Sunday, April 1, 2012

Bass Thumb

Bass Thumb noun

[Singular] US:  an irritation attributed to catching and landing a large number of largemouth bass (micropterus salmoides) or other bass species, caused by the sandpaper like teeth of the bass being held by ones thumb.  Such irritations may cause minor pain while simultaneously increasing pride and anglers ego.  Landing other species may add additional abrasive damage to the skin.

OK, truthfully, you won't find that definition in the Merriam-Webster dictionary.  But maybe it should be there as bass anglers world-wide can attest, it does exist.  And since Fat Boy's Outdoors has captured this often encountered phenomenon, the time has come to honor the term appropriately and accurately.

For those that haven't experienced bass thumb, the rest of this blog post will capture in text and photographical detail the causes, symptoms, cures and other related information.

Cause:  Quite simply, bass thumb occurs after catching, landing, and gripping numerous largemouth bass.  When bass are "lipped", the raspy teeth dig into the flesh of the inner thumb as the fish squirm and shake in an attempt to gain their freedom.  The larger the bass, the more pressure is applied due to the increased weight on the human skin, amplifying the irritation.  Eventually, if enough big bass are caught, landed, lipped, photographed and released, the irritation can become severe enough to draw blood.
The raspy teeth shown here on this largemouth bass will slightly abrade your skin, causing a rash like irritation that anglers often refer affectionately to as bass thumb.
I recall a trip to lake Erie fishing for smallmouth bass.  We caught so many smallmouth on that trip that my bass thumb was so sore near the end of the trip that I had to belly land my bass instead of lipping them.  What a nice problem to have, right?
My friend Steve Kelley with a fine fat six pound plus largemouth bass caught the other day, that, among others caught, gave him a case of bass thumb, a reminder of a great day of fishing.
Symptoms:  a rash like series of abrasions, the depth of irritation could break the skin layers leading to minor bleeding, indicating that the angler successfully caught and lipped a large number of bass.  Additional symptoms included euphoria, excessive smiling and story telling, bass size exaggeration, and the desire to inflict such thumb damage in the future.
After catching enough bass like this one to get bass thumb, all you can think about the next day is when you may be able to get out and repeat the opportunity to inflict such thumb mutilation again.
Treatment:  for inexperienced bass anglers, treatment often includes antibiotic ointments or skin moistening lotions, but for experienced anglers, there is no cure except for time.  Bass thumb and related minor pain serves as a reminder of recent good bass fishing.  Yes, time will heal the wound, but most anglers would gladly return to the water, catch more big bass, and continue to add further bass thumb irritation.
Most bass anglers, like Howard Boltz, relish the opportunity to get out and fish and NOT let their bass thumb symptoms heal.  After catching bass like these all day long, who in their right mind would disagree?
Other Possible Causes:  while bass fishing, often you catch other species with or without the raspy type teeth of the largemouth that increase bass thumb irritation either directly by their teeth, by their protective slime coat, sharp fin spines, or razor sharp gill covers.  These additional irritants often cause adult anglers to act as giddy as a school child.
Catching stripers, or rockfish, often adds to the euphoric behavior while incurring bass thumb.  Bob Barber demonstrated this behavior after landing this rockfish, in anticipation of his next catch that might add to his bass thumb irritation.
In addition to those fish that you may lip, you may wind up catching large heavy fish that have jaws too powerful to hold, predatory fish that often attack your bass lures, like big blue catfish, striped bass, invasive species like snakeheads or even smaller species like voracious yellow perch.  All of these fish add to the memories that are associated with catching bass and getting bass thumb.
Steve Kelley, posing with a big blue catfish that brutalized his existing bass thumb irritation, is smiling from ear to ear despite the discomfort on his thumbs knowing that memories like this last a lifetime.
Prevention:  Avoid bass fishing.  Now, we don't want to do that, do we?
If you encounter a snakehead as Steve Kelley did here, don't lip it like a bass.  If you do, you won't have much of a thumb left, turning your bass thumb symptoms into shredded snakehead thumb.  These fish are very toothy.  Handle them with care, and in Maryland, make sure that you kill them upon capture.  Take them home and eat them as they're very tasty.
Conclusion:  Next time you get out and catch a lot of big bass and other species, take a look at your thumb and notice the result of your actions.  Enjoy it!


Bass.Junky said...

Oh, how I long for the pain of "bass thumb", too many kids today get "video game thumb" not enough get "bass thumb"

Fat Boy said...

Ain't that the truth!!!!!

Kirk Mantay said...

I got bass thumb on a great fishing day last year! I thought it was just me being a wuss or having "wussy skin", whatever that means, and so I never told ANYBODY about it! Classic.

Fat Boy said...

Thank you RM! From now on, show it off with pride to all of your fishing buddies!!!! May you always have an ongoing case of bass thumb!!!

AG Fishing Blog said...

Video game thumb is for sissy's bass thumb is for serious anglers!

Fat Boy said...

LOL, thanks for the comment AG! Good fishing and may you have many cases of bass thumb in your future!

Anonymous said...

Preventing "Bass Thumb":
I am a female bass fisherman, and I have suffered for years with the dreaded "bass thumb", Sometimes I would even quit fishing for the day with plenty of light left because my thumb was so sore and bleeding I was miserable. I fretted about what to do to solve the problem. Gloves are much too restrictive for the delicate "finesse" fishing I do with ultra-light tackle. In desperation I searched the web - I have no idea what terms I searched on, but eventually found a forum where someone recommended Finger Gloves. I read all the excellent reviews, and ordered a set. So far I have used them on four fishing trips, and I come home with my thumbs as soft as they were when I was a baby! I am so grateful to you for this great product, and I hope bass fishermen the world over learn that there is now a simple preventive for "bass thumb"! See to place your order.

Braden said...

I'm 13 my bass thumb is so bad I can't use fingerprint to open my phone and it hurts to do anything everyday

Unknown said...

ugh just caught a 5 punder and my thumbs hurt so bad

Christian s said...

I know that experience. Still is awesome.

Fat Boy said...

Braden, sorry that it hurts, but getting it by catching lots of bass is fun and makes it worth it, right?

Christian, yes, it's a great experience.

To the anonymous poster above, that's probably a great product, but the entire point of the article isn't a complaint, it's pointing out the evidence of a fun and rewarding fishing day. Yes, it may hurt for a day or two, but if you think of it as a reminder of the good time that you had, you realize that it's worth it.