Spot Check for Bass

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Published on: Mar. 2, 1998

Last revision: Oct. 28, 2010

Baseball, hot dogs, apple pie... and bass fishing? To many Missouri anglers, bass fishing is not so much a hobby as it is a way of life. Bass anglers help support the economy with their purchase of boats, motors, depth finders, rods, reels, travel and lures-so many lures.

What is it about bass that has caused this following? What causes grown people to invest thousands of dollars to pursue an animal with a brain the size of a pea?

There are as many reasons as there are bass anglers. Most enjoy the fighting and acrobatic abilities of bass. Many enjoy figuring out the "pattern" of the day-the combination of lure and location that will attract the most bass. Some enjoy the competition of tournament fishing, while others look forward to eating the deep-fried version of their catch.

The Conservation Department is trying to improve black bass fishing for anglers. To this end, fisheries biologists are looking closely at the individual species of black bass and their potential in Missouri waters.

In Missouri lakes and reservoirs, bass anglers devote most of their attention to largemouth bass because they are abundant, and they grow to large sizes. A 5-pound smallmouth will earn an angler bragging rights. A 5-pound spotted or Kentucky bass is even more rare. However, 5-pound largemouth bass are relatively common. Occasionally, a lucky angler will catch a largemouth over 10 pounds.

Among anglers, the spotted bass is probably the least well known of the three black bass species. Although originally living only in Missouri's bootheel, this feisty game fish has spread throughout the southern half of the state due to stocking.

Until recently the Conservation Department did not focus on spotted bass. In most reservoirs the fish were relatively uncommon, compared to largemouth bass.

In 1976, the Conservation Department established a 15-inch minimum length limit on black bass in three Missouri reservoirs. Although the regulation successfully increased the number and average size of black bass in these impoundments, it had a different impact on spotted bass than it did on largemouth bass.

For example, at Lake of the Ozarks the annual harvest of spotted bass, which do not grow as big as largemouth bass, has decreased by 80 percent since the 15-inch minimum length limit went into effect. Because the spotted bass population is almost totally protected from harvest, the number of spotted bass in Lake of the Ozarks has increased steadily since 1976. During the mid-1970s, spotted

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