WEBSITE UPDATED Tuesday June 22, 2022
ALWAYS, ALWAYS AVOID THAT DREADED DEAD-FISH PUNISHMENT IN EVERY DAY OR NIGHT SUMMER BASS TOURNAMENT.
FACT: ONE DEAD FISH AND YOU WILL NOT WIN THE PRIZE OR THE TOURNAMENT MONEY. WINNING IS THE WHOLE POINT OF THE C&R TOURNAMENT FISHING CONTEST.
The “Dead Fish” Penalty is primarily caused by non-functional livewells in bass boats in summer tournaments… angler’s failure to insure minimal safe livewell transport water quality (minimal safe DO Saturation for a limit of mature bass) all day in a bass boat livewell is the primary cause of this summer water quality problem in bass boat livewells, i.e. livewell hypoxia caused by large winning tournament limits (overstocking)… deadly water quality is preventable every summer with a little knowledge and a little angler effort.
Dodging that “Dead Fish” punishment is summer fishing tournaments is all about the angler’s knowledge, ability and choices of livewell equipment that will absolutely insure minimal safe water quality (100% DO Saturation) inside a livewell fully loaded with tournament fish. Wise educated choices has nothing to do with luck, great expensive livewells, 3-4 livewell water pumps, bells buzzers and switched, 2-3 extra batteries, the best mechanical aeration systems money can buy, air vents, water chillers, ice and induced livewell hypothermia.
Why do tournament live release boats always use compressed oxygen injection systems – have you ever seen or heard of a live tournament bass release using mechanical aerators or water pumps, Oxygenators to insure minimal safe livewell oxygenation during transports? Of course not!
Transporting live mature fish – 100% DO Saturation standard used by the Texas Lunker Program transporting 1 large bass 100 of miles across Texas and the US as well as all Federal, State and private fish hatcheries. All oxygenate transport water with LOX or compressed oxygen injection. None oxygenate live transport water with mechanical aeration devices for good reason – livewell hypoxia must be prevented whether transporting a 1 lb. bass, 200 lbs. or 1000 lbs. of fish in all day is a livewell.
Read, enjoy and apply the new knowledge you learn below and forget worrying about that “Dead Fish” penalty all day every summer on tournament weekend.
THE FISHERY SCIENCE… Gene Gilliland is currently the Conservation Director, B.A.S.S., LLC
Livewell-Held Bass Require Special Care During Summer Months by Todd Driscoll https://www.bradwiegmann.com/fish-biology/39-fish-biologist/115-livewell-held-bass-require-special-care-during-summer-months.html
The popularity of bass fishing has exploded during the last 20 years… changes have taken place, including increases in fishing technology and the advent of more restrictive harvest regulations. However, one of the most important changes includes increased angler acceptance of catch and release practices.
Currently, all bass tournaments require release of all live fish weighed in and penalize contestants with dead bass. Tournament anglers have 2 choices of summer tournament bass transport care:
- The “Best tournament bass care possible” using supplementary oxygen continuously during summer live transport to insure safe continuous oxygenation; prevent low oxygenation, hypoxia and sustained suffocation during transport in bass boat livewells.
- “Less than the best tournament bass care possible” using mechanical aeration, relying on air and ice. Failing to insure minimal safe oxygenation during transport often resulting high summer mortality/morbidity because of low oxygenation, hypoxia and chronic suffocation for the duration of the 7–8-hour live transport in bass boat livewells insuring the “Dead Fish Punishment,” high tournament mortality/ morbidity.
Contestants are responsible for tournament bass care for the all-day 7-8 hours transport in bass boat livewells from the catch to the weighmaster. The weighmaster has responsibility for the fish 30 minutes or so weighing the fish to the final live release transport and release.
As water temperatures increase, water holds less oxygen, bass metabolism increases increasing the cellular oxygen demand, increasing the total oxygen consumption for all the fish in the livewell being transported. As the environmental water temperatures increase during the summer, fish in a livewell require more oxygen.
Non-iodizes granulated salt should be added to livewell water (1/3 cup per 5 gallons of water) to reduce the work of osmoregulation matching the body fluid/salt concentration of bass (0.5%).
IMPORTANT: Many commercial livewell water conditioners (i.e., catch and release fish saver formulas) cannot be recommended by state agencies, not due to ineffectiveness, but because the ingredients have not been tested [OR APPROVED] by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration as safe for human consumption.
If water is recirculated, replace half of the livewell water every 3 hours to control metabolic toxins. When livewell water is changed, additional salt (electrolytes) needs to be added.
When environmental water temperature is above 70 degrees, at a minimum anglers should pump fresh water into the livewell continuously. Periodically pumping in new water using a timer does not maintain adequate oxygen levels.
Chilling livewell water with ice allows it to hold more oxygen and reduces bass metabolism, oxygen demand and oxygen consumption. Enough ice needs to be added to reduce the water temperature 10 degrees.
Within 9 hours summer tournament bass experience 3 water temperature shock that dramatically increase stress: hot summer environmental water to chilled livewell water back to hot environmental water (live release).
FACT: Excessive cooling of livewell water >10 degrees F can cause very serious temperature shock. When bass are released back into 95 F environmental water temperature shock (stress) can be multiplied exponentially.
FACT: Wild fish are acclimated to the water temperature the live and thrive in. Summer tournament caught fish experience temperature shock (stress) when hook captured going from hot summer environmental water to chilled livewell water. The temperature shock (stress) is multiplied exponentially going from chilled livewell water back to hot environmental water.
Artificially reducing transport water temperature with ice: Typically, block ice is preferred because it lasts longer and can be made by freezing water in half-gallon milk jugs or 12-ounce water bottles. Again, when using recirculating pumps half the livewell water needs to be exchanged every 3 hours to prevent ammonia build-up. When water is exchanged, additional ice and salt need to be added.
As a rule, 8 pounds of ice will cool the typical livewell 5-10 degrees for 3 hours with no fish in the livewell. A frozen, half-gallon milk jug of ice weigh 4 pounds, a gallon of ice weighs 8 lbs. During a typical tournament day (8-9 hours), 8 pounds of ice added every 3 hours when livewell water is exchanged should maintain cooler livewell temperature with fish in the livewell.
Some fish will die even with appropriate care from high unnatural stressors and injury. Dead fish will cause poor water quality and should be removed immediately and placed on ice. However, as required by some state game laws and tournament rules, dead fish must be retained as part of your tournament limit. Some tournaments prohibit culling dead fish, other tournaments do not.
The weigh-in and final release transport causes tremendous unnatural stress. TOURNAMENT DIRECTORS ARE RESPONSIBILE FOR SAFE WATER QUALITY (DISSOLVED OXYGEN) 30 MINUTES OR THROUGH WEIGH-IN TO LIVE RELEASE. SUPPLEMENTAL COMPRESSED OXYGEN IS ADMINISTERED CONTINUOUSLY FOR THE TOURNAMENT CATCH TO PREVENT LOW OXYGENATION, HYPOXIA, SUFFOCATION, >TOURNAMENT MORTALITY/MORBIDITY.
SUMMER BASS TOURNAMENTS THAT CHOSE TO PROVIDE “THE BEST WATER QUALITY POSSIBLE-BEST TOURNAMENT FISH CARE POSSIBLE” FROM WEIGH-IN TO LIVE RELEASE. SUPPLEMENTAL OXYGEN IS ADMINISTERED IN THE BAG WATER CONTINUOUSLY
***The bag must not be perforated with holes. Fill your weigh-in plastic bag with at least 2-3 gallons of water from your livewell, place the oxygen diffuser in the water in the bag and turn the oxygen regulator on, administering supplemental oxygen continuously insures optimal safe oxygenation for all the fish in the bag. A few summer tournaments provide compressed oxygen in holding tank water for contestants waiting in line waiting to be weigh-in and for live release boat transport tanks. With supplemental oxygen bubbling in the bag water, a contestant may keep his catch safely oxygenated >1 hour waiting to be weighed in and be confident the catch will not suffer from deadly water quality, low oxygen, hypoxia, suffocation in the bag. exchange water in the bag with water in the holding tank to eliminate metabolic toxins (dissolved CO2, carbonic acid, nitrites, nitrates, ammonia, vomit, urine with water from the holding tank. It is not necessary to keep the bag in the holding tank water. The bag may be set on the ground safely while waiting to be weighed in, just keep the oxygen running and the diffuser under water in the bag and change the water occasionally… don’t worry about the catch suffocating in the bag, that’s all there is to it.
[SUMMER BASS TOURNAMENTS THAT CHOSE TO WITHHOLD OXYGEN PROVIDE “LESS THAN THE BEST WATER QUALITY POSSIBLE AT WEIGH-IN, “LESS THAN BEST TOURNAMENT FISH CARE POSSIBLE” FROM WEIGH-IN TO LIVE RELEASE. THESE TOURNAMENTS OFFICIALS RELY ON MECHANICAL AERATORS, HOPING AERATION WILL INSURE MINIMAL SAFE OXYGENATION IN THE PERFERATED BAG
Fill your weigh-in bag with at least 2-3 gallons of water from your livewell, especially if you have been using ice to chill your livewell water. Most summer bass tournaments provide aerated holding tanks for contestants waiting in line waiting to be weigh-in; holding tank water is aerated, water may or may not be chilled with ice and treated with salt electrolyte. Sadly, contestants are told by tournament officials to expect water in is exchanged automatically by simply placing the bag of fish in holding tank water. “
[The dissolved oxygen in the weigh-in bag can drop to zip within minutes in plastic weigh-in bags, HIGHLY STRESSED FISH CONSUME CONSIDERABLY MORE OXYGEN CAUSED BY UNNATURAL STRESS; HOOKING CAPTURE, THE FIGHT, LIVE TRANSPORT… ]
If fish are held for pictures, wet hands before touching fish. Grasp fish by lower jaw but never bend the head down or hold horizontally by jaw. Avoid touching the body of the fish as this removes the protective mucous covering. When holding bigger fish, the lower body should also be supported with a wet hand under the belly to prevent jaw damage.
Do not keep fish out of water any longer than you can hold your breath. Air exposure, suffocation, is extremely stressful for most fish.
[HYPOXIC STRESS ‘OXYGEN DEPRIVATION STRESS’ IS THE MOST SERIOUS STRESSOR FOR TOURNAMENT CAUGHT BASS EVERY SUMMER AND MAN]
These suggestions were summarized from the B.A.S.S. publication “Keeping Bass Alive: A guidebook for anglers and tournament organizers” and this book should be required reading for all tournament anglers. An online version is available at
Todd Driscoll is a district fisheries management biologist works for Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, Inland Fisheries, where he has worked >10 years. Todd received a B.S. in Fisheries Biology from Kansas State University and a M.S. in Fisheries Management from Mississippi State University. His primary responsibilities include fisheries management of Sam Rayburn and Toledo Bend reservoirs in Southeast Texas. Todd is an avid bass angler and participates in approximately 25-30 local and regional bass tournaments per year. He also represents Lowrance Electronics as a Technical Pro Staffer, working tournament support and service at BASS, FLW, and owner’s tournaments across the country.
We thank Todd Driscoll for his expressed permission to reprint all or parts of this article 8/26/2016.
Todd Driscoll, TP&WD Fisheries Biologist Summer Fish Care Article with links to O2 injection System Specs, Livewell-held bass require special care during the summer months
Posted by Ken on June 19, 2019
B.A.S.S. – ESPN Publications
Oxygen and the Oxygen Edge™ keeps tournament bass alive and other summer tournament fish alive in boat livewells, reduces tournament mortality, ensuring the best tournament fish livewell care possible.
Reducing summer tournament fishing mortality is the angler’s personal choice and the responsibility of every Bass Tournament Director.
The Oxygen Edge™ ensures safe livewell oxygenation for all the catch and the best summer tournament bass transport care possible in the hottest most adverse hostile summer tournament fishing conditions.
ENTER THE NEW LIVEWELL OXYGENATION SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY – THE BEST SUMMER LIVE FISH CARE AND LIVE TRANSPORT POSSIBLE IN THE 21ST CENTURY
The Oxygen Edge™ is the most dependable, safest, livewell oxygen injection livewell system available, invented and commercially developed by David A. Kinser, Oxygenation Systems of Texas 1993.
The Oxygen Edge™ was extensively tested, used by Gene Gilliland, Oklahoma researcher the summer of 1999 for scientific research in preparation for publishing B.A.S.S./ESPN “Keeping Bass Alive” 2002.
Gene Gilliland is currently B.A.S.S. Conservation Director, effective January 1, 2014.
David Kinser provided the Oxygen Edge™ livewell oxygen injection-system, technical expertise, operational instructions, oxygen gas and oxygen equipment safety guidelines and instructions seen throughout the publication.
We appreciate Gene Gilliland’s invitation to participate and provide The Oxygen Edge™ livewell oxygen injection systems plus our years of experience, oxygen system expertise and oxygen safety to this project. The results of supplemental livewell oxygen application and research in bass boat livewell during summer tournaments literally changed the meaning and perceptions of “Providing the Best Summer Tournament Bass Care Possible.”
The advent of The Oxygen Edge™ oxygen-injection life support systems to transport live tournament bass and other fish species is “A Paradigm Shift” in oxygenating rendering mechanical aeration outdated and obsolete when it comes to ensuring safe continuous oxygenation during live summer tournament transports in boat livewells. The shift away from mechanical aeration to supplemental oxygen using oxygen-injection systems is impressive.
“KEEPING BASS ALIVE”
A Guidebook for Anglers and Tournament Organizers
Published by: ESPN Productions, Inc/B.A.S.S. Copyright 2002 B.A.S.S.® Montgomery, Alabama
It should be noted that bass tournaments currently have little impact on an overall fishery.
Data on livewell oxygen consumption were provided by Steven Cooke, David Phillipp, Jason Schreer, and David Wahl from research funded by the Center for Aquatic Ecology, Illinois Natural History Survey, University of Illinois, the University of Waterloo, and the Canadian Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council.
The authors also acknowledge the support of the Federal Aid in Sport Fish Restoration Program for funding a number of the research projects from which our recommendations have come.
Helpful reviews of this booklet were provided by Steven Cooke, Illinois Natural History Survey; Todd Driscoll, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department; David Kinser, Oxygenation Systems of Texas; Will Kirkpatrick, Broaddus, Texas; Bill Anderson, Rick Horton and Kevin Richards, Missouri Department of Conservation; and B.A.S.S. staff members: Don Corkran, Mark Cosper, Chuck Harbin, Dewey Kendrick, Dean Kessel, George McNeilly, Dave Precht, Al Smith, Diehl Unger and Trip Weldon.
“Keeping Bass Alive” written by Senior Fishery Biologist, Gene Gilliland, Hal Schramm, Ph.D., and Bruce Shupp, former B.A.S.S. National Conservation Director addressed the needs and effectiveness of administering supplemental pure compressed welding oxygen with oxygen injection in anglers’ tournament boat livewells, weigh-in holding tanks and release boat transport livewells was proven to dramatically increase post summer tournament survival and substantially reduce acute and delayed summer tournament mortality. The Oxygen Edge ™, an adjustable dose livewell oxygen injection technology advanced tournament fish transport to state-of-the-art technology. The importance of livewell oxygenation is discussed extensively.
Bassmaster Classic XXV 1995 – enter The Oxygen Edge™
The Oxygen Edge™ was the first commercial livewell oxygen-injection system approved by B.A.S.S. tournament officials and used in a Bassmaster Classic C&R fishing tournament. Randy Dearman used The Oxygen Edge™ in the 25th Annual Bassmaster Classic XXV Tournament held on High Rock Lake, Greensboro, NC, August 3-5, 1995.
Randy requested and received special permission from Bassmaster Tournament Officials to be the first contestant permitted to use the first commercial livewell oxygen-injection system designed for sport fishing applications/catch and live release fishing tournaments in this Super Bowl of professional bass fishing.
The conditions required by B.A.S.S. for permitting Randy to use the Oxygen Edge™ in the 1995 Bassmaster Classic Tournament were very specific and super-secret.
The Oxygen Edge™ oxygen-injection system, oxygen cylinder and components must be completely hidden from view and absolutely not every discussed or disclosed to anyone. Under no circumstance was any other contestant, the news media or anyone else ever to actually see or hear about the oxygen- injection system used in Randy’s boat.
The August temperature was hot during this Classic event, the water was hot, and the tournament mortality was high as expected, yet there was no livewell mortality on Randy’s boat. That summer, although Randy did not win, had a real tournament Edge keeping his bass alive all day in August. All other contestants used standard aerated boat livewells.
At that time tournament officials had no idea of the advantage of using pure compressed oxygen with a livewell oxygen-injection system to keep bass alive all day compared to the standard bass boat livewell aerators and water pumps used in that era. The dose of oxygen was strictly controlled based on stocking density. In 1995 tournament officials and fishermen still believed that air is oxygen and that oxygen is air; they were totally oblivious that air and oxygen were not the same gas.
Randy Dearman and the new innovative Oxygen Edge™ oxygen injection system did not go unnoticed as Fishery Biologist Gene Gilliland notes in his research that began 7 months later, March 1, 1996.
Prepared by: Gene Gilliland, Biologist III
Period covered: March 1, 1996 – February 28, 1997
State: Oklahoma Grant Number: F-50-R
Grant Title: Fish Research for Oklahoma Waters, Project Number: 8
Project Title: Evaluation of Procedures to Reduce Delayed Mortality of Black Bass Following Summer Tournaments.
“Commercially available oxygen delivery systems [The Oxygen Edge ™] for boats and live-bait tanks (Dearman 1995) should be investigated to determine if they can supply necessary oxygen safely without supersaturation of live-well water and its associated physiological problems.” http://www.nesportsman.com/articles/catch_release_studies/oklahoma_largemouth.html
Gene Gilliland contacted David Kinser and invited Oxygenation Systems of Texas in 1999 to actively participate in a research project funded by B.A.S.S./ESPN. The research objective was to identify more effective methods of livewell oxygenation and establish new innovative oxygen-injection livewell equipment and scientific methods testing Kinser’s new livewell oxygen-injection technology that would dramatically improve summer bass tournament survival.
The Oxygen Edge ™ was tested and used extensively in this research project. Oxygenation Systems of Texas (David Kinser) provided ongoing technical expertise as well as expertise in important areas of equipment and oxygen gas safety and valuable oxygen system application knowledge and instructions for safe and effective use.
Research results were impressive. Total tournament survival was increased to 93%, tournament mortality was reduced to less than 7% using pure oxygen injection in bass boat livewells which demonstrated that boat livewell oxygen injection systems were the best method to oxygenate and transport the catch in bass boat livewells.
Bass boat livewell oxygen injection dramatically improved summer tournament survival compared to standard boat livewell aerators and water pumps which are much less effective oxygenators in the summer. Yet these aerators and water pumps are still endorsed and promoted by the bass boat industry and many tournament officials to date. The politics of oxygen or air, life and death, the fish that get the lifesaving oxygen when suffocating in summer livewells or the electric fan (mechanical aeration) that is no oxygen life support system.
The best fish care now was a fisherman’s personal choice between using livewell aeration and livewell oxygen injection in his bass boat. Bass boat manufacturers continue to prefer and promote mechanical aeration and have never been receptive to oxygen-injection systems scientifically proven to improve summer tournament survival. Only Bass Cat Boats offered livewell oxygen-injection systems as an option.
Bass Cat Boat customers flat rejected the new Tiger Tank Oxygen Systems. After the first year of sales failure, the oxygen system was discontinued, the oxygen system project failed to sell.
Gilliland et.al. research was published in 2002 by ESPN Productions, Inc/B.A.S.S. “KEEPING BASS ALIVE” A Guidebook for Anglers and Tournament Organizers
“A Prescription for Survival”
By Gene Gilliland, Bassmaster Magazine, June 2001, pg. 51-53
“State of The Art [bass boat] livewell systems will incorporate the use of pure compressed welding oxygen. Adding [compressed] oxygen to the livewell is currently the BEST option for keeping tournament bass healthy in the summer. Period.”
(Click on the “Tournament Mortality” Reprint this image on new site – link,
Gene Gilliland, Senior Fishery Biologist, B.A.S.S. tournament fish care, expert, consultant and tournament angler, Oklahoma Fisheries Research Lab, Norman, OK
“The authors and B.A.S.S. recognize that oxygen injection into livewells will be the next big movement for bass survival,” says Shupp. He adds that, “ B.A.S.S. will be working with the boating industry to ensure that oxygen injection systems become a reality.”
Bruce Shupp, Bassmaster Magazine, June 2001, pg. 51-53. Mr. Schupp, former B.A.S.S. National Conservation Director.
“Surviving the Summer”
By Hal Schramm, Ph.D., B.A.S.S. Times, Bass Biology, August 2001, pg. 3.
“Have you ever wondered how good your boat aeration system is? Unless you are using an oxygen injection system – see Gene Gilliland’s article in the June issue of Bassmaster Magazine – I can tell you that your aeration system isn’t very good. I mean no insult to you or individual manufactures of bass boats. Temperature control, salt and supplemental oxygen are the BEST ways to ensure survival of bass held in livewells.”
Dr. Schramm, B.A.S.S. tournament fish care consultant and the Leader of the U.S. Geological Survey Mississippi Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit and Professor, Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, Mississippi State University
“OXYGEN AND FISH CARE’ Breakthrough in Bait Care and Tournament Survival”
By Steve Quinn, Editor, In-Fisherman
“Kingfish and striper tournament boats are increasingly equipped with oxygenation systems. Not only don’t baitfish die, but they’re unusually more active on the hook and they draw more strikes.”
A SCIENTIFIC RESEARCH PROJECT
OXYGEN INJECTION SYSTEMS – Oxygenation of Livewells to Improve Survival of Tournament-Caught Bass
By Randy Myers and Jason Driscoll, Fishery Biologist, Inland Fisheries Division, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, June 2011
“Dissolved oxygen is the single most important factor for keeping bass alive, and an understanding of factors that affect oxygen levels will better enable anglers to keep their fish alive.”
“Livewell recirculation systems are incapable of maintaining oxygen concentrations higher than 100 percent saturation, even in the absence of fish.”
“Fully functioning livewell systems and proper application of proven livewell management and fish care procedures are absolutely necessary and may keep a heavy fish limit healthy, but oxygen injection offers a surer alternative.”
© Copyright Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. No part of this work may be copied, reproduced, or translated in any form or medium without the prior written consent of Texas Parks Wildlife Department except where specifically noted.
Reprinted with expressed written permission from Randy Myers, TP&WD, District Supervisor , Inland Fisheries Management Region 1, District 1D, 12861 Galm Road # 7, San Antonio, TX 78254, (210) 688 9460, firstname.lastname@example.org
Keeping Your Tournament-Caught Bass ALIVE
THE 7% SOLUTION IS THE BEST METHOD FOR REDUCING SUMMER BASS KILLS
What Causes [Tournament C&R] Mortality?
• Physical Injury
• Oxygen Deprivation
• High Ammonia or Carbon Dioxide
• High Water Temperatures
What Causes Delayed Mortality?
• Oxygen Debt
• Toxins in the Bloodstream
Images and text used with permission of Gene Gilliland of the Oklahoma, Department of Wildlife Conservation Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency, Reservoir Fisheries Management Program and Tennessee B.A.S.S. Federation. Published January 2003
Gilliland’s research with The Oxygen Edge™ demonstrated that oxygen injection systems alone, in bass boat live wells (no catch and release chemicals or ice added to the well water) reduced total summer black bass tournament mortality including delayed mortality to only 7% summer tournament kill.
Gilliland used, tested and evaluated effectiveness of The Oxygen Edge™ system in the summers of 1998-99. His research finding, “The Ultimate Fish Care System”, was presented at the 2000 Black Bass Symposium, American Fisheries Society Conference, August 2000 in St. Lewis and published in scientific fishery literature.
The Oxygen Edge™ offers THE BEST possible livewell transport care for all summer tournament hooked fish, freshwater and saltwater species, bar none. Successful live summer fish transports are all about the fisherman’s knowledge, ability, oxygenating equipment and personal choice to ensure safe DO water quality continuously for hours of live fish transport.
When suffocation is imminent is summer livewell transports, the right dose of supplemental oxygen administration always trumps mechanical aeration (air). Summer live fish transports have failed miserably resulting in high to total mortality the past several thousand years because the solution to this an/correction to this summer problem was cryptic.
More air does not and will never mean more oxygen contrary to popular beliefs and myths.