For so long it was believed that smallmouth bass didn't travel that far or intermix their populations - especially in a large waterbody like Lake Michigan. But early studies, originating in the mid-1950s by Dr. Carl Latta, hinted that smallmouth bass just may travel much farther than researchers initially understood.
Historical data on the northern Lake Michigan smallmouth bass population was collected via very limited surveys from the mid-1950s, through the late 1990s. Then in 2005, an ongoing smallmouth bass survey was launched jointly with Central Michigan University (CMU) to look at population trends in the species.
When the study was initiated, the Beaver Island Archipelago area was chosen as the main study area. It was the location of CMU's biological station and more importantly the residents of Beaver Island were concerned about the local bass population believing increasing numbers of cormorants locally were the direct cause of the decline in the local bass population. In 2009, the study area was expanded to include the Waugoshance point area, then again in 2014 to include Grand Traverse Bay.
"Historically the local bass fishery was considered world-class and drew in a lot of anglers," explained a DNR fisheries research technician out of Charlevoix, John Clevenger. "All of a sudden the fishery was low - the cormorant populations were high - and we wanted to try to see what truly caused the bass to decline."
By Al McGuckin
As a tight end for the Dixie Hornets in rural South Carolina, 2015 Bassmaster Classic Champ Casey Ashley didn’t get to touch the ball much.
“We ran the wishbone all the time, so my job was to block,” says Ashley. “Every team in the county knew what play we were gonna run next, but the tough part was stopping us.”
After two full days of practice at the 2018 Huk Bassmaster Elite on the St. Lawrence River separating New York and Canada, Casey has already had his hand on several footballs -- big, fat, bronze colored footballs with fins, better known as smallmouth bass.
“I ain’t gonna lie, I’ve already touched a handful of smallies over 4-pounds, and I think a whole bunch of other pros probably have too,” grinned Ashley. “I actually think the fish have gotten bigger on the St. Lawrence since we competed here last summer.”
When Yamaha Pro Ish Monroe won the Bassmaster Elite tournament on the upper Mississippi River this past June by fishing his favorite floating frog lure over shallow vegetation, the victory validated two of his primary beliefs about river fishing.
First, bass in rivers nearly always concentrate in specific areas more than they do in lakes; and secondly, water movement and habitat put bass in those specific areas.
“Most rivers have fishable water from one end to the other, so you have to move around more to find the fish,” he explains. “At the same time, most, but not all rivers have an abundance of suitable habitat where fish might be.
“As a fisherman is moving and searching for those concentrations, he/she also has to be fine-tuning his/her selection process, and one way to do this is studying how water movement relates to that habitat.”