Functional Livewell Rule C&R Fishing Tournaments

WEBSITE UPDATED                       Tuesday  June 22, 2022

Bass tournament rules state that all bass boats livewells must be pre-judged as having a “FUNCTIONAL LIVEWELL” to participate in the tournament. Judged a “NON-FUNCTIONAL LIVEWELL” disqualifies the boat to participate in the tournament. Thais means the mechanical aerator motor or livewell pump motor must num and be heard when electric motors are turned on. Because these electric motors hum is considered proof-positive the livewell is functional, and the boat is then qualified by a tournament official. The boat may be on the boat trailer of in the water for testing to participate.

All catch and release freshwater tournaments endorse and enforce a “Functional Livewell Rule.” Some saltwater fishing tournaments judge livewells in the same, many like the CCA intra-state fishing tournament are strict “Catch and Kill” tournaments.

What is the purpose of the “Dead Fish Rule?” The “Dead Fish Rule” intentionally punish contestants for failing to keep his fish alive or healthy, presenting dead fish at the scales. (PUNISHMENT IS NEGATIVE MOTIVATION FOR THE CONTESTANT BECAUSE THE CONTESTANT FAILING TO KEEP HIS FISH ALIVE IN HIS BOAT LIVEWELL ALL DAY). The contestant has no control over his aerated livewell water quality, specifically no control of dissolved oxygen.

The more advanced, conservation C&R fishing tournaments reward contestants for weighing-in live fish. (REWARD IS POSITIVE MOTIVATION FOR PROVIDING THE BEST FISH CARE POSSIBLE, KEEPING FISH ALIVE AND HEALTHY IN LIVEWELL ALL DAY IN THE SUMMER.

 The punishment was designed to motivate contestants to make the extra effort to keep his catch alive or healthy all day during transport in his bass boat livewell thru the weigh-in live release transport process. Live healthy fish demonstrate a positive conservation ethic, positive public relations image, sportsmanship, conservation of resources to the audience and the media watching the event. 

Is the “Dead Fish Rule” has cost professional and amateur anglers hundreds of thousands of dollars over the years in summer fishing tournaments all because 1 fish died, suffocated in the boat livewell when the boat livewell aerator pump is new and working perfectly or failed.

Functional means “having or serving a utilitarian purpose, capable of serving the purpose for which it was designed.

Mechanical aerators are designed to aerate livewell water, mechanical aerators are not designed to ensure minimal safe livewell oxygenation.

The Oxygen Edge™ oxygen-injection system is a life support system is designed specifically to insure safe, continuous oxygenation for all the live fish or live bait being transported in livewells/bait tanks. 

Some types of livewell oxygen systems are poorly designed and are equivalent to oxygenating capabilities mechanical aerators provide. They are not functional life support oxygen systems or dependable.

Some types of oxygen systems generate 100% oxygen, but they fail to produce and deliver enough oxygen. They will not maintain even minimal safe oxygen saturations in livewell water for all the catch continuously in the summer.  This life support failure often results in deadly low livewell oxygenation, hypoxia, >summer tournament mortality, >summer morbidity and >fish disease, > disappointments.

Livewell definition:  “A livewell is a tank found on many fishing boats that is used to keep bait and caught fish alive. Dissolved oxygen is the single most important factor for keeping bass alive. An understanding of factors that affect oxygen levels will better enable anglers to keep their fish [aquatic animals] alive.”

Therefore a “FUNCTIONAL LIVEWELL” must be capable of safely sustaining no less than safe dissolved oxygen saturations (fish hatchery live transport DO standard is 100% DO Saturation – DO Supersaturation when the livewell is fully stocked or overstocked.

This requires the right dose of supplemental oxygen administered continuously for the duration of the live transport especially in summer day and night tournaments.

It makes no difference if you are transporting 1 – 10 lb. bass or heavy winning limit (25-30 pounds of tournament caught bass all day or all night. The livewell water quality (specifically DO Saturation) must be sufficient to keep the total catch alive and healthy for 7-8 hours to weigh-in.

An aerated boat livewell that does not, cannot maintain minimal dissolved minimal safe dissolved oxygen saturations, minimal safe water quality while transporting live fish in overstocked livewells in the summer… A “FUNCTIONAL LIVEWELL” is necessary to accomplish this, the contestant must be able to control the dose of oxygen.


The “functional livewell test” is certainly not as simply as a tournament official listening for and hearing the water pump or aerator motor humming, spraying water or circulating water in the boat livewell.

Testing livewell Dissolved Oxygen Saturation with a DO meter while the livewell contains limits of tournament bass at the end of the day, when the contestant’s boat arrives at the marina (weigh-in site) will effectively determine if the boat’s livewell is truly a “FUNCTIONAL LIVEWELL.”

*FACT: 100% DO Saturation to DO Supersaturation in livewell water containing 1 lb. or 500 lbs. of live mature game fish and/or live bait fish is considered to be “SAFE DO SATURATION” by all Federal, State and private fish hatcheries in America.

Test the livewell DO Saturation when the boat arrives at the weigh-in with fish in the livewell. The boat livewwell is not functional and should be disqualified then IF the livewell water DO Saturation is below the “SAFE DO SATURATION” level.

Dissolved Oxygen Saturation transport water quality standards are required and practiced daily by State and Federal Fish Hatcheries. Summer bass tournaments DO Saturations water quality standards in bass boat livewell water should be no less than and fish hatchery transport rules.

What does this FUNCTIONAL LIVEWELL RULE really mean?

The popular tournament “Functional Livewell” rule certainly does not verify or ensure that any bass boat livewell DO water quality is a safe transport environment for the catch.

It means a tournament official in charge of enforcing this rule heard a livewell water pump motor humming and or an aerator motor humming when turned on. Simply hearing those electric motors hum is proof positive that the boat has a “FUNCTIONAL LIVEWELL.” Keep in mind that most tournament officials responsible for certifying boat livewells really believe that a humming livewell motor= a functional livewell in the summer or any other time of the year.

Functional water pumps make noise as do air pumps when turned on. Functional aerators make noise when turned on and blow air through an air tube, make air bubbles in the well water. Functional air stones make bubbles in livewell water when the air pump is turned on. Functional spray bars are powered with water pumps, electric water pumps hum pumping and spraying water into livewells when turned on and the boat in the water.

Non-functional boat livewell aeration equipment certainly does not, will not, cannot ensure even minimal safe livewell water quality, specifically sustained minimal safe Dissolved Oxygen Saturation for all the catch in the livewell all day in summer tournaments. Air is mostly composed of Nitrogen gas, not oxygen gas.

The only way to determine if a bass boat livewell IS FUNCTIONAL and safe is to test the DO Saturation in the boats’ livewell water containing full limits of fish when the contestant arrives at the weigh-in. Then and only then is when the livewell water quality should be tested and the Functional Livewell Rule tested. The oxygen content should never be tested without fish in the livewell, because the test would not validate a functional live well with no fish in the well consuming oxygen.

Here’s how you, the public, outdoors’ writers and politicians will know beyond any doubt when tournament directors and officials are serious about the bass boat “FUNCTIONAL LIVEWELL RULE” and really choosing to provide the best possible tournament fish care for the catch.


How can a tournament official confirm that a contestant’s bass boat livewell is really functional and safe to transport a limit of tournament caught bass 7-8  hours all day in a summer tournament?

Tournaments will assign an official with a dissolved oxygen meter to test and recording the dissolved oxygen saturations in every bass boat livewell that arrives at the marina, boat ramp or weigh-in site with limits of fish in the livewells.  Livewells will be tested before the fish are bagged and transported to holding tanks to confirm functionality.

The DO saturation test confirms beyond any doubt if the boat livewell is functional or not functional, safe or deadly.  If the boat livewell DO saturation is tested and falls below 100% DO saturation, then serious penalties or disqualification is in order because the boat livewell water quality is not safe for the live fish. Contestants would be penalized or disqualified for having a non- functional livewell.


The standard bass tournament punishment assessed to tournament anglers that fail to keep their catch alive in their bass boat livewell and weighing in a “dead fish” is weight reduction, penalized ½ pound per dead fish for failure to keep the fish alive.


A new concept: The live fish bonus is proven to motivate contestants to provide the best tournament fish care possible for their catch in boat livewells all day. The live fish bonus offers real positive rewards for all anglers that present a live fish to the weighmaster. Contestants receive additional bonus weight or points for doing a great job successfully keeping their fish alive all day in their boat livewell all day. Bonus weight is added to the actual weight of each fish turned in alive. This is positive motivation rewards contestants that make extra efforts providing the best transport water quality, best tournament fish care and a third response for keeping his tournament catch alive.

The “live fish bonus” concept has been used effectively in salt water (speckled trout) catch and live release tournaments for years to motivate anglers to really provide the best AND M– fish care possible. Fishermen know the weigh master’s reward for their extra fish care efforts will be an additional ½ pound per live fish or bonus points for each live fish weighed in.

Unsafe livewell water quality (low DO saturations cause chronic livewell suffocation) in summer tournaments often results in high summer tournament bass kills (abusive and predictable acute and delayed tournament mortality). If the boat livewell is not functional, it is certainly not safe to transport live fish all day in any tournament. If the livewell is not safe for the catch, the boat should be disqualified because it fails the “functional livewell rule.”

FACT:  False DO Saturation Test: Livewell water contaminated with Rejuvenade ®, a Bass Medics livewell chemical, consistently demonstrate a false DO test reading. This chemical causes the DO meter to peg off the scale rendering the test invalid and totally useless.

Providing the best tournament bass care or providing less than the best fish care is always a personal choice made in every tournament by each contestant on his bass boat (7-8 hours possession) and all tournament directors from the weigh-in holding tanks through release boat transport and final live release (30-minutes after possession begins).

Tournament bass transport care: now you know what to look for, what to expect and why to expect this. You can effectively evaluate and really see which contestants and tournament officials are really serious and proactive about bass fishery conservation and who really chooses to provide the best tournament fish care possible and who is unconcerned. Look for the oxygen-injection system, compressed oxygen high pressure cylinders and the official that actually test and recording DO Saturation test results in bass boat livewell, bass weigh in bags, holding tanks and release boat tanks containing fully stocked livewells and haul tanks containing heavy loads of live fish.

DO test are totally meaningless, totally useless in livewells that contain no fish.