Tournaments can be controversial but generate a lot of enthusiasm for fishing, catch-and-release and marketing value for fishing destinations.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s (FWC) Division of Freshwater Fisheries Management (DFFM) surveyed Florida’s natural resource users for information to help develop a Black Bass Management Plan (BBMP). Numerous comments from the survey related to organized bass fishing tournaments. The FWC issues over 2,400 bass tournament permits annually that allow participating clubs and organizations to possess bass outside the legal size limits with the conditions that all bass (even those that could normally be harvested) must be released back into the tournament water body and must be handled properly to ensure the highest survival possible.
Tournament permit and fish care guidelines can be viewed at the Black Bass Tournament Exemption page. FWC staff observed and provided guidance to five national tournament organizations; Forest L. Wood (FLW) Outdoors, Bass Anglers Sportmans Society (BASS), and the Professional Anglers Association. These organizations have invested significant resources in their live release programs, and FWC-observed survival for these five tournaments was over 95 percent. The FWC continues to work with national and local bass fishing organizations to improve care and handling of our valuable bass resources.
Tournament bass fishing is a large industry in Florida with national events drawing hundreds of anglers, spectators and family members to enjoy fishing and other recreational opportunities. The host communities and the state realize significant economic impacts from tournaments with a national event providing as much as $1.2 million for a single one-week tournament. Additional economic benefits come from the national and international media coverage that attracts out-of-state visitors and encourages communities to emphasize the ecological care and value of our freshwater resources. FWC is strengthening partnerships with the bass fishing organizations and local communities to encourage large tournaments to come to Florida and to ensure adequate physical facilities. The DFFM is also working with the University of Florida to evaluate the economic impacts of all sizes of bass tournaments to provide a better understanding of the value of tournaments how to optimize facilities for them.
Major League Fishing is a new national tournament organization of professional bass fishermen that utilizes alternative weigh-in procedures. Hopefully the national media exposure will expedite cultural changes within bass tournament organizations and clubs to utilize the rapidly advancing technologies to maximize preservation of our valuable bass fisheries in Florida and throughout the nation. DFFM is cooperating with Major League Fishing officials to build a partnership that will encourage alternative bass tournament fish handling procedures in Florida lakes and streams.
For additional fisheries information contact fisheries biologist Allen Martin, 386-758-0525; Allen.Martin@MyFWC.com.