Suttle Fish Farm

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How to Raise Trophy Bass
by Dan Suttle

Truly huge bass requires the right genetics, lots of food, and space. Genetics is the essential part of a trophy bass lake. Growing a truly huge bass requires the right genetics. The Florida Strain Black Bass has proven to be the one of choice. You can feed a poodle but it will never get to the size of a Great Dane. Without the right genetics everything you do will come up short.

To grow really big bass you must stay focused on the food supply. Managing a pond for quality trophy bass is a matter of management of the bluegill. A dense population of bluegill will directly influence how fast, how large and how many trophy bass can be grown to an acre. Lake stocking, lake management and proper fish harvesting is all part of trophy bass management. The right bass genetics and a little management will go a long way towards a goal of raising trophy bass.

Management Practices for the Trophy Bass Lake
><> Stay focused on the food supply for the bass <><
><> Stocking Bluegill  ><> Genetics Bass Stocking  ><> Lake Fertilizing
<><
><> Water Quality   ><>Fish Habitat <><
><> Fish Feeding Program  ><> Proper Fish Harvesting  <><
<>< Record Keeping   ><> Weed Control
<><

Stay focused on the Food Chain for the Bass
Bluegill is the number one forage fish. Stocking new forage species is not always the solution. You may need to enhance the bluegill you have with a feeding program for them. You must realize how critical the bluegill plays as a forage fish. No other forage fish comes close to performing as good as the bluegill as a forage fish. Some fish species such as crappie compete for the same natural foods as bass and can reduce the overall forage base instead of increasing it. Bluegill achieve a size allowing them long term survival and long term food source for trophy bass. Since bluegill have a smaller mouth they cannot compete with adult bass for food.

Golden shiners, Gizzard or Threadfin Shad create problems in their own way. Fatheads minnows is the only forge fish that has no downside as a forge fish but they can't survive long with hungry bass. Bluegill is the only perfect forage fish. Your focus must be on the bluegill as a forge fish for trophy bass food. If lakes are managed properly, bluegill alone will provide enough forage to produce high-quality trophy bass year in and year out. In a trophy bass lake, the management must be on producing, growing and creating the right habitat for the bluegill as the forage fish. Research has shown that ponds stocked with bluegill are sustainable and produce larger bass year after year. Bluegill has be grown for an eatable fish because of the size and taste of the bluegill. This may be the reason we don't think of them as being a forage fish. But bluegill is the perfect forage fish due to the fact that bluegill reproduction is very high and often.


Alternative Stocking Strategies
An abundance of bluegill is very important to the management of a pond or lake to produce trophy bass. For many years the recommended stocking rate has been ten bluegill to one bass. To produce trophy bass this stocking rate must change. Today the stocking rate is 15 and 20 bluegill to one bass. This is tipping the traditional balance towards more bluegill. An abundance of  bluegill will ensure more food for your bass. When bluegill are abundant, bass growth rate will increase significantly. Trophy bass require an abundance of bluegill of all sizes 2-3-4-5-6 inch fish. Bluegill is the only forage fish needed to produce trophy bass. You must stay focused on raising and producing lots of bluegill. The growth rate of bass is highly variable and depends on the food supply. When food is abundant for the bass, then that bass will expend less energy to get food, the more weight the bass will gain. If you have the right genetics and food supply, that alone will produce trophy bass. 

Tipping the traditional balance toward more bluegill is rather easy
Stocking rate on a new 10 acre lake.
Bluegill 
Black bass
  Fathead Minnows
10,000
667 bass-ratio 15 bluegill to 1 bass
  10,000
10,000
500 bass- ratio 20 bluegill to 1 bass 
  10,000
  
Some Pond Management Services are stocking 1,500 and 2,000 bluegill or more per surface acre and 100 bass per surface acre. Suttle Fish Farm strongly disagrees with this practice.  Suttle Fish Farm stocks 1,000 Bluegill per surface acre and divides by 15 for the number of bass needed an acre for a trophy bass lake. The ratio of bass and bluegill remain the same by cutting back on the number of bass per acre. Research shows that stocking 1000 bluegill per acre is sufficient for growth, reproduction and survival.
Suttle Fish Farm's  practice saves money and we have found this is very helpful because of the fish harvest program that will be needed later.
Genetic Bass Stocking
 Micropterus salmoides floridanus

Genetics are absolutely essential to producing trophy bass. It's all about genetics. Genetics is the key to trophy bass. There is only one bass that can produce trophy bass time and time again. A world-renowned reputation for trophy-sized bass is based on the genetically unique Florida largemouth bass that is native only to the peninsular of Florida call the Black Bass. No one disputes that when it come big bass - Florida Largemouth Bass (FLM) is genetically superior to any other bass. FLM grow larger, faster than any other bass. You can feed a Poodle but its will never get to the size of a Great Dane; its all about genetics. Research has shown the Florida Largemouth Bass produces a larger bass year after year unlike the F-1 bass.

Selective Harvest
This is the number one pitfall of most trophy bass lake. These large monster bass reproduce a lot of little bass and you must comment to removing these smaller bass. This is the hardest job in raise trophy bass. This is the number one cause of failure in trophy bass lake. Most trophy bass lakes are private and don't have the fishing presser to remove those smaller bass. These smaller bass grow very quickly and consume a lot feed intend for your trophy bass. This is where you food supply get out of whack. So remember a trophy bass lake must be fish and fish regularly to keep the bass populate down. Selective harvest of small bass will improve the growth of those that remain and eventually increase the number of trophy fish available. It is also a good way to keep some of your catch for the table, while helping to keep the fish population productive. Harvesting of the bluegills should be liming. Average harvest of bass per acre in pound or number and size will all depend on the food supply (bluegill) that your bass has to consumed. You got to stay focused on the food supply for these bass. Proper harvesting is the key to success.

Lake Fertilizing
A pond or lake that is well fertilized can produce three to four times as many pounds of fish per acre each year than a non-fertilized pond.  Fertilization significantly increases the survivability of newly hatched bluegill. A well-managed (fertilized pond ) will usually produce 300 to 500 pounds more fish per acre each year than an unfertilized one. Fertilization significantly increases the total weight of fish produced in a pond. Trophy bass require a lot of food of all sizes (bluegill), fertilizing help to produce that food.

Water Quality
Alkalinity should be checked every six months and the results should be over 50 ppm. Alkalinity is a measure of the buffering capacity of water, or the capacity of bases to neutralize acids. If alkalinity drops below 50 ppm your pH will start to fluctuate. The low and high fluctuation of  pH will stress your fish. If your fish stop feeding, it could be because of pH fluctuations. The fish will not grow in this type environment. Because alkalinity and pH are so closely related, changes in pH can also affect your fish. Main advice - get your water checked regularly.

Fish Habitat or Structure
This is the second most area that folks fail at when attempting to have a Trophy Bass pond or lake. You have to provide structure where the 3 & 4 inch bass cannot eat the small bluegill. This  structureis called fine structure which normally disappears in about three years from rotting.  It's has long been recognized that suitable fish habitat (structures or shelters) is an essential part of maintaining healthy fish populations.  Don't forget your fish habitats or shelters provide areas where prey fish can hide from predators and where predators can't find prey species. Shelters provide spawning areas and harbor large numbers of invertebrates and insects that small fish feed on. In ponds where natural shelter for fish is missing or is inadequate your fish (bluegill ) populations will be diminished very quickly. You must establish artificial structures to act as fish shelters that will attract and hold fish. Good locations are in water 4 to 8 feet deep near the lake bank or at a drop-off. Trees (standing or tree tops), stumps and vegetation are sufficient. You must check the structures or shelters ever three or four years to make sure it is still adequate. Ten to twenty percent and no more than twenty-five percent of the lake area can have some type of shelter.

Weed Control
 If aquatic weeds are over abundant, control measures must be implemented. You only have two choices;  grass carp which are the biological way to control weeds or use chemicals. Dense aquatic weed growth, especially submersed rooted plants, uses nutrients and reduces food available for fish. Aquatic weeds can results in excessive numbers of small bream and a stunted bass population.

Record Keeping
Good accurate record keeping is worth its weight in gold when problems arises. All anglers should complete a record after each trip.
Fish Feeding Program
Bluegill can be trained to accept feed easily and can be attracted quickly to feeding areas. A good feeding program will results in increased Bluegill reproduction, bigger fish, and even faster growth. Feeding fish also supplies nutrients to the water which enable phytoplankton to grow.

Something to Think About
Any lake or pond will only hold so many fish, pounds of fish an acre as we call it. Golden Shiners, Gizzard Shad or Threadfin Shad are none eatable fish and will take up space in the lake for eatable fish. So be careful and don't end up with a lake with 50% or more of none eatable fish. Don't create a new problem by trying to solve another problem. Stay focused on the Bluegill for the main food supply for your bass.

Remember if you have problems with your Trophy Bass Pond or Lake - Suttle Fish Farm is ready to help.
Just call for advice and help. We usually can solve a lot of problems over the phone at no cost to you!


><>Services We Offer <><
Pond Management
Pond Water Testing
Electrofishing
Fertilizing Plans


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