Any pro or co-angler fishing the FLW Tour can tell you that accessing large bass is the clear crux of the celebrated competition. But without adequate access to a fishery, the quest cannot commence.
Old Hickory to get new docks
A $5,000 donation from FLW Outdoors, made through the FishAmerica Foundation, will help develop access to Tennessee’s Old Hickory Lake for tournament anglers and recreational anglers alike. Old Hickory, located near Gallatin, Tenn., has been a host fishery for many FLW Outdoors bass tournaments, most recently an FLW Tour event that took place earlier in March.
Sumner County Convention and Visitors Bureau Director Randy Cline said, “Our project is to improve water accessibility at Bull Creek Boat Ramp on Old Hickory Lake.”
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has designated the Bull Creek location as the Sumner County launch site for tournaments held on Old Hickory Lake. Cline said Bull Creek Boat Ramp has always been used heavily by fishermen, but it was only in the last three years that county funds were secured to replace one meager dock with three 60-foot piers.
Still more needs to be done, and Cline said the expansion – which will combine county, city and state funds along with donations – will take place in two phases. The donation from FLW Outdoors will contribute to the $15,000 cost of the first phase of improvements. The initial phase includes the installation of a concrete pad on the shoreline at each dock and the addition of 20-foot walkways to extend the existing docks farther into the water, greatly augmenting use of the network for a total of 360 feet of usable dock space or roughly 36 boats.
“The concrete pads and walkways will provide easy access for anglers to get back to the land portion of the boat ramp after tying off their boats,” Cline said. “(The overall project) will make a much better and more useful facility for the general public as well as the tournament fishermen.”
The second phase of the improvement plan will extend each dock by 20 feet and add perpendicular 20-foot sections to the ends for additional space and stability. The second phase will cost about $20,000.
“Tournament fishing is very important to our tourism promotion efforts in Sumner County, and we definitely appreciate our partnership and affiliation with FLW Outdoors and its tournaments that visit the area,” Cline said.
Bigger basin bass
FLW Outdoors will again donate $5,000 to add more Florida-strain bass into the Atchafalaya Basin as was done last year. The basin hosted an FLW Tour event in February that took place near Morgan City, La.
The donation, also made through the FishAmerica Foundation, will be used by the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries to continue a stocking program that introduces phase-two fingerlings, about 4 to 6 inches in length, into the basin. Tim Morrison, projects manager for the department, said anglers are already reaping the benefits of the program.
Mature Florida-strain bass are larger in size than other types of bass indigenous to the Atchafalaya Basin. The Florida-strain fingerlings reach maturity in the basin, and a hybridization cycle begins, yielding bigger kinds of bass. Prior to the stocking program that began “full force” in 1997, a typical large bass from the basin would weigh 5 to 6 pounds, Morrison said, compared to the many 8- to 10-pounders that have been pulled from the water in recent years.
For example, at the 2004 FLW Tour event held at the basin, the tournament’s big bass was an 8-pounder compared to a 5-pound, 14-ounce bass at the 2003 tournament. It’s difficult to determine whether the stocking program is behind that particular increase, but Morrison said the weights are shifting in the right direction regardless. He said he definitely attributes the respectable overall weights from this year’s tournament to the introduction of larger bass, especially when anglers battled difficulties.
“Conditions this year were really tough compared to the year before,” he said. “Yet this past year , the stringers were pretty good.”
The $5,000 will purchase about 6,250 fingerlings to be distributed at various points in the basin, near where FLW Tour competitors fished during the tournament. Morrison said the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries does not have a facility that produces phase-two fingerlings, which is why the stocking program depends on various funding sources – from government agencies to donations – to purchase them. The survival rate for smaller fingerlings diminishes greatly, he said, and the Florida-strain bass will also grow larger.
“In the basin, there are so many predators out there,” Morrison said.
The fingerlings will likely be distributed in the fall, like last year, by a coalition of volunteer bass club members and recreational anglers joining with government personnel. The fingerlings are trucked to various launch sites where they are bagged and then taken out to open water via boaters.
“It works well for us and the fishermen,” Morrison said. “They get to put the fish out into their favorite honey holes, and we get help distributing them.”
In 2000, FLW Outdoors announced its partnership with the FishAmerica Foundation and has since directly donated more than $200,000 – and helped to generate more than $1 million – for local conservation projects. FLW Outdoors will donate $5,000 for each of the seven FLW Tour events in 2004 as well as for some of the other tournaments taking place among its six tournament circuits.