“Don’t put your hands in that water, or the bass will bite you,” Barry Smith of American Sport Fish Hatchery, in Montgomery, Alabama, would tell his employees, when the men came around a tank full of genetically-engineered Tiger Bass. But not until Spencer Ross of Chatom, Alabama, sent Smith a copy of a video, showing a bass attacking his hand when he put his fingers in the water, did the term “man-eating Tiger Bass” begin to surface. Once Ross got tired of just letting bass from 6 to 10 pounds bite his fingers in a private lake, he decided to attempt to actually catch those bass. Ross would put his fingers in the water and turn his hand over, so that when these big bass bit his fingers, his thumb would be in the right position to lift the bass and land it. Ross explains, “I have had bass 10 pounds and larger inhale my entire hand and bite me on my wrist that I’ve hand-caught.”
There’s an area of Bear Lake (a private lake in south Alabama) where fishermen occasionally feed the bream in the lake after they come in from fishing. There’s also a fish feeder on the dock. Once the bream start feeding, the Tiger Bass move in to feed on the bream. “I noticed that when there were only three or four bass feeding on the bream, the bass were very cautious,” Ross explains. “But, when I could get a feeding frenzy going, and eight or 10 bass that weigh from 6 to 10 pounds each started feeding on the bream, the bass became very aggressive and would attack anything that hit the water. So, I put my fingers in the water and started wiggling them to look like bream. Suddenly, a bass came up out of the water and bit my fingers.” Today, Ross fishes Bear Lake about 3 days a week and has caught over 100 bass weighing 10 pounds or more with his hands. Ross says, “our lake was stocked with these man-eating Tiger Bass in 2003, and the fishing has been phenomenal.”
Check out this video of Ross catching a Tiger Bass with his hands.
Fathers of the Tiger Bass
Two fishery scientists, Barry Smith and Don Keller, had experimented with different strains of bass since 1986. “We always wanted to create a big bass like the Florida strain of bass that would bite as aggressively as the northern strain of bass,” Smith remembers. For 20 years, Smith and Keller selected the most aggressive, northern strain largemouths from each year class of bass they spawned and then trained those bass to eat pelleted fish food that floated on the surface. “We finally had some northern strain bass that would attack most anything on the surface of the water,” Keller reports. Smith and Keller also selected Florida strain largemouth females that consistently produced offspring that would weigh 10 pounds or more, selected the most-aggressive male northern bass in their breeding program and then bred the two to produce the Tiger Bass. The Tiger Bass carried the genetic traits of being super-aggressive from their northern fathers and had a fast growth rate like their Florida strain black bass mothers. Today the Tiger Bass is one of the most-used bass for stocking in ponds and lakes, because they grow quickly, are easy to catch and now have become man-eaters.
For more information about Tiger Bass, visit the American Sportfish Hatchery’s site here.
To learn more about how to catch all types of bass from some of the best bass fishermen in the nation, get the new Kindle eBook, “How to Bass Fish Like a Pro” by John E. Phillips. Go to http://www.amazon.com/How-Bass-Fish-Like-ebook/dp/B007RP2LZS/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1334954996&sr=1-1. Or, you can go to http://www.amazon.com/kindle-ebooks and type in the name of the book to find it.
Drawing courtesy of John Phillips, art by Mike Handley