Classic fish care plan hits home run with 98% live release

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All photos B.A.S.S.

When the Academy Sports + Outdoors Bassmaster Classic presented by Huk was moved from March to June due to concerns over the COVID-19 pandemic, B.A.S.S. staff and Texas Parks & Wildlife Department (TPWD) began planning a new approach to the weigh-in process to help maintain the integrity and fan-appeal of the Classic but maximize the survival of bass returned to Lake Ray Roberts.

B.A.S.S. Conservation Director Gene Gilliland said, “We worked with TPWD over the course of several weeks to refine the plan and define the roles that our staff, their biologists and our volunteer B.A.S.S. Nation Conservation Directors would be responsible for.”

The plan was executed to perfection, and the results exceeded expectations. Despite the heat, the distance, the traffic and the logistics that are inherent to the Bassmaster Classic, the team returned over 98% of the bass weighed during the 51st Classic to the lake where they were caught. The results are what would have been expected had the tournament been held in March as originally scheduled under much less harsh conditions.

“To see these results in Texas in the early summer was amazing — and a testimony to both the anglers and our fish care crew doing everything right,” Gilliland added.

Days 1 and 2 saw lakeside weigh-ins for all 54 anglers. Anglers were allowed to bring their two largest bass each day to show the fans in Dickies Arena. The rest of their day’s catch was placed in the B.A.S.S. Yamaha/AFTCO Live Release boat and returned to the lake after the weigh-in concluded (above). 

Texas Parks & Wildlife biologists and B.A.S.S. staff prepped the livewells containing the fish that were being transported to the arena, checking temperatures, and adding ice as necessary.