Bass tournaments yield valuable about the bass fishery. They can tell one about the size of fish as well as numbers and how they were caught.

To some, watching a bass tournament weigh-in is about as exciting as watching paint dry.  To the contestants and their families it is very important.  To other bass anglers, it should be too. 

Bass tournaments are an excellent source of information about the health of the fish population within the lake.  In recent years, that information about Crab Orchard Lake in Williamson County, Illinois was rather foreboding.  Fish had declined in size and number for several years. 

A combination of efforts on behalf of local bass clubs and the Illinois Department of Natural Resources attempted to change the situation of this lake that was once known as southernIllinois’ “bass factory.” 

About 10 years ago, catch figures began to decline. 

Surveys by the IDNR resulted in recommendations to decrease minimum fish size and creel limits.  They also recommended the supplemental stocking of Gizzard Shad and the Crab Orchard Lake Bass Club stepped up to the plate with funds to pay for the stocking.  The funds came from a portion of the entry fee for their tournaments. 

Beginning in the spring of 2007, the average size of fish began to increase each year. 

In addition to the size and numbers of fish, tournament weigh-ins produce, information about fish taken in deep water structure, weed beds, near wood, and along the rip rap.  Crankbaits work in the deep water.  Jigs produce in the weed beds and rip rap.  Dark colors seem to produce the most fish. 

The fish are in shallow water early in the morning, but move to deep water near the shallow water as temperatures rise. 

There is a pattern for finding fish in Crab Orchard Lake during the post spawn period.  All one has to do is spend a little time at a tournament weigh-in to get all the information necessary. 

Crab Orchard Lake is located in the Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge in southwestern Williamson County.  It can be accessed via Interstate 57 at exit 53 (Old Route 13 orMain Street) and traveling west to the refuge.  The US Fish & Wildlife Service charges a nominal daily access fee.  Information about the lakes of the refuge and payment of the day fee can be obtained at the refuge Visitor’s Center on Route 148 about two miles south of Route 13.  Tournament information is also available at the refuge offices (618-997-3344) as the Service must approve all tournaments. 

Bait and tackle is available at Cooksey’s Bait Shop on the corner of Route 148 and Old Route 13 at the stop light as well as local bait shops in Marion, Illinois. 

Information about the area attractions and accommodations is available from the Williamson County Tourism Bureau at 1-800-GEESE99 or on line at: or their web page.



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  1. Reblogged this on luredoutdoors and commented:
    Great info

  2. It is great to see a fishery recover! Thanks for sharing.

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