Roosevelt Lake’s transformation into one of the nation’s top bass-fishing lakes was recognized by the Arizona Game and Fish Commission’s decision this weekend to lift the eight-year-old slot limit that prevented fishermen from keeping 13- to 16-inch-long bass. The decision comes just in time for backers of the FLW bass tournament slated for late September.
The state imposed the limit on keeping bass of prime reproductive age in 1992, when a fishing survey found that it took the average bass fisherman eight hours to catch a single fish. A more recent survey suggested that it now takes the average fisherman about an hour to catch a bass.
Game and Fish Fisheries Branch Manager Kirt Young told the commission on Saturday that the bass population in Roosevelt Lake had recovered to perhaps record levels and no longer needed the protection of the slot limit.
Jim Goughnour, heading up the efforts to organize the Sept. 22-25 FLW tournament that will bring to Rim Country 300 anglers, said, “this is great news.”
Young said the decision was based entirely on the statistics and surveys showing that after two years of high water, the populations of largemouth bass had boomed — numbering now in the millions.
The repeal of the slot limit goes into effect in 10 days.
The new rules should provide a lift to the FLW tournament, especially during the nationally televised weigh-in.
In bass tournaments, anglers fish all day and keep their five biggest fish for weigh in — although tournament rules ban any fish smaller than 12 inches. Typically, fishermen with a chance to win catch fish that are at least four pounds each, which would make them all bigger than the 13-16-inch slot limit. Organizers worried that the rule made it look like it was hard to catch fish in Roosevelt Lake, which would water down the benefits of the publicity generated by the extensive coverage of the professional bass circuit.
Young predicted that the bass populations in Roosevelt Lake are so healthy now that the lake will probably generate a state record bass in the next year or two.