Friday, December 23, 2005
by Lyle Johnson
I’ve been around bass fishing and fisherman for a long time and know a lot of those who love the sport – both men and women. As a bass angler, outdoor writer and TV co-host, I get to hear a lot of the dock talk. How many bass people are catching, where they’re biting, what baits are being used to catch them and how big they are make up most of the conversations.
A lot of fishermen are tight-lipped about their locations, and what baits are catching them. But the numbers they’re catching and how big they are usually flow like an artesian waterwell. “Man, we caught our limit and all of them were over 2 pounds – one went over 4,” or “We caught so many big fish, we were culling 2-pounders.”
Maybe in a disappointed tone you can hear, “We caught plenty of fish but none were over 2 pounds,” or “No big fish at all – our largest was a little over 2.”
Being what I’d call a pretty fair bass fisherman – I fish for fun and for competition – the 2-pounder I kept hearing about caught my attention. In my younger days it was easy to overestimate the weight of a fish, but after a few years of tournament fishing, estimating weights became a little easier.
The thought of 2-pound bass in the livewell always got my blood flowing. Although catching a 4- or 5-pounder might be a great goal, I always thought a 2-pound average was a very respectable catch.
The 2-pounder seemed to be the mark. I thought to myself, “Man I must be missing it.” A 2-pound bass was a nice fish to me, but sort of routine or a little on the short end for some others. Surely all these bass fishermen couldn’t be exaggerating the truth. So about 10 years ago I took it upon myself to do some scientific research and test out just how big a 2-pound bass really was.
I had an idea that if people could catch five 2-pound bass every time they went fishing, they’d do well.
What better than the recorded weights of tournament anglers, amateur and professional, to compile my data? The results weren’t a big surprise in some ways, but they amazed me in others.
The facts concluded that if you could catch five 2-pounders every time you went fishing, you could quit the grind of your day job and earn a good living bass fishing. Some years, you’d win a lot of money.
So this fall I was on BassFan and a survey on the homepage caught my attention. The question posed was, “What size of bass do you typically catch when you go fishing?” The categories to choose from were: 1) up to 2 pounds, 2) 2 to 3-plus pounds, 3) 4 to 6-plus pounds, 4) only 7-plus pounders, bud! 5) I only fish for bluegills. This was too good to be true.
When thinking about my vote, the first one that came to mind was 2 to 3-plus pounds, but in all honesty, that’s what I want to catch. The question was, “What size of bass do you typically catch when you go fishing?” Typically I catch up to 2-pounders if I average all my catches, so that’s how I voted.
When I got to the results page, 41% of the people voted like me, but 49% said they usually caught 2 to 3-plus pounders. Over 2,500 votes were cast from bass fishermen, so this is a pretty scientific poll. If the guys in that category are honest, boy are they missing their calling.
So just where would a 2-pound average put you? Do the math. When reading tournament results, see where five 2-pound bass puts you in the final results.
After some tedious research on BassFan and some great help from ESPN Outdoors publicist Kim Jessup, here are some results that just might get your attention.
The Bassmaster Elite 50s are a good example. The series lasted 2 years, with four tournaments each year. Five 2-pounders would have netted you a 1st at Wissota, two 2nds, then one each of the following: 8th, 13th, 16th, 27th and 30th. Not bad for fishing against KVD, Mark Davis, Greg Hackney and the likes.
What about the Bassmaster Classic, the ultimate crown for a professional angler? You would have beaten the best gathering of pros in 2005 by a whopping 17-01. Your finish in 2004 would have been 13th, then 8th in 2003, 9th in 2002, 4th in 2001, and 1st in 2000. You would have also won in 1983, 1986, 1987, 1988 and scored plenty of Top 10s along the way.
So now, just how big is a 2-pound bass? Bigger than most of us think. Is it just possible that we now have proof positive of the age-old adage that fishermen don’t tell the truth? I’m not telling.
Lyle Johnson, from Louisiana, is an outdoors columnist and TV co-host.