It's a community lake with few rules, and few helpers. Over time, Johnny has added cover, especially Christmas tree brush piles. He has logged fish, tagged fish, and kept pretty good records. He has tagged fish weighing four to nine pounds.
He has a new story to tell.
Here are his words.
"On September 26, 2004, my son John (who is 8 years old and uses a baitcaster) and I were at Lake Carroll in Carrollton about to go for a ride in the boat. I suggested we put a fishing rod in the boat while we are out there we might as well fish a little bit. Fishing conditions were terrible but we put a rod in anyway. After an hour we had not caught anything. Winds were from the east at 15 - 20 mph. (Isn't there a saying that if the wind is from the east the fish bite the least?) It was the day Hurricane Jean was coming up the eastern coast.
"John had picked out a 1/2 oz white spinnerbait. It was 7:00 pm and I cast it out 3 or 4 times trying to find some submerged trees. We had put out several trees in an area using the old pickle bucket method (May - June 1999 Pond Boss article X Marks The Spot). When I finally came across the top of them a fish hit and almost took the rod out of my hand. It was pulling the drag pretty good when I asked John if he wanted to bring it in.
"I handed the rod to John and immediately he said 'Daddy the fish is going to pull the rod out of my hands.' I repositioned his hands so the left hand was in front of the reel and the butt of the reel was in his stomach. It was a standstill for what seemed like an eternity. Finally, John started to get some line back on the fish as I moved the boat closer in her direction. John got the fish closer and when she saw the boat, she went straight down. I thought for a minute that the rod was either going in the lake or going to break in half.
"My son John was straining with all he had.
"Finally, the fish came up and I almost had a stroke. I reached down and picked up the bass and brought her in the boat. The hook immediately came out of the fish's mouth. At this point I had no idea how much this fish weighed because I had never, ever seen one this big.
"I had a set of Normark digital scales in my tackle box that went up to 10 pounds. When I put her on the scales, they started flashing like they were broken. I tried it again and again they flashed double zero. Finally, I let the fish down easily on the scale and watched them register 4 pounds the 5 then 6.. .7.. .8.. .9.. .then flash. I knew we had the bass of our lives. (My biggest bass ever is 9 pounds 3 oz. which I tagged and released in this lake).
"We got back to the dock and I had another digital scale that went up to 15 pounds. When I put her on those scales they registered an amazing 12 pounds and 4 ounces. I checked the scale when I got back home and it was correct to the ounce.
"The first thing John said is 'Daddy, can my name be on the plaque,' which I replied that he had done more work than I had so yes when we get her mounted we will both be on the plaque. What I didn't tell him is that if I had known the fish was that big, he probably wouldn't have gotten the rod.
"We kept her alive for a couple of hours in a cooler full of lake water and I debated whether to release her or keep her. I finally thought that in that particular lake I have records going back to 1994 of releasing between 150 and 200 bass that I have personally tagged. Their weights are from 4 pounds to 9 pounds. I also knew that a bass this big probably would have been in the neighborhood of 15 years old or more and had very little life left. So I decided to keep her. It was a tough decision, but when I saw the look on John's face, and quickly reflected about my life, fishing with my Dad, and looked back at John, it was an obvious decision. I knew John may never see a fish this large again. We have always practiced catch and release and continue to do so.
"Lake Carroll is about 150 acres and full of Crappie and Gizzard Shad. The bass (even the big ones) have plenty to eat.
"Now, Little John and I have a fishing story that neither one of us will ever forget."
Then there's 30 acre Fin & Feather Club Lake in Atlanta, Texas. Gordon Pynes and his neighbors are conscientious about managing their pristine east Texas fishing hole. A number of people live around the lake and this club works to educate their members. Years ago, the lake was a vegetated mess, when one of the members took it upon himself to become the caretaker. He had an agenda, one which didn't necessarily jibe with the rest of the membership. After all, they hadn't done much management, except stocking a few fish now and then. The proactive member got their attention, they united and created a good management strategy. They limed the acid water lake, fertilized as needed, set up some feeders, and began culling slot bass.
The results have been predictably amazing.
Electrofishing surveys have yielded bass larger than twelve pounds. Take a peek at the photos of recent fish collected, weighed and measured.
Then, there's Stan Graff. You might remember the cover story last year at this time. Stan's lake has had hundreds of similar size gar removed from his 30 acre lake in northeast Texas. With feeding stations, and moderate vegetation control, the program has yielded quick results. Slot bass, without competition, have grown to look like footballs with a mouth.
You can't wipe the grins off the guys' faces. Fishing is fun again at Flagg Lake.
Everyone enjoys looking at giant fish. But, knowing the effort it takes to provide the best habitat, best forage fish, best genetics and best management to create a moment in life is staggering to think about. Everything must come together at the right time, at the right place. Even when the stars line up, there's no guarantee what you do will work. But, here's three shining examples where management has paid off.
Reprinted with permission from Pond Boss Magazine
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