Competitive tournament bass fishing has quickly become a spectator sport.
The more popular fishermen, as they try to catch their five fish limit, are followed by other boats throughout the day. Obviously, these spectator boats are asked to be a safe distance from the professional angler as he concentrates on every cast.
Not everyone has access to a boat, so most of us will have to wait at the weigh-in venue and watch the results of a day on the water.
Visitors to the FLW Stren pro bass tournament coming to Roosevelt Lake in mid-April will be able to watch those weigh-ins in the upper parking lot at the Cholla boat launch for the first two days of the competition.
It is important to note that these are live fish weigh-ins and a tournament angler is penalized significantly for bringing a dead fish to the scale. Consequently, they have the most advanced livewells and aerators operating throughout the day so that those fish are kept healthy for the scales.
Tournament fishermen also use products that keep the fish healthy with ample oxygenated water. The most advanced product on the market today is called Rejuvenade and every pro on the FLW tour will be given a bottle before early morning blast off from the launch.
These anglers drew numbers the previous night to determine the time they will leave in the morning and the lowest numbers having the opportunity to leave the earliest. But, this means their day of fishing comes to a close earlier than the rest of the field.
There are usually 10 flights of 20 boats and each has a specific deadline to be at the scales.
This creates a situation where those fishermen and bass are only in a line for a few minutes. As the anglers are waiting in line, their catch is submerged in chilled water until the pro is on stage.
The entire catch is weighed as one weight by a quick water displacement high-tech scale. The bass are immediately taken to the release boat, which is a party barge that has a large aerated tank and these fish are dispersed throughout the lake at various locations.
By day three of the tournament, only 10 pros and 10 co-anglers are in the finals. If they were to all catch a five-fish limit, the total number of bass being weighed at the Walmart parking lot would be 100 fish. As soon as these 10 boats are off the water, they will have a Department of Public Safety escort to the Payson city limits, where our local police force will continue the convoy to the Walmart parking lot.
During the 40-minute trip, each livewell will be running on high, filled with 30 gallons of water and a fresh bottle of Rejuvenade. The weigh-ins begin as the first boat enters the parking lot. After each angler’s catch is weighed, the fish are immediately placed in a large holding tank which also acts as a decompression chamber for any change in elevation.
These fish are returned to Roosevelt Lake where they can be caught again by another pro angler in a catch-and-release tournament.
Or if these bass are caught by one of the thousands of recreational anglers, chances are they will be a tasty fish dinner.
The FLW pro bass circuits have a very impressive live release percentage of weighed in fish at 98.9 percent and are still constantly looking for improved technology for that perfect score.
The largemouth and smallmouth bass in Roosevelt Lake are a valuable resource that can be caught and recaught by tournament anglers with no negligible impact on the total fish population.
FLW Outdoors, as an organization, is active in conservation projects which have improved fisheries throughout the country since the year 2000.
They are in partnership with the Fish America Foundation and FLW has donated more than $300,000 to various conservation projects. The money raised is devoted to giving back to the host community for an improvement of their fisheries programs, which could have a future positive impact on Roosevelt Lake.
The initial Stren tournament on Roosevelt Lake could be a substantial “win-win” situation, with the possibility of other FLW events coming to Payson and the Tonto Basin area in the future.