By David Rainer
Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources
Top photo: Alabama Bass Trail (ABT) Tournament Director Scott Dobbins, left, helps Jonathon Collins and Blake Hice, right, show a winning boundary at Neely Henry Lake. Photo courtesy of www.anglerschannel.com
Keith Henderson, fisheries development supervisor with the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources’ Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division (WFF), is busy polishing BAIT’s annual fisheries report. at the bar in the state.
The Bass Angler Information Team (BAIT) report takes the results of bass tournaments from across the state and creates a comprehensive summary of the results. The report compares results on a yearly basis and links them to historical statewide tournament data, as well as tank comparisons, creating a ranking system based on various criteria.
Henderson recently took over the program and has been busy updating the tournament and BAIT website as well as revamping the BAIT report.
“All the information we collect and what we analyze remains the same,” Henderson said. “I’m working to get this information out to the public more quickly.”
Henderson has created a new interactive map on the website that allows him to share some of the tournament summary data long before the BAIT report is released.
“We’ve updated our BAIT webpage and included the interactive map,” he said. “I am uploading some of the important data to the website before the final BAIT report is released.”
The COVID-19 pandemic has not made this effort any easier for Henderson and his cohorts.
“We had a drop in attendance, and in 2020 we had a COVID year with a huge drop in tournaments,” he said. “We had to decide what we could show and what we couldn’t show based on the sample size of the tournaments.”
The WFF uses five quality metrics to determine each year’s ranking: percentage of success, average bass weight, bass per angler day, pounds per angler day, and time to catch a five-pound bass. .
“The success percentage looks at the percentage of time anglers catch at least one bass per tournament,” Henderson said. “The average bass weight is derived from each bass weighed. The bass per fisherman day looks at the number of fish that are weighed for 10 hours of fishing. The pound per fishing day is the average weight of the bag for 10 hours of fishing. The time it takes to catch a 5-pound bass calculates this estimate, and tanks with fewer hours get a higher ranking.
Statewide BAIT statistics showed an average winning weight of 14.03 pounds for five fish, 3.54 as the number of bass weighed per angler per day, 7.67 pounds as the pounds of bass weighed per angler per day, 2.17 pounds as the average weight of bass caught, 390 hours to catch a 5-pound bass, 9.58 pounds for the largest bass caught, six bass of 8 pounds or more were caught, and 180 bars weighed 5 pounds or more. The species included in the report are largemouth bass, smallmouth bass and spotted bass.
“This allows us to rank tanks by percentage success (anglers catching at least one fish), overall catch, largest average bass size, and time to catch a 5-pound or larger bass,” said Henderson. “We take all of that into account when determining the overall standings.”
Henderson cautions that the ranking doesn’t necessarily determine the best overall tank because it doesn’t take biological factors into account, but it does give anglers an idea of where they might have the most success.
The effects of COVID on fishing and fishing tournaments have proven to be a paradox. For one thing, the number of people fishing during the pandemic has increased dramatically. However, the number of bass tournaments has drastically decreased.
“People fished a lot during that time, but the tournaments were pretty much stopped,” Henderson said. “We didn’t get as much data during that time. There has been a significant reduction in BAIT tournament reports, especially during the main fishing period. The favorite time for most anglers is in the spring. It is therefore difficult to compare 2020 to previous years, but we were still able to gather important information. »
One of the notable victims of the lack of tournament reports was Wilson Lake on the Tennessee River, as Wilson did not have the required five reports to be considered for rankings.
“For the previous six years, Wilson held the highest quality indicator ranking in the overall category,” Henderson said. “The Tennessee River generally has some of the best fishing and is very popular with tournaments and bass anglers in general. But we didn’t have enough tournament submissions to include Wilson in the quality indicator rankings.
“The reason for requiring five reports is to increase our sample size and not make it dependent on a tournament in that particular reservoir, or the weather that day. We want a good representation of what that tank actually does.And the more tournament reports we have for each tank spread throughout the year, which helps to better represent the reality of each tank.
In 2020, Lake Weiss in northeast Alabama on the Coosa River had the highest overall ranking with 50 points, edging out Lake Logan Martin, also on the Coosa, at 49 points. Harris Reservoir (Lake Wedowee) on the Tallapoosa River had 42 points to 41 points for Lake Eufaula on the Chattahoochee River in southeast Alabama. Pickwick Lake on the Tennessee River rounded out the top five with 39 points.
One of the best bass fishing lakes in the country, Guntersville Lake, failed to make the top five, but for a different reason than Wilson.
“A side point to note is that most Tennessee River reservoirs, including Guntersville, have minimum length limits for bass,” Henderson said. “Sometimes it messes up the quality indicator rankings because you’re comparing Guntersville with a 15-inch minimum length limit to reservoirs where anglers can weigh 12-inch bass.
“What it does is it decreases the percentage of success and bass per angler per day. But the fish they weigh are bigger and longer. It inflates the average weight and pounds per day of You should keep in mind that every reservoir is a little different. Guntersville doesn’t always rank well in the overall quality metrics, but that doesn’t necessarily reflect the quality of the fishing.
In the passing percentage category, Harris finished first, followed by Lake Mitchell on the Coosa River, Logan Martin, Weiss and Lake Martin on the Tallapoosa.
In the bass per angler per day category (10 hours of fishing), Logan Martin is the best, followed by Martin, Weiss, Mitchell and Harris.
In the bass middleweight, Guntersville came out on top, followed by Eufaula, Pickwick, Lake Jordan on the Coosa River and Weiss.
In pounds per angler per day, Logan Martin prevailed, followed by Weiss, Pickwick, Martin and Eufaula.
In the hours to catch a 5-pound bass category, Eufaula was the leader, followed by West Point Lake on the Chattahoochee, Harris, Pickwick and Guntersville.
“The biggest takeaway here is that we need people to re-engage with the BAIT program,” Henderson said. “This data shows that if you just want to catch a lot of fish, Harris, Mitchell and Logan Martin offer the best opportunities. If you want to catch bigger and bigger fish, the traditional favorites are Eufaula, Guntersville, Pickwick and Logan Martin. If you’re trying to catch bass over 5 lbs, Guntersville, Pickwick, Eufaula and Harris come out on top.That’s what we expect to see, so we know we’re getting some meaningful insights from the reports.
The WFF has administered the BAIT program since 1986. Fisheries biologists compare reservoir data over time to provide a baseline for historical bass fishing quality.
“We can develop immediate trends by comparing the data to the previous year, and we can compare it to historical data,” Henderson said. “Quality metrics for 2020 are down slightly from 2019 with the exception of the passing percentage. This is what we expected because 2019 had so many more tournaments. We had so many more reports from the Spring 2019. For 2020 we do not have this information, even with this decrease our metrics were still above our historical average except for the time to catch a 5 pound bass.
“Even with COVID, our 2020 numbers were still very close to 2019. I’m very happy with the information we were able to get. The fishing in Alabama’s reservoirs is always excellent.
Visit www.outdooralabama.com/tournaments to view upcoming tournaments and post your tournament on the website and view other important information about hosting tournaments in Alabama. Visit www.outdooralabama.com/BAIT for more information on becoming a BAIT member and to submit tournament results and to view the BAIT interactive map for the most up-to-date information.