Sunday, August 12, 2012

What is Bass Fishing All About?

What is bass fishing really about? Do bass fishing organizations think they can compete with professional sports like baseball and football? Is bass fishing a competitive sport for making money? Should we all quit our day jobs and go pro?

No. I think the answer to all these questions is "no." Somewhere along the way we listened to marketers who pushed bass fishing as a competitive sport in order to sell tackle and boats. Bass fishing should not be about making money or gaining sponsors. It should be about enjoying the outdoors and fishing and showing the next generation how to fish and care for the fishery.

Bass fishing should be showing the next generation the joy of living in balance with nature--not about beating the other guy or making money. The Take a Kid Fishing Foundation has the right idea.

When I was four years old, I made a fishing pole out of a stick and caught fish off the dock. I spent hours there mesmerized with watching and catching fish there. When I was fishing, time seemed to freeze, and I did not think about anything else.That is the core of the joy of fishing.

Read American BeheMouth to learn how we are out of balance in America. Even something like bass fishing can become an obsession or addiction.

American BeheMouth can now be previewed and purchased on Google Play.

Read the story about Kentucky Lake in the 1950s--what bass fishing was like back then.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Clear Lake: A Microcosm of our Economy

I just returned from a bass fishing trip to Clear Lake, California. Clear Lake promoters advertise that Clear Lake is the "biggest lake in California"; however, in reality, the slogan is more like a half-true political ad, since Lake Tahoe is in fact thee biggest, but Clear Lake promoters "disqualify" Tahoe since part of it is in Nevada.

Everything about Clear Lake is half fast and cheap compared to Lake Tahoe. Tahoe is beautiful, clear and has world-class accomodations and entertainment. Clear Lake, namely Lakeport, CA, is a rat hole with a couple mediocre places to eat that are not always open, a couple stores, a K-Mart, and now a mossy and gross lake, where no one wants to water ski anymore.

Clear Lake was not always like this. In fact, it once was thriving, clear, beautiful, and touted as one of the best bass fishing lakes. I would say that is no longer true, and the reason is bad management. In so many ways, Clear Lake is a microcosm of our mismanaged economy.

Several years ago, a new casino came to town, bringing in new revenue, a great concert venue, and tourism. Mismanagement and corruption quickly led to its demise. Along with that, illegal marijuana growers in this poverty-stricken Lake County have ruined Clear Lake with their fertilizer run-off. The fertilizer has led to the prolific growth of algae all over the lake. The nasty algae leaves a green film on your body after you swim. Try getting that stuff in your mouth while water skiing. No fun!

Decline of the Clear Lake, CA fishery

So the lake is too nasty for water skiing, but the fishing is still good, right? Not exactly. The story is not much different there either. At one time, the fishing was superb and B.A.S.S. held their 2007 Elite Series tournament there, with Steve Kennedy breaking the 20 fish limit with almost 123 pounds. Since then, the numbers and size of the bass has been on the decline. Why? Fishing pressure, mismanagement, bass tournament fallout, death and lack of restocking of threadfin shad, and other reasons. The numbers of fish caught is down by more than 50%. The algae is up over 100+%, while fishing pressure remains high. Bass mortality from bass tournaments is up, from the death of hundreds of huge fish in recent years' tournaments.


The solutions to the decline at Clear Lake, California are simple:

1) Better management of the fishery, stocking, and tournament restrictions

a) Restock threadfin shad! There used to be acres of them, and now after a couple of hard winters, the majority of them died off. Bass depend on threadfin as the mainstay of their diet.

b) Reduce the number and size of tournaments at Clear Lake. Do not allow tournaments in hot weather. Make sure that anglers all have a fizz kit and use it when they catch deep water bass.

c) Change creel limits to better manage how many big fish are removed from the lake.

2) Enforcement of illegal marijuana growing/fertilizers and enforcement/replacement of faulty septic systems from the surrounding area. Fertilizer and sewer run-off causes the algae to grow in the lake. People in the community and state and county agencies have to go after those violators to fix the problem. People also need to take individual responsibility.

For more fisheries solutions on creating the world's perfect fishery, read American BeheMouth, where one fisheries hobbyist creates the perfect fish-to-food ratio and raises the world-record bass.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Fishermen Search Kentucky for World-Record “Lake of Dreams”

After reading the new book “American BeheMouth” or visiting the website, anglers are searching for the lake in Kentucky holding a 28+-pound largemouth bass.

At first a trickle of poachers started searching, then entire families in SUVs were pulling over at convenience stores asking for directions. One reader of “American BeheMouth” likened it to Kevin Costner’s “Field of Dreams,” and the lake, full of giant largemouth bass 15-28 pounds, earned its nickname “Lake of Dreams.”

“When I took the job of managing the lake, I thought I would be out there catching huge bass all day,” said Billy Hutchinson, who now secures the lake in addition to feeding the fish. “I did not think I would be crouched in the brush wearing night vision goggles trying to protect the lake with a shotgun, but that’s what it’s come to.”

Billy, who says he has officially fished the lake “just once,” but unofficially, “a few other times,” says his personal record is around 18 pounds, an uncertified Kentucky state record. As for the poachers, he knows of only one who was successful. “I saw him running to his truck by the road, but I didn’t bother firing at him. He only had a 10 or 11-pound fish. We’re taking out some that size now, so I wasn’t worried.”

Jason Covington’s new book, “American BeheMouth,” details the years of research that solves the age-old fisheries question of how to grow fish to these proportions. The formula includes a new fish-to-food ratio as well as the baitfish used and the environmental conditions required. The book tells several other stories along the journey, including a Castaic Lake, California record and state-record Missouri bass.

When asked about his plans for the lake, Covington said, “I originally built it to honor my grandfather, but after it started getting expensive, I was kindof hoping for that million dollars you always hear about for the world-record in order to at least recoup some of my money." No sponsors or endorsements deals have come from the 27-pound bass, which was not submitted to the International Game Fish Association for record certification. Under the circumstances, a record like this would require one huge asterisk, like so many records in baseball, he maintains.

To get the details on the “Lake of Dreams” and the world-record-sized bass, read the book "American BeheMouth," available for sale as an economical EBook on Amazon and in paperback on Amazon's CreateSpace.



BeheMouth website:

Press and Book Reviewers, please contact the author at for an interview or review copy.


Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Cheaters, Poachers, and Thieves

It’s happening in our economy, banks, government, lakes, and forests. Greedy people are breaking the rules to gain spoils. It’s starting to come out in the news regarding banks and the huge derivative “side bets”, such as the $9B loss by JP Morgan. Inside traders and bankers are manipulating the system so that free market forces no longer dictate market trends. Instead, the market has become more like a casino. This is happening on our lakes and in our forests too; if enforcement is low, and someone thinks they can break the law and get away with it, many are making the choice to break the law.

Poaching is when one deliberately breaks the law or local ordinance to catch fish or shoot game to keep. In some places, laws are carefully enforced and fish and game officers protect our resources. In other places, including local waters and vast wildernesses, it’s impossible to enforce laws. In some cases, like on private lakes run by a homeowner’s association, it is difficult to enforce laws since the homeowner’s association in itself is not an enforcement agency.

Take, for example, my lake in Missouri, Lake Tishomingo, a 200-acre lake with about 250 homes. We put in time and money to grow big bass and to protect the fish by instituting a slot limit. In other words, you have to throw back all the big bass. You can keep some of the smaller fish to wean down the population.

A guy at Lake Tishomingo caught a 9.5 pound bass, probably the biggest bass ever caught out of Lake Tishomingo. He bragged about it and even admitted he kept the fish to taxidermy it. This is against our regulations and bylaws, and we are required to throw back these big bass. In a case like this, the International Game Fish Association would not certify this as a record since specific laws were broken in the catch. He could have still broken the lake record by weighing the fish and taking pictures, followed by a release.

It’s infuriating to see someone gain by breaking the rules. You're happy to see people succeed but not when they break the rules or hurt the resources or industry in the process. It’s even more frustrating when the government or regulating authority does not do anything to stop the law breakers. In the case of the Tishomingo bass, the homeowner’s association does not have any power or care about enforcing fishing regulations. On the other hand, the local Fish and Game does not have any authority on private waters either. I don’t like a system that is rigged. No one does. I want to play by the rules, work hard, and find success. In “American BeheMouth” I talk about these types of ethical issues in fishing, life, and government all in a fishing story.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Austerity measures for a balanced economy

It’s easy to look at the problems in the world and take a bleak perspective. Some look at all the problems and see the end with no way out. Some are even prepping for the end of the world. However, instead of falling into gloom and doom thinking, wouldn’t it be better to work toward making improvements in your life and world toward being more balanced?

You can’t prepare for every doomsday scenario anyway. Look at the film, Melancholia. What would you do in the scenario in which Planet X is going to crash into earth? Probably become unhinged! Don’t become unhinged; focus on what you can change here and now. With the economic problems the world is facing, an economic collapse seems almost certain, but it does not have to be.

American BeheMouth is about one man who becomes obsessed with one idea of raising the world-record bass (bigger and better no matter the cost). It's also about bloated government (see the picture of the fat bigmouth bass). Any time you get too out of balance, you can become unhinged. That’s what’s happening in Greece right now. However, further up north, in Estonia, politicians made spending cuts and got their government back under control with good austerity measures, leading to 7.6% growth last year. They are a model for how we should go as a country and as individuals. 

We have to take personal responsibility for ourselves and in our government. We can’t blame others or expect bigger governments or richer individuals to bail us out.

Preview most of American BeheMouth in Google Play.

Saturday, June 30, 2012

What’s Wrong with Bass Tournaments?

No one is asking this question, but instead I have heard a lot of bragging about how much these tournament organizations “improve the fishing” and how they positively “impact the local economies.” I don’t disagree that some organizations work at improving fisheries and also probably have a positive impact on the economy, but I want to point out some serious issues that no one raises.

Bass Fishing Tournaments Negatively Impact the Fish and the Fishery
Bass fishing tournaments negatively impact a fishery in many ways—not any differently than heavy fishing pressure affects a fishery. I can list at least two dozen ways tournaments hurt the fish and fishing, but I will try to keep my list concise.

1)     Taking bass off the beds during a spawn. It’s extremely presumptuous and arrogant to believe what we are told by BASS that every released bass will go straight back to the bed and complete the spawn.  We shouldn’t be so brain numb to believe everything we are told by propagandists. Some bass are yanked off the bed while they are trying to lay eggs or protect fry. They are then taken as much as 30+ miles away for as long as 12 hours. They are then released to another location. In that time, the eggs and fry may be eaten. No one goes back and measures the results of that fish’s egg laying. Don’t be fooled.
2)      Improperly maintained live wells. I learned from personal experience that tournament bass fishermen do not know how to properly maintain their live wells. In some cases, the temperature and weather conditions make it impossible to use an aerated live well to keep a fish alive all day. I have seen bass fishermen kill a live well of big fish on several occasions. They acted surprised by the end result, not realizing that 80-90 degree water with low oxygen can kill fish fast.
3)      Extreme water temperature variation. Bass cannot handle extreme variations in temperature change. Tournament organizations are killing bass when they do not consider hot weather and big temp changes. Tournaments should be cancelled when the temps are above 90 degrees; otherwise, most of those bass are in jeopardy of being killed.
4)      Over-handling. Slime coat removal. BASS and other organizations mishandle the fish. Just watch an episode of Bassmaster. They flip the bass into the center of the boat onto the abrasive carpeting, where the slime coating of the fish is removed. They then handle the fish with dry hands then and again later at weigh in. Fish should never be touched with dry or abrasive items. That removes their slime coating and makes them vulnerable to disease and infection.
5)      Spreading disease. Bass transmit disease just like humans. They live in certain areas where they often stay in small groups or schools. Taking one group of fish away to weigh in and then bring them among others in a small tank, then take them back to new areas among other bass allows diseases like Largemouth Bass Virus to infect large areas and kill off the bigger fish.
6)      Putting money ahead of the fishery. BASS and other organizations seem to put the economics of their tournament ahead of the fishery in almost every case. Just take the recent case on Lake Michigan with BASS. The fisheries biologists set a boundary to protect the smallmouth from a couple of the factors I mentioned earlier, namely spreading disease and species preservation. Some species variations should not be mixed with others. Instead of thanking the biologists for protecting the fish, all the pros are complaining about how unfair this is, that they cannot drive 200 miles from spot to spot and take all the fish they want and move them wherever they want later when they cull. Kevin VanDam and others are complaining on the BASS site that this is an outrage and that it will affect the economy. What a load of crap. The fisheries biologists are just doing this to protect the fish. The tournament will go on just fine and you will still get your money in the end. Why are you complaining? Just because some spots are off limits? Who cares?
7)      Low oxygen levels. Bass will die on their own in naturally-caused low oxygen conditions.  This happens all the time. Big bass will die without enough oxygen in the water, and experts will wonder why. Now add to that a tournament situation. Those bass are pulled out, already stressed and struggling. Add to that the additional stress of being caught and hauled around all day. They will die later from the stress, post release. The combination of naturally-occurring low oxygen levels and the stress of being caught can kill fish.
8)      High temperatures. In nature, bass can handle water temperatures in the 90s just fine as long as they have good oxygen levels, vegetation, shade, and deep water. They can adjust as they need, just like humans in the woods. We can find a shady tree and find a cooler spot. In a live well in a boat with a dark-colored carpeting, a bass is fried like in an oven, unless you have some way to cool the fish, such as ice. Most fishermen do not come prepared for these conditions and kill their fish. I have seen it many times.
9)      Deep water conditions. If you catch fish in water deeper than 20 feet, you need to be prepared to fizz your fish with a hypodermic needle. (See an article on this: Bass need the air in their swim bladder to be released or they will not be able to swim back down and can be found later floating. One time I saw one team of anglers slaughter over 100 bass this way. They did not fizz any of the smaller fish under three pounds and were fishing a big school of bass on Bull Shoals. They fished these spots all day until they had the biggest fish, which were also dead on arrival. These anglers made two fatal errors. They fished jigging spoons in 40-50 feet of water without fizzing the fish they pulled in, killing everything they caught. They also did not think of the fact that on a hot day in April in Arkansas, the air temp is 90, the live well temp is 90+, and the water temp of the fish in the school at 40 feet is 57-58 degrees! A fish cannot tolerate a temperature change like that.
10)   Slow/Bad release conditions. In some of these tournaments, they do not release these fish right away. Some of these fish are held in a boat for 12 or more hours. Then they are released from huge holding tanks where disease is spread out in the middle of the lake, where the stressed fish will have to swim many miles back to their homes. The stress of this kills many fish. Instead of admitting this, they tag a few fish with transmitters in a study or two and say all swam home safely. This is not always the case. I have seen the floating fish later. I have seen the dead fish in the weigh in bags.
11)   Heavy fishing pressure, hook sets, break-offs, and gut hooks. Bass Tournaments and heavy fishing pressure kill fish. BASS and other tournament organizations claim a 99% successful catch and release rate, but these numbers are just pure fiction and marketing hype.  These phony numbers just make everyone feel good. The numbers are not true.  Bass are hearty, but some are killed on just hook sets and break-offs. Those fish are never seen. The truth is that there is no way to measure how these released, stressed fish do after they are released. After the many stressors I mentioned in this article, many of them die. If you release a stressed fish back into Lake Toho, for example, an alligator will have that fish for a meal. I have seen a big alligator grab a 6-pound bass and crunch it, bones and all, in one bite. (Read a sample chapter on Lake Toho.)
12)   100% Catch and release is actually poor fisheries management strategy. It’s absolutely asinine to take the biggest fish off beds and think this is good fisheries management. It’s also idiotic to think that releasing all the small fish is good for a lake. Some lakes need the smaller fish weeded out so that there is less competition so they can grow. Implementing slot limits is a great way to solve this problem. Also we should be throwing back the trophies—not skin mounting them. We need to weigh and certify records in the boat and release the trophies. Keep some of the smaller fish to eat when there is a population of stunted fish. Follow the creel limit laws and obey the recommendations of the local fisheries biologists.

Here's a good article that also highlights and admits to some of these problems.

1)      Go to a paper tournament or digital tournament format. We have no reason to take 5 fish back to weigh in. We have the technology to digitally weigh fish on the water and go back with the results. In fact, we have the technology now to use mobile devices to wirelessly send back the results live. We don’t need to hurt the fish! In a simpler system for small bass clubs, do a paper tournament by measuring the fish or weighing them and recording it on paper. Release the big bass back to their homes immediately. Only use wet hands when handling the fish.
2)      Outlaw bed fishing. Let’s be honest with ourselves. Pulling spawning fish off of beds to take them 100 miles away hurts the spawn. All the phony arguments saying otherwise are lies and deception. This is a critical time for bass and they are susceptible when they are on the bed. What kind of sport takes advantage of an animal when they are susceptible like this? Bed fishing is not any different than spot lighting deer at night and shooting them. Local lakes and even states should ban this practice to protect the species.
3)      Cancel tournaments when conditions are going to kill fish. Don’t allow tournaments to kill off the big bass in a lake. Cancel them when air temps are high or there is a high temperature variation between the fish’s water temp and the livewell and air temperature. Otherwise, the fish will die. Be sure to provide all anglers with a fizzing kit if they are going to be catching fish in deep water. Educate them on how to use the kit.

Read more true fisheries science and research at American BeheMouth.  
Buy the paperback.  
Purchase the EBook.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

"Build it (at any cost) and they will come"

American BeheMouth's "Lake of Dreams" parallels the Kevin Costner film "Field of Dreams" in a couple ways. The themes are still the same, except now, following the housing bubble and other economic turmoil, Americans need to look at wild expenditures a little more carefully. Do we really need a $1.3 BILLION dollar stadium to replace a perfectly good stadium? Do we really want to fire teachers in Santa Clara County, California? The county says "no" but some people still say "yes, we want our new stadium--that's OUR money." The city of Stockton, California is going bankrupt, the biggest city to go bankrupt in American history. Are we headed in the same direction in other cities and in the entire state?

In a couple of places, including the book American BeheMouth, I reference people who have taken the equity out of their houses at peak prices in order to do something like become a professional tournament fisherman, or to build an addition, or (even worse) to build a baseball field in the backyard. I don't need to say why a move like this is stupid and leads to American bankruptcies. In American BeheMouth, the protagonist, Jay, does the same thing in building his lake, going into credit card debt to finance the "dream."

We have to start living within our means. I am afraid we are going to discover more economic bubbles with some of these dumb moves in professional sports, as well as in our cities, states, and federal government.

Read the book, American BeheMouth, in paperback.

Read the EBook.