It is so thrilling, exciting, and breathtaking to reel in a monster bass! In fact, this is why we love hunting bass in the first place, isn’t it?
But what is the first thing we do after getting this fish out of the water? We get into a photo shoot since we later want to show our buddies the size of our catch, not knowing we might be mishandling the poor fish in the process.
Now you are probably reading this and wondering, “How can one mishandle a fish?” “Are there techniques on how to hold and handle bass?” “And, why does it matter so much anyway?”
But don’t worry, you are not alone. Even the most experienced anglers sometimes get trouble handling a bass. That is why we have prepared this guide for you to layout the 5 important steps on handling this fish correctly. But just before that, let’s find out why a bass needs to be held properly.
Why You Need To Hold And Handle A Bass Correctly
Holding your bass improperly could hurt the fish and sometimes it may not survive after release.
Bass has needle-sharp teeth and sometimes, if you mishandle the fish it might not appreciate it. When holding a bass, you may not feel the teeth because they are not easily noticeable but if it gets a little angry, it will start writhing around and trying to escape. In the process, you might feel the teeth on your fingers, so it would be wise to release it the soonest as possible.
How To Hold And Handle A Bass
On the surface, holding a bass seems easy but you will be surprised by the number that doesn’t survive after release into the water. Researchers have found that 33% of bass die after the catch and release mainly due to mishandling.
This fish species, especially when held in a way that exerts pressure on its jaw, could lead to dislocation of the jaw. As a result, the fish won’t be able to close its mouth properly, which could affect its hunting and eating ability. This only means one thing – the fish will die because it can’t feed properly. Here is how to hold and handle bass step-by-step to ensure a safe catch and release.
1. First Things First – Get The Right Gear
The secret to safe bass angling is having appropriate equipment for the job. The must-have tools mostly include a cradle or net, long nose pliers, to remove the hooks from the fish, and a nice pair of fishing gloves.
Also, it is important to have a comfortable rod and reel that you are confident can handle this fish species. Having the right tools ensures that you remove the fish out of the water safely. It could actually make a difference between an enjoyable bass fishing day and a mess for the fish and yourself.
2. Catch The Fish
Bass or any other fish don’t have human stamina, so don’t play them longer than required. In fact, you don’t have to keep pumping your rod up and down like in salt-water fishing. Simply keep the tip of your rod up, preferably at 10 o’clock, tighten your line, and let the action of the rod and reel fight the fish.
The idea here is to minimize the stress undergone by the fish as much as possible. Don’t let your bass fight too much as this alone zaps enough energy from it, and may not have enough left to stay out of water or swim away once it is released back into the water. So once our fish has taken the bait, reel it in as soon as possible.
3. Remove The Lure
Once you have your fish secured, loosen your angling line. Leaving it bent could propel baits dangerously into your direction or that of your buddies when the lures are removed from the fish. You really don’t want you or your friends to have an emergency hook removal, yet this is something that can be prevented by taking proper measures.
Before removing the lure from the bass mouth, again, make sure you have the right equipment to make your job easier. Quite often, bass swallow baits deeper in their mouth, and if this is the case with your catch, you will need to grab a long pair of pliers and a pistol-grip hook remover or forceps. Jaw spreaders will also come in handy if your catch is monster-sized.
Lift the fish halfway from the water and sit in a position that allows you to extract the lure comfortably. Let your friends hold the fish for you while you pull out the bait or the other way around depending on your comfort and experience level.
Work quickly to avoid the bass teeth. If you are new to fishing, you will definitely take a few fish bites and scratches home and kill a number in the process before mastering the practice. But once you have grasped all the basics of safe hook extraction, you will be able to get the bait out of the fish without harming yourself and the fish.
All this time you should have your net wet and ready. Make sure to land the fishtail first. If you have caught a big sized fish, netting it headfirst would be a bad idea and you might even end up breaking its jaw. Most of the weight from the fish’s lower and middle body will be exerted on its upper body including the jaw, which might not be able to support all the weight.
Talking about netting, the best net to use for bass angling would be one made of silicone or rubber. Such designs don’t tangle or wrap around the fish. Entwining a thrashing fish is a bad angling practice as it removes its slime coat, a protective layer meant to keep the fish away from bacterial infection.
4. Handle The Fish – The Right Way
If you have been wondering about how to hold and handle bass correctly, then this is it – holding it vertically. This minimizes the pressure exerted on its jaw from its body weight.
To do it properly, put your thumb inside the bass mouth so that you can get a good hold of the lower lip. Put the rest of your fingers below the lip making sure that the grip is firm enough so that the fish doesn’t wiggle and jump out of your hands. You really don’t want to drop your fish, as this could be even more harmful and damaging than holding it incorrectly.
If you are not so comfortable using your fingers to hold the bass, you can use fish grippers and they will work the same way as your thumb. If you are fishing from a kayak, canoe, or any other floating device, make sure that the gripper is leashed to it so that even if the fish wriggles and falls into the water, the gripper won’t sink. There is nothing more tragic and disappointing than knowing that you dropped your catch with a dangerous tool attached to its mouth, sending it to a cruel fate.
You want to get this moment on the flick, so holding your bass horizontally will ensure that the fish isn’t mishandled. To do this, grip the fish the same you would hold it vertically. Your thumb should be in its mouth and the rest of your fingers underneath the lower lip to ensure a firm grip.
Place your other hand below the lower body of the bass just next to its tail. This will help support the weight of the fish so that it is evenly distributed across its body. A horizontal hold is one of the best ways to handle heavier and larger bass, as it doesn’t exert unnecessary pressure on its upper body especially its jaw.
At An Angle
The reason why a bass jaw gets damaged is that many anglers raise the fish from the horizontal position more than necessary. If you are going to hold this fish species at an angle, make sure the incline doesn’t exceed 10˚ from the horizontal position.
An angle greater than 10˚ can only be effective if you are handling a small sized bass. Larger fish are heavy and would put much stress on the jaw compared to smaller fish.
5. Release The Bass
Whether you are holding a small-sized bass or a giant one, remember that these guys reside in water so mind the amount of time they spend out of it. If you are taking pics with and of them or measuring their weight, make sure the process doesn’t last more than 20 seconds because soon the fish will start fighting for its life and you might not like it.
When you are ready to return the bass to its home, don’t just throw it back. This fish species is quite fragile after a catch and will require some care upon release.
To get the fish back to the water safely, hold its tail and submerge it into the water headfirst. Continue holding on to its appendage until the fish completely regains its bearings. Give it a few minutes and if your handling was right, your bass will be able to revive and make off by itself.
Globo Surf Overview
We believe that this guide has all the information you needed on how to hold and handle bass and therefore your next bass catching trip should be nothing less enjoyable, as you won’t be mishandling the fish unknowingly. Just remember to bring the appropriate equipment for the adventure, catch the fish right, hold it properly and release it as soon as possible. Also, remember to not rub off its slime layer.
If you use these tips during your next fishing, you will help conserve this species and any other fish group you might be eyeing. Also, help other anglers to learn the best bass handling practices so that even the next generation of fishermen and women can enjoy angling without having to worry about harming the fish.