As the most accurate submitter of images to our tournaments we asked Tarponjim to explain just what he was doing. Here is how he gets his images just right;
“I’ve been having great success taking quick photos of my “fish with ruler” that are proving accurate, and allowing a live release of all my entries. I’m often fishing alone as well, and prepare the photo area before I even start fishing. I simply pull out 4 feet of my metal tape measure, lock it, and set it on the deck of the boat with the markings showing. I keep my Bounty Code in a gallon Ziploc bag, right with the camera. If you don’t have the deck space while fishing, keep what you need close-by so you can quickly prepare the photo area while the fish is still in the water. In my boat I have a large, nearly 4-foot long, Igloo cooler on the stern deck, and I place the back of my fish against that to minimize it sliding on the deck.
Once caught, I carefully lift the fish from the net (NOT by the gills!) and gently set it on the boat floor, above the tape. I make sure the tail is in a natural position (not pinched or flattened). For large fish with a big girth, I move the tape under the fish slightly so that one end of the tape is nearly even with the tip of the tail, and the other is close to the end of the jaw. The mouth will remain nearly closed.
The closer the tape is to the tip of the tail and jaw, and in a straight line, the more accurate the length measurement. Some of the tape will be covered up by the belly of a fish with a large girth. This method only gives an accurate measurement if the tape is rigid. Cloth tapes can be folded and used to cheat, and do not lie straight. A metal tape measure or yard stick won’t bend, and insures accuracy. Use a tape or ruler with large numbers.
If the fish moves or wiggles out of position, you simply re-position either the fish or the tape. Finally, I take my pre-printed Bounty Code that’s inside the Ziploc, and lay it just below the belly of the fish. If it gets wet or slimed, just rinse the bag after each use. I find it easiest to print the Bounty Code in a “landscape” format (horizontal on letter-sized paper) so its large and easy to read. The code fits perfectly inside the gallon-size Ziploc bag if you trim the borders with scissors.
For my “fish with angler” photo, I simply have a camera mount on the windshield of my boat. (REMOVE your sun glasses-I’ve forgotten twice–those are the rules) I quickly screw the camera on the tripod, set the auto timer, and press the shutter. I then take two steps to the fish, lift it for the shot, and then place the fish back in my large landing net. I know exactly where to stand to fit the whole fish into the frame, so it usually only takes one shot. Check your camera and lens before you try this with a fish in your arms. Take practice shots in advance.
I can do this whole process, from netting the fish to releasing the fish, in under two minutes. While that’s still a long time, I have yet to have a lake trout that did not swim away vigorously after a short revival. If you have a buddy with you, it can be done in under a minute.
1. Lay out tape. 2. Check lighting on floor (no shadows if poss.). 3. Place fish above tape. 4. Place Bounty Code below fish. 5. Click, click, click. (be sure ALL of fish is in frame) 6. Move camera to a fixed mount, or hand it off to a partner. 7. Lift fish horizontally. 8. Click, click, click (or be ready for self-timer to click). Then revive and release the fish, and take care of cleaning up the deck after the fish swims away.
Points to remember: Position your boat so that the sunlight is on your subject (fish). Be sure to take the picture of the fish on the ruler from straight above the fish. I sometimes stand on a cooler in my boat to get high enough to fit the fish into the viewfinder. I’m also considering bringing a large beach towel on the boat and placing the fish on a wet towel for the ruler photo. Easier on the fish, easier on the boat, and I can use a towel with contrasting colors to the fish to make the photo clearer.
Be sure camera batteries are fresh. Be sure to pre-set the camera for the correct pixel count, day/date/time, and picture quality. Check the Bounty Fishing rules, and print a copy to have with you just for review.
Remember, the better your pictures, the more likely the judges will affirm the actual length of the fish. The best pictures come with advance preparation. Watch the light, have the tape and code ready, have a place cleared for the photo, and take off those sun glasses! When holding your fish horizontal, please support the fish with your hands and arms. Hanging a fish from a Boga grip or holding it by the gills is not only very damaging, but also against the Bounty Fishing rules for photos.
Besides measuring my fish accurately (no pinching tails or stretching), I report the length accurately when submitting the catch. The Bounty Team uses a wealth of technology to authenticate photos and measurements. “Overcalling” measurements will not only create disappointment, but tag the angler as one who overcalls measurements. Nobody will be fooled. The ruler is only part of the equation used to verify the length of the fish. If measured and reported accurately, the fish will be verified at that length. All of my entries to date have been verified at the actual and reported length. This creates a level playing field for all, and gives credibility to the entire tournament process. Let’s not spoil it.
I’m using a small, 4-year-old Pentax Optio digital camera that’s 4 mega pixels, and best of all is waterproof. It screws onto the mount or tripod easily, is auto-focus, has auto-flash, a self-timer feature, and can be set for several different pixel configurations. Exposure for specific conditions can also be set. Its small, simple, waterproof, and very durable. It also operates on two AA batteries, and I use lithium batteries that last a very long time.
Capt. Jim Williams “Tarponjim”
…. and The proof is: