Bass Fishing

Be Prepared

Fishing Techniques
Catching big bass

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 fishing license had expired? Or what about weighing a big bass on the bathroom scale? These stories are part of OUR legacy as it relates to fishing, and just when we think we have heard it all, a new and unbelievable story will usually 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 many of us are familiar with. Most of us had to memorize that "official" motto as kids. Of course, you remember it's . . . "Be Prepared!"

Reflecting on when the motto was established, I wondered what 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 its standard 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 one of those crazy fishing stories? Well, it's easy. Let's use intelligence, wisdom, and foresight, and most importantly, be prepared!

Some of you might be saying, "I'm already prepared." Of course, most are. Just look at your organizational or preparedness skills regarding 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 prepared? Do you know how to certify a big fish? What if you are fishing in a small pond or large lake? Are you ready? Many of us dream of that moment when mother nature delivers 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, 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 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.

Be Prepared With The Following Tools:

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    Fishing scale
    A certified scale. Yes, my scale is certified. 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 a business that sells and services scales. In most cases, they can 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 essential documentation, including who performed the tests, the phone number of the certifying company, etc. My investment to have my scale certified was about twenty-five dollars.
  2. A tape measure. A simple investment of about two dollars will get you a tape running out seventy-two inches or six feet.
  3. The camera. I use a simple digital camera on my phone. When I started certifying fish in 1997, I started with a 12-exposure disposable camera made by Kodak. The main point is to have a camera to document your fish. Be sensitive to how you take your photos. Make sure to be careful of background, standing too close or too far, shadows, and how your face may look with the shadow of your baseball hat, and for you movie stars, remember to remove your sunglasses!
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    Big bass
    A fanny pack. A great tool to use and have on your person at all times when fishing. Some items 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 perfectly fits 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.
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    Fishing log
    A certification Notebook. I use a three-ringed binder that includes all my certification rules and procedures, predetermined mailing labels, my fishing license, copies of my driver's license, photo labels, etc. Because I enter three significant 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:
    Type of fish:
    The mailing labels I use contain the names and addresses of the three contests 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 mail the information right away.
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    Lunker bass
    A 100-plus quart cooler and a 5-gallon bucket - for pond fishing without a boat. I frequently fish local ponds in or around the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex, 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 giant fish, I want to get it in my tank, settle it down, and not be too hurried to take the measurements and photos. Placing the fish in my "tank" allows the fish to settle down as well. And if I am fishing by myself, it gives me time to locate someone to be the witness and take photographs (once, I had a woman 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 when 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, caught out of a local pond in Dallas. I have other photos with me holding a 9.9 and a 9.6 pounder. On my fishin' website ( is a photo of Paul Duclos with a 14 and 11-pounder side-by-side. These career moments should be recorded and shared with others, and a tank will help you do that!

Now, here is 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, and most fisherpeople will LOSE their minds! They get so wrapped up at 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 to the certification book that will remind me of everything 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, mainly 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. In addition, Chuck is a Professional Member of the National Speakers Association and is on Pro Staff for Kick-n-Bass.

Chuck also does free fishing seminars in and around the Dallas/Ft. Worth Metroplex.