The Marion strain largemouth bass was originally selected and developed by Jack Snow at the Marion National Fish Hatchery. Jack initiated a selective breeding program around 1947, and continued his broodfish replacement selection process until 1974 when the Marion National Fish Hatchery was transferred to the Alabama Game and Fish Division, currently the Alabama Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division. From 1974 until 1980, the Game and Fish Division continued their annual selection for yearling broodfish replacement as established by Jack Snow for the Marion strain largemouth bass.
In 1973, Jack Snow discussed the Marion strain largemouth bass broodfish selection process during a week-long Hatchery Management Short Course. Essentially, the first Marion strain largemouth bass broodfish were selected from adult one-year old fish grown to maximum size in a holding pond with unlimited forage.
After one year of growth, two males and one female were selected from approximately 150 yearling largemouth bass broodfish. All three broodfish were selected based on the visual meristics of coloration, size of head, largest girth to length, and overall plumpness of yearling adults. From the progeny of the two males and one female, largemouth bass fingerlings were selected for Age I broodfish replacement.
Over the subsequent generations, yearling broodfish replacement for the Marion strain largemouth bass were selected from fingerlings that adapted to feed on pelleted feed. Annually, the selection process of replacing the yearling broodfish strain of largemouth bass was repeated as described for the next 30+ generations at the Marion Fish Hatchery.
Historically, both Federal and State fish hatcheries exchanged largemouth bass fingerlings to meet short falls of fingerlings for annual commitments. Therefore, surplus fingerlings cultured in different regions or States were often transported between various fish hatcheries and their genetic material mixed with original hatchery broodfish. The Marion strain largemouth bass was originally derived from undetermined stocks of largemouth bass hatchery broodfish. DNA testing at Auburn University on the Marion strain largemouth bass indicates that it is an intergrade population having both northern and Florida largemouth bass genetic markers.
Today, the Marion strain largemouth bass has been reestablished as the broodfish cultured for all fingerlings stocked into farm ponds in Alabama. The purpose for reestablishing the Marion strain largemouth bass into farm ponds is due to its excellent catchability in ponds and its adaptability as a pond fish.
In conclusion, stocking a genetically superior strain of largemouth bass into either public waters or farm ponds does not insure that large adults will be produced without properly managing the population to sustain rapid growth by eliminating competition for food.