Functional Livewell Rule C&R Fishing Tournaments

WEBSITE UPDATED                                  Saturday  June  5, 2021

Bass tournament rules claim that all bass boats livewells must be pre-judged “FUNCTIONAL”  by a tournament official to play or the bass boat is disqualified. That means the mechanical aerator motor or livewell pump motor must be heard when turned on. That alone guarantees minimal safe livewell oxygenation in the summer for all the catch.

All catch and release freshwater and saltwater fishing tournaments endorse and enforce this “Functional Livewell Rule.”

Many C&R tournament “Dead Fish Rules” intentionally punish contestants for presenting dead fish at the scales (PUNISHMENT IS NEGATIVE MOTIVATION FOR FAILING TO KEEP FISH ALIVE IN YOUR LIVEWELL). The more progressive C&R fishing tournaments reward contestants when weighing-in live fish (REWARD IS POSITIVE MOTIVATION FOR KEEPING FISH ALIVE IN YOUR LIVEWELL).

What is the purpose of the “Dead Fish Rule?” The punishment is to motivate contestants to make the extra effort to keep his catch alive or healthy all day during transport in his bass boat livewell thru the weigh-in process. Live fish present a positive public relations image, sportsmanship, conservation of resources to the audience and the media watching the event. 

Is the “Dead Fish Rule” has cost Professional and amateur anglers  hundreds of thousands of dollars over the years in summer fishing tournaments all because 1 fish died, suffocated in the boat livewell.

Functional means “having or serving a utilitarian purpose, capable of serving the purpose for which it was designed.

Mechanical aerators are designed to aerate livewell water, mechanical aerators are not designed to ensure minimal safe livewell oxygenation.

The Edge oxygen injection systems are designed specifically to oxygenate livewell water, dose adjustments insure minimal DO requirements and maintain safe DO water quality for all the catch (5 lbs. – 200 lbs. of fish) all day, Oxygen systems are not designed aerate (ventilate) livewell water.

Some types of oxygen systems are poorly designed and are not functional life support systems.

Some types of oxygen systems generate 100% oxygen, but they fail to produce and deliver enough oxygen  to maintain minimal safe oxygen saturations in livewell water for all the catch continuously.  This failure can result in deadly low livewell oxygenation, hypoxia, tournament mortality, morbidity and fish disease.

Livewell means “A livewell is a tank found on many fishing boats that is used to keep bait and caught fish alive. Dissolved oxygen is the single most important factor for keeping bass alive. An understanding of factors that affect oxygen levels will better enable anglers to keep their fish [aquatic animals] alive.”

Therefore a “FUNCTIONAL LIVEWELL” must be capable of safely sustaining no less than minimal dissolved oxygen saturations (fish hatchery live transport DO standard is 100% DO Saturation continuously for all live fish transports) in livewell water containing 1 bass or heavy limits of tournament caught bass all day, for the duration of the live transport and captivity, summer or winter. The livewell water quality (specifically DO Saturation) must be sufficient to keep the total catch (which may be 10 – 40 lbs of bass) alive and healthy for 7-8 hours during an all day transport in small bass boat livewells during summer tournaments.

A aerated boat livewell that does not, cannot maintain minimal dissolved minimal safe dissolved oxygen saturations, minimal safe water quality while transporting live fish… IS NOT A “FUNCTIONAL LIVEWELL.”


The “functional livewell test” is certainly not as simply as a tournament official hearing the water pump or aerator humming, spraying water or circulating water in the boat livewell.

Testing livewell Dissolved Oxygen Saturation with a DO meter while the livewell contains limits of tournament bass at the end of the day, when the contestant’s boat arrives at the marina (weigh-in site) will effectively determine if a boat really has a FUNCTIONAL LIVEWELL.

*FACT: 100% DO Saturation or greater in livewell water containing 1 lb. or 500 lbs. of live mature game fish and/or live bait fish is considered to be “SAFE DO SATURATION” by all Federal, State and private fish hatcheries in America.

Test the livewell DO Saturation when the boat arrives at the weigh-in with fish in the livewell. The boat should be disqualified then IF the livewell water DO Saturation is below the “SAFE DO SATURATION” level.

Dissolved Oxygen Saturation transport water quality standards are required and practiced daily by State and Federal Fish Hatcheries. Summer bass tournaments DO Saturations water quality standards in bass boat livewells should be the same dissolved Oxygen water quality standards.

What does this FUNCTIONAL LIVEWELL RULE really mean?

The popular tournament “Functional Livewell” rule certainly does not verify or ensure that bass boat livewell DO water quality is a safe transport environment for the catch. It means a tournament official in charge of enforcing this rule hears a livewell water pump humming and or an aerator motor humming when turned on simply hearing those electric motors hum is proof positive that the boat has a “FUNCTIONAL LIVEWELL.”

Functional water pumps makes noise and pump water when turned on. Functional aerators make noise when turned on and blow air through an air tube. Functional air stones make bubbles in livewell water when the air pump is turned on. Functional spray bars are powered with water pumps, electric water pumps hum pumping water to  spray water in livewells when turned on.

Non-functional boat livewell aeration equipment certainly does not ensure minimal safe livewell water quality, specifically sustained minimal safe Dissolved Oxygen Saturation for all the catch in the livewell all day in summer tournaments. Air is mostly composed of Nitrogen gas, not oxygen gas..

The only way to determine if a bass boat livewell IS FUNCTIONAL and safe is to test the DO Saturation in the boats’ livewell water containing full limits of fish when the contestant arrives at the weigh-in. Then and only then is when the livewell water quality should be tested and the Functional Livewell Rule tested. The oxygen content should never be tested without fish in the livewell.

Here’s how you, the public, outdoors’ writers and politicians will know beyond any doubt when tournament directors and officials are serious about the bass boat “FUNCTIONAL LIVEWELL RULE” and really choosing to provide the best possible tournament fish care for the catch.


How can a tournament official confirm that a contestant’s bass  boat livewell is really functional and safe to transport a limit of tournament caught bass 7-8  hours all day in a summer tournament?

How can a tournament official accurately judge and certify that a bass boat livewell water has safe DO Saturations to transport limits of  live tournament caught fish all day?

Tournaments will have an official with a dissolved oxygen meter continuously testing and recording the dissolved oxygen saturations in every bass boat livewell that arrives at the marina, boat ramp or weigh-in site with limits of fish in the livewells.  Livewells will be tested before the fish are bagged and transported to holding tanks.

The DO saturation test confirms beyond any doubt if the boat livewell is functional or not functional, safe or deadly.  If the boat livewell DO saturation is tested and falls below 100% saturation then serious penalties or disqualification are in order because the boat livewell water quality is not safe for the live fish. Contestants would be penalized or disqualified for having a non- functional livewell.


The standard bass tournament punishment assessed to tournament anglers that fail to keep their catch alive in their bass boat livewell and weighing in a “dead fish” is weight reduction, penalized ½ pound per dead fish for failure to keep the fish alive.


A new concept of  a live fish bonus is proven to motivate contestants to provide the best tournament fish care possible for their catch in boat livewells all day. The live fish bonus offers real rewards for all anglers that present a live fish to the weigh master. They receive additional bonus weight for doing a good job keeping their fish alive all day in their boat livewell. A ½ point bonus added to the actual weight of each fish turned in alive is positive motivation; a reward for providing better tournament fish care and keeping their catch alive.

The “live fish bonus” concept has been use effectively in salt water (speckled trout) catch and live release tournaments for years to motivate anglers to really provide the best fish care possible. Fishermen know the weigh master’s reward for their extra fish care efforts will be an additional ½ pound per live fish or bonus points for each live fish weighed in.

Unsafe livewell water quality (low DO saturations cause chronic livewell suffocation) in summer tournaments often results in high summer tournament bass kills (abusive and predictable acute and delayed tournament mortality). If the boat livewell is not functional, it is certainly not safe to transport live fish all day in any tournament. If the livewell is not safe for the catch, the boat should be disqualified because it fails the “functional livewell rule.”

FACT:  False DO Saturation Test: Livewell water contaminated with Rejuvenade ®, a Bass Medics livewell chemical, consistently demonstrate a false DO test reading. This chemical causes the DO meter to peg off the scale rendering the test invalid and totally useless.

Providing the best tournament bass care or providing less than the best fish care is always a personal choice made in every tournament by each contestant on his bass boat (7-8 hours possession) and all tournament directors from the weigh-in holding tanks through release boat transport and final live release (30 minute possession).

Tournament bass care, now you know what to look for. You can effectively evaluate and really see who is serious and proactive about conservation and who really chooses to provide the best tournament fish care possible. Look for the oxygen-injection system, compressed oxygen cylinders and the person testing and recording DO Saturations in bass boat livewell, bass bags, holding tanks and release boat tanks with heavy loads of live fish inside. DO test are meaningless in livewells that contain no fish.