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Raising Trophy Bass! Trophy Bass Expert Bob Lusk, speak to us!

Bob Lusk is an expert on raising trophy bass. He is the industry's leading expert on raising trophy bass. Bob, I'd like to extend an open invitation to you to spend a moment or two giving novices like us a primer on what it takes to raise trophy bass in our farm ponds, or in our small lakes. When you're done, I'll try to address how a pond manager can also create a trophy bluegill fishery along with the trophy bass. We know that raising trophy bass can be a complex process, but if you were to have five or six paragraphs to tell us some of your secrets, we'd be grateful!

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Comment by Bob Lusk on July 14, 2010 at 5:02am
Bill, absolutely true.
A pond or lake is like a garden. It produces a "crop", whether wild or cultivated. In order to stay "balanced", a fishery must have harvest...not overharvest or under-harvest...predator fish ultimately are efficient at harvesting the crop of smaller forage fish. But, most predator fish are not efficient at harvesting themselves, as a population. That's where a fishery needs help from anglers. Raising Trophy Bass ultimately means taking mid-sized fish and protecting the biggest ones. Catch and release is an effective tool to preserve young fisheries, but is a fatal long term management practice if you intend to grow numbers of large bass. That's where "slot limits" are a better strategy.
Comment by Bill "Musky" Modica on July 14, 2010 at 4:51am
Very interesting post... Bob, are there downsides to mandatory catch and release only lakes...i.e. stunting caused by over-population and lack of selective harvest?...some anglers and lake management personel up here have a "let em go-let em grow" mentality. (No harvest=No stocking)....this can't be good.
Comment by Magnolia Rick on July 13, 2010 at 7:55pm
They ( the blue gills) are feed like there no tomorrow I caught one with a cricket and she had a mouth full of feed. I read the the most inportant thing in managing a pond is a good yellow table
Comment by Bob Lusk on July 13, 2010 at 7:33pm
Growing Trophy Bass is a function of the dynamics of several different variables. Growing Trophy Bluegill can be a result of growing trophy bass. 50 bass per acre is an average, not necessarily a goal. Since the population is dynamic, always changing, it's a good idea to keep a few 14-15" long bass to help eat the intermediate size bluegill and small bass. When bluegill numbers are managed, remaining individual bluegill are able to grow to trophy sizes, too. I've seen many lakes growing trophy bass also be astonishing when it comes to growing trophy bluegill, especially those panfish pushing way beyond 1.5 lbs.
Comment by Magnolia Rick on July 13, 2010 at 5:05pm
Bob
Thanks for the post. I also follow you and pond boss form too.
My little pond (3/4 acre) now is carrying about 50 to 75 small bass 10" to 11"
I think I read about 50 pound per acre should be a good rule of thumb.
And 200 bluegills 7 to 8” now. My plan is a fishing pond for my grandkids
1 to 2 pound bass and 1 to 1 ½ pound gills.
Bass when they get to about 14” to 15” long I’ll pull and put in the 5 acre neighborhood pond and when my gills get to the magic 10” I’ll start taking the 8 to 9” out too.
As you mention forage food is the real secret, I feed twice a day and the bass are starting to come to the feeding.
Again thank for adding your year of knowledge to us part-timers pond managers
Comment by Bob Lusk on July 13, 2010 at 2:50pm
Sharon, 10-12" bass are easy to grow. Anyone can do it.
Comment by 10.5" RES Sharon on July 13, 2010 at 2:18pm
If a person (me) was not interested in trophy sized fish, just a bass big enough to eat, how many lbs or inches would the bass need to be? We don't eat a lot, just a few strips apiece would do.
Comment by John Sheehan on July 13, 2010 at 12:05pm
Fascinating Bob. Thanks!
Comment by Jim Gronaw on July 13, 2010 at 11:43am
Excellent advise, Bob. I have been lucky to fish a couple of northern and mid-Atlantic lakes that have yielded fish over 22 inches, which we consider to be trophy bass in our region. Clearly it is a procedure that takes time, effort, money and most importantly, a well thought out game plan for success.

Thanks again!
Comment by Bob Lusk on July 13, 2010 at 9:42am
Thanks for the invitation, Bruce!
Raising Trophy Bass seems like a simple thing to do. Build a nice lake or pond, stock the proper food chain of fathead minnows, bluegill, redear sunfish in the beginning, then diversify the food chain later, add good genetics, stir, wait 6-8 years and you have double digit bass.
It ain't so easy.
In order for a bass to become a true "trophy" a number of things must line up...and do so in a timely fashion.
Raising Trophy Bass means to provide the best habitat for all necessary species of fish. Not only do you need the best habitat for species, you need the best habitat for the different size and age classes of those species.
It takes at least 10 pounds of forage fish for a bass to gain one pound. That's a lot of food...so, pondmeisters interested in growing big bass need the food to support the game fish. Bluegill are the backbone of that food chain.
Here's what it takes for a largemouth bass to truly become a trophy. First, it must be a female. That automatically eliminates half of the brood each year, since half are boys. Second, that bass must have Florida genetics or it won't grow much larger than 7-8 lbs in a "normal" environment. Third, that individual fish must have all it can eat, every day, to reach its growth potential. Each day of missed meals can't be regained. The biggest obstacle to overcome is that potential trophy must LIVE long enough to grow to its potential. Almost every newly hatched bass in "normal" environments is eaten before it reaches six inches in length.
But, let's assume all these things come together and you have the potential to grow trophy bass.
There are other things to think about.
Job one is to get as many females to 16.5" in length as soon as possible. That's the hardest of all jobs, simply because most ponds or lakes have abundant numbers of bass in the 10-14" size range, fighting and competing for space and food. If you have a good strategy to push your young bass into the size classes larger than 16.5", you'll grow trophy bass faster. Why 16.5"? Because a bass that size has a large enough mouth to swallow the predominant size class of bass in most lakes...10-12" fish. When a bass can eat those smaller bass, its world changes. Its behavior changes, its food chain changes and its growth rates change.
Bigger bass have larger habits. They dominate the best habitat. They eat whatever they want. A six pound bass will readily eat a two pound bass.
So, the keys are:
Provide habitat for all sizes of each species you need.
Make sure you have adequate amounts of the right size food sources at the right time.
Cull young, slow growing fish...keep catch records and pay attention to body condition of your fish.
Genetics are important.
Get bass to 16.5" as fast as possible.
There's a lot more to it, but that's the primer.
Oh..and subscribe to Pond Boss magazine. We cover all kinds of topics, including Raising Trophy Bass. Go to www.pondboss.com

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