March 11, 2020 - Big Bass

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wayne gustaveson

Staff member
March 11, 2020
Lake Elevation 3601
Water Temperature 51-55 F

Expect more than just fat stripers in 2020. Largemouth and Smallmouth Bass also increased their weight and girth. Reports last year told of smallmouth bass swimming with the stripers in open water while gobbling up shad. What will happen this year? As the water warms, more bass will be active and anglers will be pleased with their condition. Smallmouth as large as 5-pounds were weighed in at a recent Bass Tournament at Wahweap.

Evidence of BIG BASS already started pouring in over winter. Tommy Bettfreund spent a lot of time fishing from shore and the Wahweap Fish Dock. In February, Tommy hooked a small striper on bait down deep under the dock. While reeling in the 7-inch striper, he was surprised as the tension on his rod tip changed from tiny to HUGE! A big largemouth came out of the trees under the dock and ate the striper. The battle was on! After a long fight, the bass finally gave up and Tommy was able to land the big fish. Since he was fishing alone and did not plan to keep the big fish, he took a selfie of the two of them on the dock. He then released the big bass to swim again. His guess was that the big bass was about 10 pounds. The Utah State and Lake Record for Largemouth bass is 10 pounds 2 ounces caught back in 1974. Tommy caught two huge largemouth in February and released both of them.

If you want to get credit for a Lake Record Largemouth Bass, it is wise to carry a scale and tape to measure while fishing. To qualify for a lake record the big fish must be weighed on a certified scale. Lake records can be obtained in 2 ways, via catch-and-release or harvest. Catch-and-release records are based on length, harvested fish (catch-and-keep) records are based on the weight of a dead fish that has been weighed using a certified scale. Fish taken off-site to be weighed must be dead and, therefore, are not releasable after weighing. Movement of live fish away from the lake, unless covered under a valid COR, is illegal.

Release any big largemouth bass to swim again in Lake Powell after it is weighed and measured. The better way to do it is to just measure the fish in front of witnesses and then release it. You can get the ‘lake record’ by certifying the length of the fish. The longest fish becomes the “Catch and Release” lake record. The lake record 10 pound 2 ounce largemouth bass from the last century was 24 inches long. The Lake Record smallmouth bass was 5 pounds, 6 ounces and 19 inches long.

I suggest releasing all largemouth since this species is struggling in the lake without enough brushy habitat. However, stripers, smallmouth and walleye are abundant. Keep these species in trophy and smaller sizes to help reduce the population. That allows the remaining fish to get bigger and stronger as they share the limited shad and crayfish forage.

This week stripers consistently hung out in 25 feet of water near the back of the canyon. Some small schools were holding on the bottom, usually on a slick rock slope where water depth changes quickly. Watch the graph to view individual fish near the level lake bottom and then the small school. Since the schools are hard to locate, the best technique is to troll at 3.5 mph. It is a dilemma when the school shows up in deciding whether to slam on the brakes and back up or continuing trolling. My suggestion is to troll over the school with deep diving lures that dive to 20 feet. Usually a fish or two will hit the trolled lures. The old-fashioned floating marker tossed over the side as the school is graphed still works very well. I find it a bit more difficult to retrace my path posted on the graph, but that works too. When back over the school, drop spoons quickly to catch 4-5 fish before they move on. Striper size and health makes catching five fish very rewarding. Some schools return to the same spot after an hour or on the next day. Try your happy spot each time you return to the same canyon.

Another great report stated that striper schools in the northern lake were trapping shad in shallow water (3-6 feet) in the back of the canyon. Striper schools were holding at the beginning of a narrow canyon and shad were pinned against the rock wall. This resembled an underwater striper boil. Shad imitating Lures tossed against the back wall were whacked on every retrieve. While fishing this week it may be worth it to check the back of narrow canyons. You might find one with some very agreeable stripers lurking in the back.

Fishing is challenging right now. It will improve as the water temperature continues to increase. When early morning water temperature is in the 60s fishing will be incredible for big bass and stripers. Water temperature this morning at Wahweap was finally in the 50s so there is still some time before fishing gets better.

FB_IMG_1581792175562.jpg Tommy Bettfreund with Big Smallmouth caught from shore at Wahweap.
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