As long as there are tournaments in the heat of summer with air temps at 100+ and surface temps in the mid to upper 80's, some fish are going to die, especially if they are caught deep and not fizzed. That all being said, I would still say there is more the anglers can do to help. I've fished my share of tournaments and have never lost a fish. Granted I fish very few of them in July and August but I have fished a few during those months.
When Squaw creek had their very first Fun and Sun charity event before the lake opened back up to the public, they gave a very informative seminar on fish care the night before the event and if memory serves me, there wasn't a single dead fish weighed in. It was basic stuff like adding the right amount of ice, a little H2O2 and obviously some Please Release Me. They actually had a huge load of ice brought in and required all teams to buy 3 or 4 bags to help with livewell temps. Maybe that's something to consider for these events on Rayburn.
Here is the info we were given for that event:
This was put together for an event I fished a few years back. The biologists at Sure Life put the fish care tips together for us. They are the folks that make Please Release Me etc. Their whole livelihood is fish care.
This proactive plan to keep your catch healthy was created by the folks at Sure Life and has been used in several summer time tournaments with great results. Keep in mind the water temp at Squaw Creek was over 90 degrees for most of the lake and I don't know of a single fish that was not released alive.
In an effort to provide the best possible live release during tournaments; we are encouraging you to be proactive in addressing livewell conditions ALL DAY LONG. Although the weigh in procedure is critical, your handling of the fish throughout the day is even more critical, since the fish are in YOUR POSSESSION for the majority of the time. Please study the following suggestions and give them your utmost consideration.
1. In order to properly condition a livewell, you need to know the approximate volume of your livewell. We highly recommend that you measure the dimensions of your livewell(s) ahead of time to determine gallon volume. Use the following formula to determine the water capacity of your square or rectangular livewell. Using a measuring device (tape or ruler), multiply length times width times height of water in livewell (all in feet) times the constant 7.5. The result will be in gallons.
2. Fill livewell(s) early (shortly after takeoff) from good water in main body of lake. Do not fill livewell(s) or exchange water in creeks or coves and especially NOT at take off site. HELPFUL TIP: If you have separate livewells, fill first livewell early and store bags of ice in second livewell. This will help keep the primary livewell cool. Afterwards, if you need the second livewell, it will be easier to cool down. This method will also conserve your ice.
3. IMPORTANT!!!! Treat livewell with CATCH & RELEASE early and re-circulate for a couple of minutes to thoroughly mix. For tournaments use the following chart to determine proper amount of CATCH & RELEASE to add to your livewell. MAKE SURE YOU DOSE LIVEWELL BEFORE YOU START FISHING!!!!
GALLONS OF WATER CAPFUL(S) OF CATCH & RELEASE FROM 10 OZ. BOTTLE
10-15 Gallons 2 ½ Capfuls Of CATCH & RELEASE
20 Gallons 3 –3 ½ Capfuls Of CATCH & RELEASE
25-30 Gallons 5 Capfuls Of CATCH & RELEASE
50 Gallons 7 Capfuls Of CATCH & RELEASE
4. CRITICAL!!!LIVEWELL TEMPERATURES. Please keep your livewell(s) as close as possible to 65 degrees Fahrenheit. DO NOT LET LIVEWELL TEMPERATURES EXCEED 75 degrees Fahrenheit at any time. Check your thermometer OFTEN to make sure temperatures are in target range.
5. Add 3% hydrogen peroxide to livewell once you catch your FIRST FISH. The 3% hydrogen peroxide will provide adequate dissolved oxygen levels even if you experience livewell failure. Pay attention to the dosage rates below and do not exceed our recommendations. Repeat this procedure when you start to operate second livewell upon introduction of fish.
GALLONS OF WATER 3% HYDROGEN PEROXIDE DOSAGE RATE
10-15 Gallons ½ Cupful (4 Fluid Ounces)
20 Gallons ¾ Cupful (6 Fluid Ounces)
25-30 Gallons 1 Cupful (8 Fluid Ounces)
50 Gallons 2 Cupfuls (16 Fluid Ounces)
6. If you catch a heavy load of fish, please exchange water in livewell at least once during the day and repeat cooling of water, dosing of CATCH & RELEASE and reapply hydrogen peroxide to livewell.
7. IMPORTANT!!!!!!!DO NOT. REPEAT. DO NOT PUMP IN FRESH WATER OR RECIRCULATE FRESH WATER THROUGHOUT THE DAY. This will defeat the purpose of cooling the water down and applications of water conditioners. DO NOT OPERATE LIVEWELLS ON TIMED AERATION. KEEP LIVEWELLS ON MANUAL RECIRCULATION CONSTANTLY.
8. DO NOT FILL WEIGH IN BAGS FROM WATER OVER THE SIDE OF BOAT AT WEIGH IN SITE!!!! Fill bags with water from treated and cooled livewells. Dip bags in livewells to fill with water or pump water from livewell through pump out pumps directly to bags as they hang off side of boat. To fill bags with water from lake at this point will totally defeat the purpose of all the work you have done in that livewell throughout the day.
9. TIPS FOR DEEP HOOKED OR WOUNDED (BLEEDING) BASS: Wet hands and try to remove hook using “through the gill method” working quickly. Do not keep bass out of water for more than 40 seconds. If having difficulty, then place bass in livewell water between procedures and allow it to breathe for a few moments and resume task of hook removal. If bass has swallowed the hook, then cut the line close as possible to hook eye and place bass in livewell. If bass is bleeding from body or gills, apply a pinch of CATCH & RELEASE directly to the wound. While we can’t guarantee that your bass will live, following these procedures will give them the best possible chance for survival.
10. TIPS FOR PROPERLY HANDLING FISH: Try to keep handling bass to a MINIMUM! Try not to let bass come in contact with carpet or let bass bounce around on carpet. This will cause extreme injury to the all-important slime coat or skin of the bass. If you do disrupt slime coating from this action, then this is a good time to rub some CATCH & RELEASE on abrasion. Be cautious not to break jaws of bass. Once broken, that bass will not be able to feed again. ALWAYS hold bass in vertical position or use TWO HANDS to support body. Holding bass with single hand by way of mouth in a horizontal position without proper support will dislocate or break jaw.