As I pointed out at our annual meeting, there are many factors relating to mortality in bass fishing. One of those is as simple as what type of fish you catch.
In the study “Differences in Mortality between Largemouth and Smallmouth Bass Caught in Tournaments” by Richard A. Hartley & John R. Moring, published in the North American Journal of Fisheries Management, mortality rates for smallmouth bass were nearly 3 times higher than those of largemouth bass. This is not a surprise, as when I asked everyone at the meeting which species was more likely to die during a tournament, the group unanimously agreed it was the smallmouth bass.
Also, smallmouth bass are far more prone to barotrauma than largemouths. In the paper “Incidence and Physiological Consequences of Decompression in Smallmouth Bass after Live-Release Angling Tournaments” written by MICHAEL B. MORRISSEY, CORY D. SUSKI, KEVIN R. ESSELTINE, AND BRUCE L. TUFTS*, Department of Biology, Queen’s University, Kingston, Ontario K7L 3N6, Canada, the authors note smallmouths can experience inflated swim bladders when caught from waters of 5 meters (that’s a little more than 16 feet!). Through experience you know most all of your smallmouth catches are coming from depths greater than 10 feet, thus the likelihood of barotrauma induced mortality is a huge reason for the increased mortality rate.
Further, studies have shown without immediate release, or the decompression of the swim bladder (fizzing), fish with barotrauma will continue to experience damage to internal membranes and increased stress during the time they are held in a livewell. The use of “fin clips” to keep fish upright in the livewell may help them stay upright while in the livewell and reduce the outward appearance of barotrauma, but internal damage continues and leads to delayed mortality.
So, for everyone saying conservation is your reasoning to reduce the creel limit, put your money where your mouth is and call for the ban of smallmouths in tournaments.
Let’s see how many of our devout conservationists get on this bandwagon.