When it comes to fishing big water, anglers must consider a lot of things that may not be an issue on smaller reservoirs or rivers. Bodies of water such as Lake Ontario, Lake Erie, Lake St. Clair, Lake Huron and Lake Mille Lacs are completely different animals and should be treated as such when operating a bass boat.
One factor that should be considered when fishing tournaments on these large bodies of water is fish care. Taking care of fish in the livewell should always be at the forefront for any tournament bass angler, but extra attention should be given when fishing on these giant bodies of water. The constant sloshing of water in the livewell and crashing into waves can add fatigue and unneeded stress on fish, so finding a solution to minimizing this is key.
With years of experience fishing on big bodies of water, 2021 Bassmaster Angler of the Year Seth Feider has found that a couple of easy steps can help keep your fish alive and well for the duration of the day.
“It’s just from fishing big-water smallmouth tournaments,” said Feider when asked how he figured out the effectiveness of these steps. “We make a lot of big runs on the Great Lakes, which makes it more difficult to take care of the fish in the livewell at times.”
1. Add pool noodles
A pool party isn’t the only place that a foam pool noodle can be used effectively. The Minnesota pro likes to take a pool noodle and cut vertical pieces that fit the dimensions of the livewell, creating a roof above the fish.
“It seems like no matter how full you get your livewells, there’s always a void at the top, but with the pool noodles, you can really fill up the livewells and that takes out a lot of that sloshing when you’re hitting those waves,” Feider said. “The pool noodles create a flat surface, so the fish won’t get beat up like they would if the livewell was half full of water.”
Feider also mentioned it is important to make sure that a couple of the noodles are cut shorter to allow the aerators to have direct access to the water.
2. Plug drain hole
Another key step that Feider takes when fishing tournaments on big bodies of water is plugging the drain hole in the livewell. This may seem like a small task, but in reality, this is one of his most important tips for big-water fish care.
“You’ll lose a lot of water running in those big waves if that drain hole isn’t filled,” he said. “If it’s really rough out, the front of the boat tends to stand up more which allows that water to drain out the back. When you plug that whole, that keeps the water from dumping out.
“You want to keep the water as full as possible during the day. I don’t want to have to refill the livewell with warm water throughout the day – I bet my livewells are consistently in the 50s (degrees) all day.”
This ultimately goes hand in hand with keeping pool noodles in the livewells. The fuller you can keep the livewells, the better off the fish will be in the rough water.
While these steps may seem simple enough, fish care is often a factor that is not considered until facing fish care penalties in big-water events. By taking these simple steps, keeping these big-water beauties alive will become much easier.