Science: A Little Fun with 5s

Yes!! It's another 5-pounder!!!

Ask a serious bass fisherman what he caught and without hesitation, an “eyeballed” fish grows. Suddenly the world is filled with guys who catch 5-pounders.

I don’t know what it is about the 5-pound mark, but suffice it to say that any bass close to that mark will at some point exceed it in a future retelling. This seems especially true with tourney anglers (sorry guys). They’re always catching limits in practice, and they always manage a 5-pounder or two along the way. Based on the practice reports, I can’t even begin to imagine all the tourneys that were won before they even started. Everybody is killing them except you!

But as I always like to say, the scales don’t lie – the truth always comes out at weigh-in time.

Nowadays, many states have adopted a tournament-reporting feature into their fishery departments. This is seen as a low-cost way to capture lots of data on the general trends in bass populations in these states. Overall the data is fairly reliable, especially over time or as number of reports increases.

I’m not sure which state actually started the reporting trend, but many have caught on and they all seem to use a similar, standard format. You can view many of these reports online, with states such as Kansas, Alabama, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Mississippi all posting access or summaries at some point. Many of these reports go back nearly 20 years for a given state and show some interesting trends. Of course, the part I’m most interested in for this piece is the stats concerning 5-pound bass.

I sat down one day and compiled all the data I could from these state reports concerning the hours to catch a 5-pound bass. One of the surprising things that came out of looking at all that data was how similar the tim frames and numbers were from state to state. So after compiling reports from 6 different states totaling over 18,000 tournaments and comprising over 4 million angler-hours on the water, the average time it takes to catch a 5-pound bass works out to be:

495.9 hours per fish.

If you look at just the best lake in any given state for a year that has at least five filed reports, and average these across states and years (again, striking similarity between states), you find these better lakes averaging 165.5 angler-hours to catch a 5-pound bass. And remember, these are tourney stats!

So you now have some basis for comparison. Keep in mind that this is just a cross section of reporting states. I would expect those that fish California, Texas or Florida to have much better numbers. But for the rest of us, just be wary when the dock talk and fishing reports venture into the realm of all the large bass being caught. Honest-to-God 5s are simply not that common on most waters throughout the country.



  1. Jesse Hall

    March 28, 2011 at 8:12 am

    Another interesting read! It seems 5 pounders are quite elusive. Of course, I catch 6’s alllll the time…I swear 😉

  2. Ronald J. Lindner

    March 28, 2011 at 10:44 am

    We were filming a FLW Tournament..Where in pre practice there were all kinds of 6;and 7lbers.being caught (at least that was the scuddlebutt ) the weigh-in not a single fish over 6lbs came of the co anglers asked why..Mark Dorn one of the FLW officials said “..the fish had to go through the scales that’s why..”

    • Jack McGee

      March 28, 2011 at 12:21 pm

      Given that calculation, how impressive is it that Brandon McMillian won the Okeechobee Tour Event with over a 5lb average over 4 days?

      Granted, it is Florida, but still impressive in my book.

  3. Mike Fillmer

    March 28, 2011 at 1:21 pm

    It does happen though! My team partner and I felt pretty good about our five fish catch yesterday (Sunday) of 14-20 until the winning team came in with 30+. The weigh-master even had to weigh each one (all between 5-6 pounds) to determine which one was the big fish of the tournament…which they also won!

  4. 5bites

    March 28, 2011 at 2:21 pm

    Kansas has a lake? A lake with a 5 pounder in it? I thought all Kansas anglers fished Grand lake.

  5. Bass Pundit

    March 29, 2011 at 6:14 am

    Last year my bass club here in central MN didn’t weigh a single 5lb bass all year. That is 6 tournaments with 20+ guys per tournament fishing. The year before that there was a single 5 and one over 6. In my first year 2008 I think there were 3 fives caught, 2 of which were caught by the same guy in 1 tournament.

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