HOT SPRINGS (AGFC) - Anglers looking for the next place to take a fishing trip can narrow their search to some of Arkansas’s best bass waters with a quick visit to the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission’s Black Bass Program web page.
The Black Bass Program works with bass fishing clubs and tournament circuits across the state to gather tournament results throughout the year. The information is then compiled into a single report that ranks bodies of water according to certain criteria.
Percentage of anglers who catch a weighable bass, average weights, number of bass per day, pounds of bass per day and average angler hours to catch a 5-lb. or larger bass are all indicated in the report.
Jeff Buckingham, assistant black bass program coordinator for the AGFC, says the partnership can provide valuable data to both tournament directors and biologists.
“Angler catch data is already being collected by the tournament officials, it’s just a matter of putting it all together,” Buckingham said. “We can use this in addition to the data we gather through our sampling efforts to see some interesting trends.”
Buckingham says one trend that becomes apparent after looking at decades-worth of data is that anglers are getting much better at catching more and bigger bass during tournaments.
“The percent of anglers who weigh-in a bass, weight per angler and overall average weights have increased steadily over the years the program has been in place,” Buckingham said.
The report also offers tournament directors valuable insight on lakes as they build their yearly schedules. Lakes with high average weights and lakes with high angler success typically mean happy anglers, so an obvious approach is to focus on the lakes that rank high in those areas. A little deeper digging in the report also can yield some good information.
"Some tournament directors want to fish on lakes that don’t receive a lot of pressure,” Buckingham said. “All lakes receiving reports, even if it’s only one, are listed in the final report in addition to the top-ranked lakes. From this a director can get an idea of how many tournaments were there.”
The months in which tournaments are held also are ranked, to help directors schedule tournaments during times when catch rates and weights will be highest. Last year, December, February and March scored as the top three months for holding tournaments, while September and October, months when many clubs try to hold championships, scored very poorly.
Buckingham says that participation in the program has grown during the last few years, but there’s room for every bass fishing club in the state to submit their data as well.
“The more data we have, the more complete the information will be,” Buckingham said. “And participating is as simple as filling in a card or an online form with the weights and numbers you’re already writing down to conduct the tournament. You can even enter it right there from your phone.”
Contact Buckingham at email@example.com, call 877-525-8606 or visit www.agfc.com/atip for more information on how to participate in the Arkansas Tournament Information Program and a list of recent ATIP summary reports.