More than 20 years ago, the slot limit program was created for Roosevelt Lake by the Arizona Game and Fish Department to improve the declining fishery. This plan mandated that all bass in the range of 13 to 16 inches be returned to the water immediately because they were the prime spawners for future bass populations. During this same time period, bass fishing became more of a “catch and release” mentality, where trophy-sized fish were returned to the water after a couple of quick photos to possibly be caught again by another angler.
Recent studies over the past couple of years have shown that Roosevelt Lake is an extremely healthy fishery, so last year the slot limit was eased a bit by allowing one fish in the 13- to 16-inch category to be kept by anglers. This past week the slot was officially eliminated by the commission on the recommendation of the fisheries branch of the Arizona Game and Fish Department.
John and Janet Sneed, owners of All-Star Bass and The Tackle Box, came up with a creative idea of commemorating this decision by hosting the first no slot limit bass tournament where the winning teams would have their entry fee paid in the upcoming FLW National Guard Western Series Tournament to be held on Roosevelt Lake in late September. Their effort, with the help of many other volunteers, made this a tremendous success with 55 boats on the water at safe light last Saturday, all vying for the opportunity to have their entry fee of $2,000 for a pro or $350 for a co-angler to be paid by the tournament entries.
The excitement was high as many locals entered with the hope of getting their entry fee paid for the major event. At the weigh-ins Leroy Price and Rodney Ward of Globe won top honors with a five-fish limit of 20 pounds and the opportunity to fish in the Western Series finale. Because the tournament was so well attended, the second-place team of Keith Espey and Mark Kramb, who caught a 15-pound bag, also have their fees paid for the upcoming FLW National Guard event. Third place went to Tim Jacobs and Jeff Frazier, who were only an ounce behind and will have $1,000 of their entry paid for the late-September derby.
This kind of grass roots support, which was provided by All-Star Bass and The Tackle Box, is needed to showcase Roosevelt Lake as an outstanding fishery, which may attract other major bass tournaments to Gila County in the future. Professional bass organizations like the FLW want to schedule lakes that produce big bass, which increases the excitement for the anglers as well as the spectators at weigh-ins. Many of the top pros in the country are now here practicing on the lake in preparation for the final event on the FLW National Guard Western Series with a top prize of $50,000.
These major bass organizations have the highest quality of aerators and release boats, which ensure the bass are returned to the lake in good condition, to be caught again by another lucky angler.
Whether you are a tournament angler or a weekend recreational fisherman, everyone can benefit from a healthy reservoir.
Roosevelt Lake as a major bass fishery is a valuable natural resource, which can benefit all Arizonans for future generations.
This weekend, take a friend fishing and enjoy God’s creation.