Bass Fishing Success: It’s In The Genes

Are some fish inherently easier to catch than others are, and could there be a genetic basis for it?

New research by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department says yes. Two generations of selective breeding shows that northern largemouth bass were more easily caught than hybrids of northerns and Florida-strain largemouth bass.

The results were confirmed by good old-fashioned hook-and-line, backed up by leading-edge science — DNA analysis. At the Heart of the Hills Research Station, Kerr County, Texas, biologists subjected hundreds of bass to lures for the first time in their lives.

Craig Springer

The small ponds where they were held had minimal cover and little forage. Angler-scientists fished the pond with spoons and spinners, and each time a fish was caught, they used a hole-punch to mark fins. At the end of the experiments, bass that had been caught three or more times were moved to another pond, and those that had not been caught at all were sent to a third pond.

Bass caught one or two times were disregarded in the analysis. The remaining fish in the two ponds were spawned and their offspring two years later subjected to the same angling experiments. The offspring of fish that went uncaught in the first round were themselves hard to catch. Conversely, the offspring of bass that were easy to catch were themselves vulnerable to artificial lures. The DNA analysis showed that 87 percent of the fish easily caught were northern largemouth bass. All of the uncaught fish genetically tested were hybrids.

Fishery managers could use this information to intensively manage fisheries to increase catch rates — or decrease them and promote trophy waters.

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When not penning stories about the outdoors, Craig works in communications for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. He is an outdoors’ columnist for the Albuquerque Journal and ESPN Outdoors, and a frequent contributor to Flyfisher and North American Fisherman magazines. He holds degrees in fisheries and wildlife management from Hocking College and New Mexico State University, and an M.Sc. in fisheries science from the University of New Mexico. He’s a candidate for an M.A. in rhetoric and writing at the University of New Mexico. He writes weekly for


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