Smallmouth By the Numbers

February 1, 2009 by  

Our Outdoors
Nick Simonson


Author with first smallmouth of the year

Author with first smallmouth of the year

What a surprise! A stretch of warm spring days shook winter’s chill off some bronze scales and more than a week earlier than last year, I landed my first smallmouth bass. There’s no better time than now, during the prespawn, to search for big brown bass for some spring catch-and-release fun. By doing the math, anyone can see that C&R fishing works to sustain a great river like the Sheyenne, and the numbers all add up when it comes to smallmouth fishing. Take these numbers, for example.

200,000 – The amount the winner of the 2005 Bassmasters Classic received. Kevin VanDam won the Pittsburgh, PA-based tournament by patterning some diminutive smallies using a chrome-colored Smithwick Rogue on the Allegheny River system. His final day, five-fish limit weighed only 4 pounds, 13 ounces, but those fish netted VanDam the victory over Aaron Martens by two ounces, and earned him his second Classic title and a hefty paycheck.

15,000 – The upper estimate of what a mature, female smallmouth in the prime of her life can produce in eggs each year. On the average, female smallies produce two- to three thousand eggs per pound of body weight. In a good year, ten percent of those eggs will develop into young of the year smallmouth bass.

316 – The number of items on Ebay related to smallmouth bass and smallmouth bass angling. From crayfish flies to Al Agnew prints, the worldwide online marketplace is not immune to smallie fever.

181 – The number of fish catching colors produced by the Gary Yamamoto bait company. Yamamoto, a professional angler and lure maker designs many popular baits including lizards, crawfish, grubs and the legendary Senko. Yamamoto produces proven bass catchers in just about any color combination under the sun, and a four-inch Senko is one of his favorites for summertime smallmouth.

55 – Springtime sunshine helps raise water temperatures to a level of 55 degrees Fahrenheit, stimulating adult male smallmouth to spawn. These fish use their fins and tails to dust out small depressions in shallow shelves, rocks, and shoals to lure females to bed on. Once mating is complete, the male will remain with the fry until they are of sufficient size to survive on their own. Smallmouth bass are one of a select few North American fish to exhibit such parenting skills, as pike, walleye and perch abandon their eggs shortly after depositing them.

11-15 – The weight of the all-tackle world record smallmouth bass in pounds and ounces, caught by David L. Hayes in 1955 on the famous Dale Hollow Reservoir which straddles the Kentucky-Tennessee border. Hayes’ fish was photographed, weighed, kept and mounted; and was deemed the world record at just a shade under 12 pounds. Yet mystery still surrounded the actual figures associated with the fish. A person working near the dock where Hayes brought his fish in stated that Hayes had altered the weight of the fish by adding lead shot to it. For decades the fish stood as the record holder, until the sworn affidavit of the dockworker surfaced in 1996, casting shadow on the record. The IGFA suspended the Hayes smallie as the record, until after a decade of investigation, and no facts along with the shady nature of the affidavit, the record fish was reinstated earlier this year.

16 – The minimum length, in inches required for a smallmouth bass to qualify for the NDG&F Catch and Release Club. Fish should be measured and properly released in front of a witness while on the water. Certificates are awarded to conservation-minded anglers along with their choice of a patch or decal.

15 – It takes a river such as the Sheyenne fifteen years to raise a smallmouth bass from egg to 18 inches. Smallies in riverine settings are often more slender and more colorful than lake-dwelling members of the species, grow slower and usually weigh considerably less because they constantly use energy to survive in the current.

6 – The number of times two friends and I landed the same 19-inch smallmouth bass on the Sheyenne River in the months of May, June and July in 2003. Smallmouth bass are ready takers of artificial baits and can be caught and released with ease, preserving the opportunity for months and years to come. These fish are very territorial and will go right back where they came from if released.

5-15 – Is the weight in pounds and ounces of the current North Dakota state record smallmouth bass. This fish was caught in the fall of 2003 by Roger Haugen of Jamestown. Coming from Spiritwood Lake, this monster bronzeback is representative of what kind of fish result from clear gravel-bottomed lakes in our region.

1 – Though smaller than largemouth bass and less popular in the region than walleye, the bronzeback still remains number one in this angler’s heart and a popular choice to catch and release this time of year…in our outdoors.


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