Let’s talk realistic catch rates


Garrick Dixon

Yup, still throwing “that bug!”

I’ve spent the last few days filming with Mark Zona. We caught the daylights out of them, one right after the other. That got me to thinking. Maybe it’s time we take a realistic look at how many fish we catch and how big they really are.

We caught hundreds of 3 and 4 pound bass. It was every cast with almost any lure we showed them. The thing is, though, we were fishing a private lake that has little or no fishing pressure. And, even though the water was never above 49 degrees it didn’t bother the bass.

That’s not the way it is in the real world. If you’re fishing most public waters, you can realistically expect to catch four or five keepers a day. Anything around eight or 10 is a really good day, one that won’t come along all that often.

If you think I’m lowballing it, I want you to do something. Check out the anglers who don’t make the first cut in any Bassmaster Elite Series tournament. Count how many fish they caught. Then, count the number of Classic champions and previous Elite tournament winners that are in that group. That’ll give you another way to look at bass fishing. (I know. I’ve been there. It makes you think about things.)

It pretty much works the same way with weight. Big bass aren’t as easy to catch as you might think by watching the top few anglers in one of our tournaments. That’s true of other circuits, too. A recent event on Lake Okeechobee didn’t produce a 10-pounder, and that’s with approximately 200 anglers fishing. If 200 anglers can’t catch one on Okeechobee…

That’s no reflection on the anglers who were fishing that tournament. Bass in that class are hard to catch. I’ve fished Florida about a million times when conditions were perfect, early in the year with a full moon and gently rising water temperatures. I’ve caught two down there over all those trips. Both of them were on the beds and came out of the St. Johns River.

Hint: A lot of the 10-pounders and up come from their beds. Sight fishing is a good way to cull through smaller bass and, if you know what you’re doing, you can usually make them bite and catch them.

While we’re talking about the St. Johns, I’d like to say a few words about this year’s tournament on her.

Everyone is expecting big fish and big weights. That’ll happen if the bass are on the beds. We can see them, target them and get some of them into the livewell. But if conditions are tough it’ll take a lot of work just to bring five fish to the scales, and they might weigh less than 10 pounds. I know, some guys will do better than that. But again, look at the real-world picture.

If you’re a weekend angler, club competitor or aspiring pro and you’re not catching what you think you should, take heart. They aren’t as easy to catch as you might think. In fact, they can be really stubborn and make a humble man out of any of us.

And, when you’re watching a TV fishing show make sure you know where they’re fishing. Mark Zona tells the truth. Not everyone else does.