Looking for the best place in the Magnolia State to spend a day bass fishing? Information provided by cooperating fishing clubs and tournament organizations can help you point your bass rig in the right direction.

Each year voluntary reports of tournament catch statistics by bass clubs and tournament trails are used as an indicator of the quality of bass fishing in Mississippi lakes and reservoirs. The top lake in 2007 was Bay Springs. The big surprise was Enid Lake in the No. 2 slot.

Tournament reports

With today's heavy bass fishing pressure, good bass fishing is a result of good bass management. Effective management starts with an accurate assessment of the bass population to monitor vital statistics such as recruitment, population size structure, growth rate and mortality rate. Bass are collected by electrofishing surveys to determine the essential population statistics. Electrofishing does not injure the fish, and is an effective way to collect bass. Still, good surveys take a lot of time.

Even when the biologists' diligence produces good population assessments, the job is only partly done. The ultimate judge of good bass management is what anglers are catching. We measure angler catch with creel surveys. Mississippi has a lot of bass waters and a small staff of fisheries biologists, so opportunities to obtain additional information are always useful.

The Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks' tournament reports are the brainchild of northeast district fisheries biologist Larry Pugh, who is a well-trained fisheries biologist and also an avid bass and tournament angler. He recognized that bass tournament statistics were an untapped source of information about Mississippi's bass populations.

Although tournament catch data do not replace the assessment data obtained by biologists, they can provide indexes of bass abundance and size structure. The tournament data also provide estimates of angler catch rates.

Bass clubs and tournament trails report easily collected information for each tournament. Pugh then calculates average fish size, number and weight caught, winning weight and big-bass weight for waters where enough tournaments are fished to provide reliable estimates.

Where the action was

Ross Barnett was the place to go for big bass in 2007. The bass weighed in on the big reservoir averaged 2.7 pounds, the average winning weight was 17 pounds and the average lunker weight was 6.8 pounds.

But Barnett doesn't give up fish easily - the average tournament catch was only 1.3 bass per angler. The low catch rate but large size may be related to the 15-inch minimum length limit.

The Jourdan River was the place to go for numbers. Tournament anglers averaged 3.3 bass per day, and average fish weight was 1.3 pounds.

Bay Springs was the No. 2 destination for numbers of bass, and the fish weighed in averaged 2 pounds. Bay Springs topped the list for total weight of catch with a respectable 6.3-pound average per angler.

The big surprise was Enid Reservoir. This 28,000-acre, north-central Mississippi reservoir only rarely made the top 15-list in any category the past few years.

In 2007, Enid was second to Ross Barnett for average big-bass weight and average first-place weight. Averaged for 149 angler days in five tournaments, it took only 44 angler hours to catch a bass over 5 pounds

Keith Meals, the biologist responsible for fisheries management recommendations at Enid, attributed the high catch rates of big bass to the 16- to 20-inch protected slot limit - fish 16 to 20 inches long must be immediately released, and only three fish over 20 inches may be retained.

Slot limits are not popular with tournament anglers, but when appropriately used, can maximize the output of quality-size bass. With a 16- to 20-inch protected slot limit, that translates into a lot of 2- to 5-pound fish to catch.

Why did Enid rank high in 2007 while Sardis Lake, a perennial favorite destination for bass tournaments and a lake with the same regulations, dropped in ranking?

Meals attributes it to low fishing pressure. While anglers previously passed by Enid to fish at Sardis, the bass population at Enid kept going and growing. Mother Nature may deserve a little credit. The low water levels in '07 concentrated the big fish.

Anglers helping anglers

A complete rundown of bass tournament-catch statistics can be found at www.mdwfp.com/homelinks/fisheries/BassTourney_07.pdf.

I think the Mississippi Bass Tournament Program is a glimpse of the future. With ever-tightening budgets for fisheries and natural-resource management, data provided by the tournament reports will become even more useful for agency biologists. And bass anglers share the benefit.

Last year, 25 bass clubs and tournament organizations provided reports for 258 tournaments throughout the state. The value of the information increases with the number of tournaments reported.

Make sure your bass club or the tournament trail you fish is providing these important data. It takes a tournament director less than five minutes to fill out a report card for each tournament, and results can be emailed, faxed or mailed to MDWFP. The Tournament Program website above has links to the report cards. It's free, it's easy and it will help make bass fishing as good as it can be in Mississippi.