MANY, La. — In an effort to reduce stress levels and potential injuries to fish caught in tournaments, BASS introduced a new weigh-in checkpoint during the Bassmaster Central Open at Toledo Bend Reservoir in March.
"We are looking for better ways to handle fish during the weigh-in," explained Bassmaster Open Tournament Director Chris Bowes.
To accomplish this, officials replaced the old dry "bump station," where bass are counted and checked, with a new station that may ensure greater survival rates after the fish are released.
The bump station is where all anglers first bring their fish during a weigh-in. In the past, each fisherman placed his daily creel into a sink where the water was quickly drained, giving tournament officials the opportunity to carefully inspect each fish for minimum length and to check it for possible injuries.
After this brief inspection, officials then would transfer the angler's catch into a dry mesh bag. The angler then moved the bag to aerated holding tanks to await his turn to certify his daily weight.
The improved bump station unveiled at Toledo Bend ensures that the fish remain in water almost the entire time. Bass remain in solid,
water-filled transport bags from the boat's livewell to the bump station. Once they are presented for inspection, they are placed in a shallow vat of water and then quickly transferred into mesh bags that are submerged in a deeper container of water.
"The only time a fish touches a dry surface is when I need to measure one," explained long-time BASS tournament official Pee Wee Powers. "Other than that, I can just move them from one bag to the other."
Survival rates have been very high even under the old system, but BASS Conservation Director Chris Horton said the new "wet bump station" shows the organization's continuing commitment to resource conservation.
"The whole problem [with weigh-ins] is the fish are out of the water," Horton said. "With the new system, that time is minimized."
The end result is that fish are now out of water only for the few seconds necessary to carry them to the scales to record a day's weight.
Although it might take some time to educate the pros on this new weigh-in procedure, Powers said the experiment represented another step forward in the evolution of the modern weigh-in system.
"The less you have to handle the fish, the better. And it really worked well," he said.
Elite Series pro James Niggemeyer, who won the event, said he was impressed with the results.
"The fish really seemed to be less stressed because they were in water. They didn't flop around as much, so I don't think they got as banged around," he said.
"That can only be better for the fish."
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