It's a technique every structure fisherman should know. If you quickly bring up a bass from 20 feet deep or more, odds are that the pressure change will cause the fish's swim bladder to inflate, preventing the fish from swimming upright and, in some cases, from returning to the depth at which it was caught. If the fish are to be confined in a livewell during a tournament, it's even more important to recognize the symptoms of over inflated swim bladders, and the angler should have the ability to correct the situation. If the fish is allowed to float on the surface in the livewell for most of the day, it may be too exhausted to recover following release.
Fizzing is a technique that uses an 18-gauge needle, like the BASS ProFizz FZ-1, inserted through either the side of the fish or through the mouth, to relieve the pressure within the swim bladder. Through the side is probably the best and safest approach. However, if you're experienced and comfortable with fizzing through the mouth, it's an acceptable and fairly popular technique.
Symptoms of a bass that needs fizzing
If you catch a bass from 20 feet or more (most likely in the summer and winter months) and it floats on its side for 15 minutes or longer, either in the livewell or after release back into the water, chances are, it needs to be fizzed, and the sooner the better. However, there are other signs of rapid decompression that can also indicate the need to fizz. They include a knot on the side of the fish or bubbles under the cornea of the eye.
For tournament anglers, the important thing to remember is that the sooner a fish is fizzed (those that truly need it), the better that fish's chance of survival after the tournament. Don't wait until the tournament is over or rely on the help of the tournament officials. After struggling to get down in the livewell all day, the fish will have used up a lot of energy and the added stress may be too much for the fish to recover.
How to fizz a bass through the side
1. From the tip of the pectoral fin (the fin on the side, just behind the gill flap), count back (towards the tail) two or three scales and remove a scale (don't worry about removing one scale, they will regenerate). To remove the scale, simple apply light, but firm pressure with the needle tip on the selected scale as you flick the tool back towards the tail.
HOW TO FIZZ
2. Insert the FZ-1 needle, extended to the "side" positions, straight down, through the soft skin exposed by the plucked scale. Submerge the fish (and needle) as you insert the needle. Bubbles will be evidence of a successful attempt. You shouldn't have to insert the needle more than one inch.
3. If you insert the needle one inch and do not see bubbles, the needle may be clogged. Withdraw the needle, clear it with a piece of 20-pound mono inserted into the needle chamber and reinsert the needle into the same hole.
4. Allow the bubbles to flow until you feel the fish relax or the bubbles slow significantly. Always remove the needle before the bubbles cease to flow. This leaves positive pressure inside the swim bladder and prevents water from seeping in.
5. Remove the needle and return the fish to the livewell or release it back into the water from which it came.
It's a good idea to sanitize the needle between fish by rinsing in isopropyl alcohol. Between trips, put a few drops of vegetable oil on the slide mechanism and the needle to keep it working smoothly.
Visit Team Marine USA to purchase a BASS Pro-Fizz FZ-1.
For more information on caring for tournament fish, check out Keeping Bass Alive.