Sunday, November 28, 2010

1/18 of our mission accomplished!

As I mentioned in a previous post, one of the things on my outdoor "bucket list" is to complete the Bassmaster "Bass Slam" with a fly rod. Basically, you have to catch all of the species and subspecies of the Black Basses (genus Micropterus) in one year. There are 9 different fish that need to be caught to complete the "Bass Slam." Between Kelly and I... we need to catch a total of 18 qualifying fish.

Kelly and I are trying to be the first to complete the task with a fly rod. I actually only recently discovered the "Bass Slam" challenge when I picked up a copy of Bassmaster magazine at the grocery store, but I had basically come up with the concept on my own... thanks to a truck stop T-shirt.

A couple of years ago I bought a really cheap T-shirt at a truck stop somewhere along I-55 in Mississippi because I thought it was a bit funny... at least from the perspective of a fly fishing naturalist. The shirt reads "Bass of North America" and depicts the Largemouth, Smallmouth, Spotted, Shoal, Redeye, and Guadalupe Basses. What was funny to me was that this truck stop souvenir also had Mississippi printed across the bottom, and three of the six fish are not found in Mississippi. Additionally, Smallmouths can only realistically be caught "in Mississippi" from the waters of Pickwick Lake which forms the northeastern boundary of the state.

At some point while Kelly and I were out fishing and I was wearing this horrendous garment, I got the idea to try and catch all of the species on the shirt and photograph them while wearing it. The official "Bass Slam" challenge also includes the Suwanee Bass and splits the Largemouth and Spotted each into two distinct subspecies, so it definitely adds a bit more fun to the adventure.

Wearing "the shirt" with a Redeye Bass:

The "Bass of North America Mississippi" T-shirt

(I know... I know... I should have been fishing with a 5 wt... please ignore the overkill 7 wt. I really had no idea what I was getting into fishing for Redeyes for the first time.)

The Redeye Bass seemed to give the first round of "Bass Slam" anglers the toughest time. This is probably because chunking a big spinnerbait at a fish that has been called the "Brook Trout of warmwater game fish" isn't the best approach. The fly rod on the other hand...

Initially the length requirement for the Redeye was 12", but it was cut back to 8" after no one could land a foot long "lunker." Most of the Redeyes submitted by the first round of Bass Slammers were barely the required length. Kelly and I have caught "monster" fish of around 10" in Alabama... catching qualifying Redeyes shouldn't be an issue for us.

To get to the point of this post, Kelly once again showed me up with her fishing prowess. We managed to squeeze in a day of kayaking and fishing for Spotted Bass last week during our Thanksgiving visit to south Mississippi. We floated down the Bowie River near Hattiesburg, and Kelly landed a very nice qualifying fish of 14.5" (the minimum for the Spotted is 12"). I caught a few fish... the biggest was around 10"... why does she keep making me look like such an amateur?

Kelly's "Bass Slam" 14.5" Spotted Bass, November 23, 2010

Anyway, I was very proud of her. We are well on our way... I just need to get with the program.

For any of you overzealous bass fly fishers, please don't steal our thunder and try to beat us at our own little quest. To my knowledge no one has accomplished this feat with a fly rod (at least if they have they didn't submit their application to Bassmaster), and we would like to be the first to do so.

After all, Bassmaster stole the idea from me and my shirt. I just want a little bit of my originality back.


  1. good luck, looking forward to following the journey

  2. I've never looked into all the various species of freshwater bass. Up here - Iowa - I just deal with largemouth and smallmouth. You've given me a research topic... And I hope you guys hit the mark. Good luck!

  3. Josh, Thanks for the encouragement. I look forward to writing about each victory... and failure... on our way to completing the "Bass Slam."

    Casey, pretty much every major group of freshwater organisms are at their greatest biodiversity in the southeast region that I call home. This includes the Centrarchidae (the family that includes all the bass and sunfish), crayfish, mollusks, aquatic turtles, snakes, and salamanders (if you include the Southern Appalachians). Pretty much all of the Micropterus species are endemic to this region except the Smallmouth, Largemouth, and Spotted which had pretty large historical ranges that included much more than just the SE. Glad I could inspire you to learn more about Micropterus.

  4. Dude, you were out-fished by a girl... wait... I'm out-fished by girls all the time. Damn it!

    As for the shirt... it's a fishing shirt and you were fishing, so it gets a "pass" from me. =)

    the Average Joe Fisherman

  5. First off what a great quest for the bucket list—So you are saying that you have caught the spot and working on landing the rest?? With you living in Memphis I assume you will get the smallmouth on Pickwick. I use to fish that lake when my wife and I lived in Tupelo. I have a suggestion on where to land the redeye; you are about 2 hours south of it on I-55. There is a local lake at Winona just off the interstate called Legion Lake. I have caught redeye there in the 12” to 13” range. In the early spring they can be caught around the edge of the lake in the weed beds. My brother and I have caught numbers there early but as the water warms up they go deep into the creeks which are 25 to 30 ft. deep. The only way to land them then is fish deep with a grub. You can land the Guadalupe in the Big Black River south of Winona. My brother has caught them on spinner baits. He caught some a few years ago and really didn’t recognize what he was catching, and did a little research and found it was the Guadalupe. I really enjoyed this post and want to keep up with you all quest. I will be checking back to see what your next catch is.

  6. Bill,
    Thanks for the comment. 1 Spot down for Kelly, we have a combined 17 fish more to go. Most of it will be done in the spring and early summer of next year. I'm sure there are all sorts of bass all over, but because there so many hybrids out there the Guadulupe has to be caught in its native range in TX. Likewise, the FL Largemouth must come from peninsular FL from Orlando area southward. I was thinking I could get a FL strain Largemouth in TX, but it has to come from its homewaters. We will probably get our Smallmouths somewhere in the TN River drainage... somewhere. If not there, in AR... somewhere. We will definitely be in AL along the way for Alabama Spots and Redeyes!
    Lots of planning to do.
    I can't wait to update on our progress.

  7. Sorry to steal your thunder, Jay. But after reading this post, I loaded up my fly gear and caught one of each species in a single afternoon. Talk about luck! Don't lose heart, friend. I won't tell anyone. ;-)

  8. Damn it! I knew someone would try to beat me if I put it out there. You must drive really fast, Jen... or maybe you flew in your super hero jet that lands on water. I seem to remember you having one of those parked in your Avenger Cave.
    At minimum you would have to visit 4 states to accomplish this task: FL, GA, AL, and TX! A single afternoon... I'm very impressed. Thanks for keeping it quiet.