Tournament anglers who fish for largemouth bass in northern Indiana natural lakes have had no long-term negative effects on bass populations, according to a study by DNR fisheries biologists.
Biologists examined the numbers and sizes of bass caught at 22 organized events in 2011 and 2012, and compared the results to 23 events in 2001 through 2003.
Over the 10-year period, average catch rates of bass tournament anglers increased from one bass per 6.7 hours of fishing to one bass per 4.3 hours.
The average number of bass brought to tournament weigh-ins increased from 1.2 per angler to 1.7.
"Bass fishing is as good as ever," said Jed Pearson, a DNR biologist who compiled the results of the tournament study.
"We don't see any evidence to indicate bass tournaments hurt bass fishing." Since the 1970s, bass tournaments have played an important role in generating interest and excitement in bass fishing.
Bass are now sought by more anglers nationwide than any other species and are among the top three favorite fish in Indiana.
Bass tournaments, however, are not without controversy. Some non-tournament anglers claim tournaments reduce bass abundance.
They say tournaments increase bass mortality, despite the standard practice of tournament anglers to release their catch.
Compared to other states, Indiana imposes few restrictions on organized bass tournaments.
In response to complaints, however, the DNR monitors tournament activity and catches.
The size of bass brought to tournament weigh-ins also has stayed the same since 2001, Pearson said.
About half of all bass caught by tournament anglers are 14 to 15 inches long.
Those 18 inches or larger typically make up 5 percent of the catch.
Fewer than 5 percent of bass brought to weigh-ins show any sign of stress.
"Tournament anglers have done a good job of making sure they don't hurt bass fishing," Pearson said.
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