WEBSITE UPDATED                                  Saturday  June  5, 2021


The “Dead Fish” Penalty is primarily caused  by non-functional livewells in bass boats in summer tournaments… angler’s failure to insure minimal safe livewell water quality water quality (minimal safe DO Saturation for a limit of mature bass) all day in a bass boat livewell is the primary cause of this summer water quality problem in bass boat livewells, i.e. livewell hypoxia caused by large winning tournament limits (overstocking)… deadly water quality is preventable every summer with a little knowledge and a little angler effort.

Dodging that “Dead Fish” punishment is summer fishing tournaments is all about the anglers knowledge, ability and choices of livewell equipment that will absolutely insure minimal safe water quality (100% DO Saturation)  inside a livewell fully loaded with tournament fish. Wise educated choices has nothing to do with luck, great expensive livewells, 3-4 livewell water pumps, bells buzzers and switched, 2-3 extra batteries, the best mechanical aeration systems money can buy, air vents, water chillers, ice and induced livewell hypothermia.

Why do tournament live release boats always use compressed oxygen injection systems – have you ever seen or heard of a live tournament bass release using mechanical aerators or water pumps, Oxygenators to insure minimal safe livewell oxygenation during transports? Of course not!

Transporting live mature fish – 100% DO Saturation standard used by the Texas Lunker Program transporting 1 large bass 100 of miles across Texas and the US as well as all Federal, State and private fish hatcheries. All oxygenate transport  water with LOX or compressed oxygen injection. None oxygenate live transport water with mechanical aeration devices for good reason – livewell hypoxia must be prevented whether transporting a 1 lb. bass, 200 lbs. or  1000 lbs. of fish in the all day is a livewell.

Read, enjoy and apply the new knowledge below and forget worrying about that “Dead Fish” penalty all day every summer.

THE FISHERY SCIENCE… Gene Gilliland is currently the Conservation Director, B.A.S.S., LLC

Livewell-Held Bass Require Special Care During Summer Months

by Todd Driscoll

The popularity of bass fishing has exploded during the last 20 years… changes have taken place, including increases in fishing technology and the advent of more restrictive harvest regulations.  However, one of the most important changes includes increased angler acceptance of catch and release practices.

Currently, almost all bass tournaments require release of all live fish weighed in and penalize those with dead bass.  In addition, conservation of the resource should be a major consideration of all tournament anglers.  Therefore, tournament anglers should do everything possible to ensure survival of released fish. [ANGLER RESPONSIBILITY – 7-8 HOURS TRANSPORT TIME IN BASS BOAT LIVEWELL]

All recommendations are based on water temperature, oxygen, ammonia levels, and proper handling of fish.  Stress in the livewell occurs as a result of low oxygen levels and ammonia build-up from fish waste.  As water temperatures increase, water holds less oxygen, bass consume more oxygen, and ammonia becomes more toxic.  This implies that as the water temperatures increase, fish in a livewell require more attention and care in order to reduce stress.

[1] When water temperatures are below 70 degrees, at a minimum anglers should run either the recirculating (aerating) pump or intake pump at timed intervals… as often as possible.

By recirculating water, uniodized salt can be added to livewell water (1/3 cup per 5 gallons of water) to match the body fluid salt concentration of bass (0.5%) [osmoregulation].  Fish experiencing stress absorb excess water, diluting body fluids below levels necessary for survival.  Maintaining the salinity of livewell water to that of fish body fluids minimizes effects of stress.

[IMPORTANT] Many commercial water conditioners (i.e., catch and release formulas) cannot be recommended by state agencies, not due to ineffectiveness, but because the ingredients have not been tested [NOR APPROVED] by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration as safe for human consumption.

If water is recirculated, replace half of the livewell water every 3 hours to prevent toxic ammonia build up that results from fish waste.  When water is replaced, additional salt needs to be added.  Pumping fresh water in on a timer with intake pumps prevents toxic ammonia build-up but prevents use of salt additives.  Ideally, anglers should run either recirculating or intake pumps continuously to ensure optimal livewell conditions, especially if there is more than 10 pounds of bass in the livewell.

[2] When water temperatures are above 70 degrees, at a minimum anglers need to pump fresh water into the livewell continuously.   Periodically pumping in new water using a timer does not maintain adequate oxygen levels.

At these temperatures, running pumps on a timer does not maintain adequate oxygen levels in livewells. 

Cooling the livewell water with ice allows it to hold more oxygen and reduces oxygen consumption by bass.  Enough ice needs to be added to reduce the water temperature 5-10 degrees.

Excessive cooling beyond 10 degrees can cause heat shock when bass are released back into the lake

Typically, block ice is preferred (it lasts longer) and can be made by freezing water in half-gallon milk jugs or 12-ounce water bottles.  Again, when using recirculating pumps half the livewell water needs to be exchanged every 3 hours to prevent ammonia build-up.  When water is exchanged, additional ice and salt need to be added.

As a rule, 8 pounds of ice will cool the typical livewell 5-10 degrees for 3 hours.  A frozen, half-gallon milk jug will weigh 4 pounds.  During a typical tournament day (8-9 hours), 8 pounds of ice added every 3 hours when water is exchanged should maintain a cooler livewell temperature.

Some fish will die even with appropriate care.  Dead fish will cause poor water quality conditions in the livewell and should be removed immediately and placed on ice.  However, as required by state game laws, dead fish must be retained as part of your daily limit.  It is illegal to cull dead fish.

The weigh-in is an additional stress factor. [TOURNAMENT DIRECTOR RESPONSIBILITY – 20 MINUTES]

Fill your weigh-in bag with at least 2 gallons of water from your livewell, especially if you have been using ice to cool the livewell water.  Holding tanks at the weigh-in line should be aerated, cooled with ice, and treated with salt.  Effort should be taken while in the line to exchange the original water in the bag with the aerated, treated water in the tanks and to keep your bag submerged in the holding tanks.

This is critical as the oxygen in the weigh-in bag can drop to zero in a couple of minutes!  [TOURNAMENT WEIGH-MASTER RESPONSIBILITY – 15 MINUTES]

If fish are held for pictures, wet hands before touching fish.  Grasp fish by lower jaw but never bend the head down or hold horizontally by jaw.  Avoid touching the body of the fish as this removes the protective mucous covering.  When holding bigger fish, the lower body should also be supported with a wet hand under the belly to prevent jaw damage.

Do not keep fish out of water any longer than you can hold your breath.  Air exposure is extremely stressful to fish. [TOURNAMENT ANGLER’S RESPONSIBILITY – 30 SECONDS]


These suggestions were summarized from the B.A.S.S. publication “Keeping Bass Alive: A guidebook for anglers and tournament organizers” and this book should be required reading for all tournament anglers.  An online version is available at

Todd Driscoll is a district fisheries management biologist for Texas Parks and Wildlife Department where he has worked for 10 years.  He received a B.S. in Fisheries Biology from Kansas State University and a M.S. in Fisheries Management from Mississippi State University.  His primary responsibilities include fisheries management of Sam Rayburn and Toledo Bend reservoirs in Southeast Texas. Todd is an avid bass angler and participates in approximately 25-30 local and regional bass tournaments per year.  He also represents Lowrance Electronics as a Technical Pro Staffer, working tournament support and service at BASS, FLW, and owner’s tournaments across the country.

We thank Todd Driscoll for his expressed permission to reprint all or parts of this article 8/26/2016.

Copyright © 2016 All Rights Reserved. BRAD WIEGMANN Office: 479-756-5279

B.A.S.S. – ESPN Publications

Oxygen and the Oxygen Edge™ keeps tournament bass alive and other summer tournament fish alive in boat livewells, reduces tournament mortality, ensuring the best tournament fish livewell care possible.

Reducing summer tournament fishing mortality is the angler’s personal choice and the responsibility of every Bass Tournament Director.

The Oxygen Edge™ ensures safe livewell oxygenation for all the catch and the best summer tournament fish care possible in the hottest most adverse hostile summer tournament fishing conditions.


The Oxygen Edge™ is the most dependable, safest, livewell oxygen injection livewell system available, invented and commercially developed by David A. Kinser, Oxygenation Systems of Texas 1993.

The Oxygen Edge™ was extensively tested, used by Gene Gilliland, Oklahoma researcher the summer of 1999 for scientific research in preparation for publishing B.A.S.S./ESPN “Keeping Bass Alive” 2002.

Gene Gilliland is currently B.A.S.S. Conservation Director, effective January 1, 2014.

David Kinser provided oxygen injection system technical expertise, operational instructions, oxygen gas and oxygen equipment safety guidelines and instructions seen throughout the publication.

We appreciate Gene Gilliland’s invitation to participate and provide The Oxygen Edge™ livewell oxygen injection systems plus our years of experience, oxygen system expertise and oxygen safety to this project. The results of supplemental livewell oxygen application and research in bass boat livewells during summer tournaments literally changed the meaning and perceptions of “Providing the best summer tournament bass care possible.”


A Guidebook for Anglers and Tournament Organizers

Published by: ESPN Productions, Inc/B.A.S.S. Copyright 2002 B.A.S.S.® Montgomery, Alabama

[PDF]Keeping Bass Alive – ESPN


It should be noted that bass tournaments currently have little impact on an overall fishery.


Data on livewell oxygen consumption were provided by Steven Cooke, David Phillipp, Jason Schreer, and David Wahl from research funded by the Center for Aquatic Ecology, Illinois Natural History Survey, University of Illinois, the University of Waterloo, and the Canadian Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council.

The authors also acknowledge the support of the Federal Aid in Sport Fish Restoration Program for funding a number of the research projects from which our recommendations have come.

Helpful reviews of this booklet were provided by Steven Cooke, Illinois Natural History Survey; Todd Driscoll, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department; David Kinser, Oxygenation Systems of Texas; Will Kirkpatrick, Broaddus, Texas; Bill Anderson, Rick Horton and Kevin Richards, Missouri Department of Conservation; and B.A.S.S. staff members: Don Corkran, Mark Cosper, Chuck Harbin, Dewey Kendrick, Dean Kessel, George McNeilly, Dave Precht, Al Smith, Diehl Unger and Trip Weldon.

“Keeping Bass Alive” written by Senior Fishery Biologist, Gene Gilliland, Hal Schramm, Ph.D., and Bruce Shupp, former B.A.S.S. National Conservation Director addressed the needs and effectiveness of administering supplemental pure compressed welding oxygen with oxygen injection in anglers’ tournament boat livewells, weigh-in holding tanks and release boat transport livewells was proven to dramatically increase post summer tournament survival and substantially reduce acute and delayed summer tournament mortality. The Oxygen Edge ™, an adjustable dose livewell oxygen injection technology advanced tournament fish transport to state-of-the-art technology. The importance of livewell oxygenation is discussed extensively.


 Bassmaster Classic XXV 1995 – enter The Oxygen Edge™

The Oxygen Edge™ was the first commercial livewell oxygen injection system ever approved and used in a Bassmaster Classic C&R fishing tournament. Randy Dearman used The Oxygen Edge™ in the 25th Annual Bassmaster Classic XXV Tournament held on High Rock Lake, Greensboro, NC, August 3-5, 1995.

Randy requested and received special permission from Bassmaster Tournament Officials to be the first contestant permitted to use the first commercial livewell oxygen injection system designed for sport fishing applications/catch and live release fishing tournaments in this Super Bowl tournament of professional bass fishing.

The conditions required by B.A.S.S. for Randy to use the Oxygen Edge™ in the 1995 Bassmaster Classic Tournament were very specific and super secret. The oxygen injection system, oxygen cylinder and components must be completely hidden from view and absolutely not every discussed or disclosed to anyone. Under no circumstance was any other contestant, the news media or anyone else ever to actually see or hear about the oxygen injection system used in Randy’s boat. The August temperature was hot, the water was hot and the tournament mortality was high as expected, yet, there was no livewell mortality on Randy’s boat. That summer, although Randy did not win, he had a real tournament Edge keeping his bass alive all day.

At that time tournament officials had no idea of the advantage of using pure compressed oxygen with a livewell oxygen injection system to keep bass alive all day compared to the standard bass boat livewell aerators and water pumps used in that era. Most fishermen and tournament officials thought air was oxygen and that oxygen was air, that the two gases were the same thing.

Randy Dearman and the new innovative Oxygen Edge™ oxygen injection system did not go unnoticed as Fishery Biologist Gene Gilliland notes in his research that began 7 months later, March 1, 1996.



Prepared by: Gene Gilliland, Biologist III

Period covered: March 1, 1996 – February 28, 1997

State: Oklahoma Grant Number: F-50-R

Grant Title: Fish Research for Oklahoma Waters, Project Number: 8

Project Title: Evaluation of Procedures to Reduce Delayed Mortality of Black Bass Following Summer Tournaments.

“Commercially available oxygen delivery systems [The Oxygen Edge ™] for boats and live-bait tanks (Dearman 1995) should be investigated to determine if they can supply necessary oxygen safely without supersaturation of live-well water and its associated physiological problems.”

Gene Gilliland contacted David Kinser and invited Oxygenation Systems of Texas in 1999 to actively participate in a research project funded by B.A.S.S./ESPN. The research objective was to identify less effective methods of livewell oxygenation and establish new innovative methods and new livewell oxygen technology that would dramatically improve summer bass tournament survival.

The Oxygen Edge ™ was tested and used extensively in this research project. Oxygenation Systems of Texas (David Kinser) provided ongoing technical expertise as well as expertise in important areas of equipment and oxygen gas safety and valuable oxygen system application knowledge and instructions for safe and effective use.

Results were impressive. Total tournament survival was increased to 93%, tournament mortality was reduced to less than 7% using pure oxygen injection in bass boat livewells which demonstrated that boat livewell oxygen injection systems were the best method to oxygenate and transport the catch in bass boat livewells.

Bass boat livewell oxygen injection dramatically improved summer tournament survival compared to standard boat livewell aerators and water pumps which are much less effective oxygenators in the summer. Yet these aerators and water pumps are still endorsed and promoted by the bass boat industry and many tournament officials to date.

The best fish care now was a fisherman’s personal choice between using livewell aeration and livewell oxygen injection in his bass boat. Bass boat manufacturers continue to prefer and promote mechanical aeration and have never been receptive to oxygen injection systems. None offer oxygen injection systems as an option. Commercial oxygen injection systems are sold aftermarket to fishermen choosing to provide the best bass care possible on their boat.

Gilliland research was published in 2002 by ESPN Productions, Inc/B.A.S.S. “KEEPING BASS ALIVE” A Guidebook for Anglers and Tournament Organizers


“A Prescription for Survival”

By Gene Gilliland, Bassmaster Magazine, June 2001, pg. 51-53

“State of The Art [bass boat] livewell systems will incorporate the use of pure compressed welding oxygen. Adding [compressed] oxygen to the livewell is currently the BEST option for keeping tournament bass healthy in the summer. Period.”

(Click on the “Tournament Mortality” Reprint this image on new site – link,

Gene Gilliland, Senior Fishery Biologist, B.A.S.S. tournament fish care, expert, consultant and tournament angler, Oklahoma Fisheries Research Lab, Norman, OK

“The authors and B.A.S.S. recognize that oxygen injection into livewells will be the next big movement for bass survival,” says Shupp. He adds that, “ B.A.S.S. will be working with the boating industry to ensure that oxygen injection systems become a reality.”

Bruce Shupp, Bassmaster Magazine, June 2001, pg. 51-53. Mr. Schupp, former B.A.S.S. National Conservation Director.


 “Surviving the Summer”

By Hal Schramm, Ph.D., B.A.S.S. Times, Bass Biology, August 2001, pg. 3.

“Have you ever wondered how good your boat aeration system is? Unless you are using an oxygen injection system – see Gene Gilliland’s article in the June issue of Bassmaster Magazine – I can tell you that your aeration system isn’t very good. I mean no insult to you or individual manufactures of bass boats. Temperature control, salt and supplemental oxygen are the BEST ways to ensure survival of bass held in livewells.”

Dr. Schramm, B.A.S.S. tournament fish care consultant and the Leader of the U.S. Geological Survey Mississippi Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit and Professor, Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, Mississippi State University


 “OXYGEN AND FISH CARE’ Breakthrough in Bait Care and Tournament Survival”

By Steve Quinn, Editor, In-Fisherman

“Kingfish and striper tournament boats are increasingly equipped with oxygenation systems. Not only don’t baitfish die, but they’re unusually more active on the hook and they draw more strikes.”


OXYGEN INJECTION SYSTEMS  – Oxygenation of Livewells to Improve Survival of Tournament-Caught Bass
By Randy Myers and Jason Driscoll, Fishery Biologist, Inland Fisheries Division, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, June 2011

“Dissolved oxygen is the single most important factor for keeping bass alive, and an understanding of factors that affect oxygen levels will better enable anglers to keep their fish alive.”

“Livewell recirculation systems are incapable of maintaining oxygen concentrations higher than 100 percent saturation, even in the absence of fish.”

“Fully functioning livewell systems and proper application of proven livewell management and fish care procedures are absolutely necessary and may keep a heavy fish limit healthy, but oxygen injection offers a surer alternative.”

© Copyright Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. No part of this work may be copied, reproduced, or translated in any form or medium without the prior written consent of Texas Parks Wildlife Department except where specifically noted.

Reprinted with expressed written permission from Randy Myers, TP&WD, District Supervisor , Inland Fisheries Management Region 1, District 1D, 12861 Galm Road # 7, San Antonio, TX 78254, (210) 688 9460,


Keeping Your Tournament-Caught Bass ALIVE


What Causes [Tournament C&R] Mortality?

• Physical Injury

• Oxygen Deprivation

• High Ammonia or Carbon Dioxide

• High Water Temperatures

 What Causes Delayed Mortality?

• Oxygen Debt

• Toxins in the Bloodstream

• Infections

Images and text used with permission of Gene Gilliland of the Oklahoma, Department of Wildlife Conservation Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency, Reservoir Fisheries Management Program and Tennessee B.A.S.S. Federation. Published January 2003

Gilliland’s research with The Oxygen Edge™ demonstrated that oxygen injection systems alone, in bass boat live wells (no catch and release chemicals or ice added to the well water) reduced total summer black bass tournament mortality including delayed mortality to only 7% summer tournament kill.

Gilliland used, tested and evaluated effectiveness of The Oxygen Edge™ system in the summers of 1998-99. His research finding, “The Ultimate Fish Care System”, was presented at the 2000 Black Bass Symposium, American Fisheries Society Conference, August 2000 in St. Lewis and published in scientific fishery literature.

The Oxygen Edge™  offers THE BEST possible livewell care for all summer tournament hooked fish, freshwater and saltwater species, bar none.