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Mounting A Largemouth Bass. With pictures and lots of them!

Discussion in 'Tutorials' started by K.N Fish Taxidermy, Jun 3, 2012.

  1. K.N Fish Taxidermy

    K.N Fish Taxidermy Kenneth Newton Phone#804-867-7736

    Well after some inspiration from Mr. Rick Krane and others. I am wanting to contribute a little here also. I am going to be taking pictures of the whole process of skinning, mounting, and painting a Largemouth Bass. I have been doing this for about 4 years now and I am still learning so if you see anything that I am doing wrong feel free to say so. I hope this will help someone when they start out with fish. I am also going to keep on adding photos with steps as I continue along. Now I don't do this full time so it might take a little while until its finished. Now feel free to add any pictures and steps that I may have missed but I am pretty sure I haven't left anything out. Lets get started.
    I am going to be working on a 23" in. Largemouth Bass.
    The first thing you are going to want to do is get the necessary measurements from the fish so you can buy the closest fitting form. On the girth measurement I take off a 1/4" so that it compensates for the skin thickness. Now pretty much every form you buy you will have to shape and alter it to fit. You can also learn how to carve your'e own manikins so you get an exact fit. Now on to the skinning.
    Here are the tools I use.
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    The first cut you are going to make is basically along the lateral line or a little lower. Take your pair of good bone cutting shears and start at the center and work you way to the collar bone. Next work your way to the base of the tail. Try to keep this cut straight and even with the lateral line. Stop at the base of the tail where the scales stop at.
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    I used a set of garden trimming shears to cut the collar bone.
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    Now you will see some very thin skin that attaches the collar bone to the gills and throat latch. You are going to want to take your scalpel with a perferably new blade and start cutting the skin along and close to the collar bone. When you reach where the collar bone stops keep going to where the tip of the throat latch stops. Don't cut too close to the tip of the throat latch because you still want to leave it attached.
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    Here is the cut.
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    Now after that is cut You will want to start skinning the top and bottom halves of the fish.
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    While skinning the bottom half of the fish you are going to hit the pectoral fin union. Take you garden trimming shears or bone cutting shears and start cutting away. Be careful of the very thin skin at the base of the fins. It helps to skin partially around and past them when cutting the fin roots (bones,spines).
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    Now when you are past that fin and have cut it free you can move on to the cartilage holding down the collar bone. Take your scissors and snip away at this cartilage and it will start releasing the collar bone. Continue skinning until you reach the pelvic fins. Skin a little past and around these fin bases as it will make it easier to cut. Cut though the first one and then skin a little more and then cut the second one. Once again be careful not to cut the very thin skin at the base of these fins.
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    Now onto the anal fin. Skin down until you hit the fin roots and thick muscle at the base of this fin. Skin past and around it. Take your heavy scissors and start cutting a little at a time. You don't want to rush these steps because when you do that you will make unnecessary cuts and mistakes, so take your time. As you are cutting you will feel it almost fall away. You will know when you have cut enough.
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    Here it is cut away.
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    You are going to now keep on skinning down the whole length of the fish. The throat latch should be skinned out at this time. Try to get as close to the tip and top of the latch as you can.
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    Now we can start working on the top half of the fish. Continue skinning until you once again hit the root bases of the dorsal fin. Do the same as you did with the anal fin. Skin past and start cutting away at it. Be careful not to cut through the skin and make holes.
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    Here it is cut through.
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    There is a line of muscle and cartilage the runs all the way to the head from the spines. Its like a thin strip and is very hard to cut. Use the bone cutting shears to cut through this. Cut it all the way up to where the scales stop at the base of the head.
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    Now that the dorsal fin has been cut free you can now start skinning down the show side but first we will have to deal with the tail. I like to skin all the way through and under the tail area and skin (on the show side) up to the base of the tail (on the show side). Now I like to use my scalpel to skin up really closely to where the scales stop and the backside and show side. There is some really strong tissue and bones/root at this area of the fin.
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    Once it is skinned out really well its time to cut the base the of the caudal/tail fin. Start cutting as close as you can the actual fin. I find this to be the most trickiest areas to skin and remove bone at.
    Here it is cut all the way through.
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    Continue to skin all the way down the show side of the fish. You will reach the other pectoral fin and you will do basically what you did with the first one.
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    Next is to cut the inside tip of the throat latch and start snipping away at anything that is holding it there in place. Be careful once again not to make any holes while skinning the thin areas.
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    Work your way to where the spine and vertebrae are at. Get in between two of the the vertebrae and cut it. This will free up the big piece of fish and you can start cutting anything hanging it up.
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    Start to skin out the head area now. Take your scissors and start cutting away a the bone and meat. This is so important that you get everything out of there. You want it clean. Once this is done you can remove the main piece of fish. Here it is without any fleshing with the main piece removed.
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    The next thing to do is remove the eyes and cheek meat. I first remove the eyes with my scalpel. Then I cut a slot on the bottom half of the eye socket. I then insert a butter knife or flat head screwdriver and push it all the way to the base of the cheek. I do this repeatedly to the whole cheek. I then point it down at a more severe angle and separate the meat from the bone/skull. Once this is finished you can start removing all the loosened up meat with either tweezers, the flat head screwdriver or the clamps I have in the first photo. Here is the area you will want to work on getting all the meat out of. The green is the most crucial and important to get clean. Well it all is really important but the green areas are where people have issues with shrinkage. So be extra thorough when cleaning out the cheeks and specifically the green areas. You will do this to both sides.
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    Now there still was a whole lot of meat still in the head. This has to be removed. No question. You will use your big scissors a lot here. Get it really clean. Here is the skin after the detail fleshing. I like to flesh the small and tight spots with my scalpel. This is what it looks like after the first detail fleshing.
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    Here are the areas you will want to focus on getting real clean.
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    Now what I use for my tanning/degreassing solution is a couple handfuls of powdered borax and some Dawn antibacterial dish soap. Just a couple of squirts is all it needs. I used about 3 gallons of water.
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    I mix it really well until most of the borax is gone and disappeared. I used to use the concentrated lysol but decided to try Dawn this time. Worked real well. I let it sit overnight and then I rinse it in cold water. I then do my final fleshing. With this fish I still had to remove more stuff from the head. I don't have any photos of the fish after the last fleshing.
    The Mounting. Now after the fish has been rinsed and fleshed for the last time I stuff it with paper towels to absorb any moisture. I replace them if necessary with dry ones.
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    While that is going on you will want to prep the manikin and that includes sanding it down so it fits ect. Now after all the test fitting is done and it fits just right I take some really cheap white acrylic caulk and and spread it over the entire manikin. This is my hide paste or glue and will keep the skin from drumming later on down the road.
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    Next I mix up a batch of Jim Halls Mache and pack it into the head cavity, all the fin bases, and the throat latch. Make sure you put enough in the head cavity because if you don't you will see why in about 4 hours or so of drying. It will shrink and have all sorts of dents.
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    Now everyone has there own way of mounting their fish. I usually line up the back first, the bottom, and the set the head. Like I said there is know real checklist or anything you just do it. I then fill the cheeks with mache at this time. I then pin the head in place and go over everything like head sag and alignment. Next is the fins. When carding them I use a metal screen mesh on the back side and use a plastic mesh on the front side. I can bend the metal mesh into the curve I am looking for in the fins. Also make sure the fins are not flagging at all. They should be close to the body and have a nice flow look to them. Now after everything is pinned and carded. I go over the whole fish and make the necessary changes.
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    Keep and eye on it while it drys for the first day. Check on it very often for the first 4 hours or so. I set it in front of a fan for the first day because of the moisture we have right now. I don't want it to start rotting because of the moisture. If you live in a warm dry area you will be fine with just letting it air dry. I will be going through the whole process start to finish. I will be adding more as I go along. Hope someone can use this.

    Ken
     
  2. Zimmie

    Zimmie Member

    184
    0
    Thank you! I know this took alot of time and I know it will help out alot of folks.
     

  3. 1fish2fish

    1fish2fish New Member

    1,176
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    Thanks a bunch. Great post.
    Best, Scott
     
  4. James Marsico

    James Marsico Active Member

    Good job. Thanks. I remember watching Archie Phillips skin flesh and mount a big black bass in under ten minutes! His son Bubba then painted one in even less time and it looked like pretty good work, but I am not a fish taxidermist. This was in front of a very large audience. That was the title of the workshop, "mount a bass in under ten minutes" It was at a Taxidermy Review convention in Atlanta Ga about 25 years ago. I am sure others will remember it.
     
  5. marking
     
  6. for what little my input is worth, here are some things for you to do on your next one, or for others to do differently.....

    basically the main thing i have an issue with is your fin placement.

    You need to pull the trailing edges of them closer to the body. Especially your Pelvic Fins. They are sticking straight down. They don't do this in nature. Try pulling them down on a live bass. you can't due to the way they are attached with the bone the way it is, before you will cut it to separate the two fins, when you clean up. I suppose if you really cranked on them on a live fish you could, but not naturally.

    Also fix your splits in the fins before you card them. this is an easy thing to do, and for some reason you didn't . Sometimes you can't, due to pieces missing, but your splits are minor, and could've been easily corrected by taking a tool, and moving the rays/webbing together, then sandwiching them with your carding.

    im sure this will help someone that hasn't done one yet! good job. but fix these easy, small things, and save time.

    Jimmy
     
  7. K.N Fish Taxidermy

    K.N Fish Taxidermy Kenneth Newton Phone#804-867-7736

    Hey Jimmy thanks for pointing those things out. I can't believe I missed them. Embarrassing. I am going to fix those things you said. Now that I look at those pelvic fins you are so right on. I am going to rehydrate and move them tomorrow. Thanks Jimmy for the advice.
    Ken


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  8. George

    George The older I get, the better I was.

    Jimmy though you are correct about fin placement, I find many customers who want them exposed. We both know that it's not correct for a bass to have its gills flared with its mouth open as well, but we do it.

    Ken, gotta ask, why do you cut and split the collarbone? I like to keep mine intact so I can use ot t lock the head in place.
     
  9. K.N Fish Taxidermy

    K.N Fish Taxidermy Kenneth Newton Phone#804-867-7736

    I cut the collar bone on the back side so that I can access the inside of the head better. That's just how I have always done it. If you are talking about the show side I don't cut that collar bone.
    Ken


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  10. George

    George The older I get, the better I was.

    No, the off side was what I was referring to. I guess I never noticed it causing me any problems by leaving it intact.
     
  11. K.N Fish Taxidermy

    K.N Fish Taxidermy Kenneth Newton Phone#804-867-7736

    I might try that with my next one George. So it helps with setting the head. There are probably tons of ways to do this Lol! Thanks for your input guys.

    Ken
     
  12. George

    George The older I get, the better I was.

    All of us have a resistance to change from methods that have worked for us, and I apologize if this seems to be stealing Ken's great tutorial. I noticed that his selection of tools is different from mine. I don't use that type shears. One of the most invaluable tools to me is the grape pruning shears that Reasearch sells. They call them "fish skinning industrial quality shears. I swear by the curved blade models that allow me to undercut areas and work up inside the head/skull areas as well as down into the throat latch area. (They are even more valuble in cutting hooves off animals). Then there's the absence of the Paul Borkowski cheeker tool. Actually have Paul's large and small/left hand/right hand models of skinning tools and the large and small cheeker tools. I also use a one inch piece of PVC tube to shove down the gullet and scrape off the esophagus membranes.

    This tutorial is an invaluable tool for beginners as is, however. Hell, it ain't bad for us old guys. Thanks for posting it Ken.
     
  13. cthayne

    cthayne New Member

    18
    0
    Utah
    Marking


    www.fishermansflybox.com
     
  14. i can just smell it right now..ugh... and thats why i can't do skin mounts anymore... really cool post Ken!
     
  15. aspenangler@hotmail.com

    aspenangler@hotmail.com B+______><(((°>______><(((°>

    marking
     
  16. K.N Fish Taxidermy

    K.N Fish Taxidermy Kenneth Newton Phone#804-867-7736

    Its all good Goerge! I like hearing different ways to do one task. Thanks everyone. Mike, yes it does smell! I need to get some of that Berkeley hand soap that (gets rid of the smell supposedly) and try it out Lol! Re-hydrated the pelvic fins and moved them. I also did the dorsal, anal, and caudal fins. They look much better at least to me now. I should of said before that this fish was frozen in only a trash bag and got moved around alot. Some spots are missing pieces of fin that have broken off. The worst one is the caudal fin. I will repair this though later on. I was able to close some of the tears. Here are some more pics.
    Ken
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    Pelvic fins moved back a little.
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  17. George

    George The older I get, the better I was.

    Well, Ken, you got the easy part done. When it dries, are you going to show us the hard part? LOL
     
  18. K.N Fish Taxidermy

    K.N Fish Taxidermy Kenneth Newton Phone#804-867-7736

    What hard part. It's all hard LoL! Yep the whole process start to finish.


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  19. srholmes30

    srholmes30 Living each and every day

    Thanks Ken 8)
     
  20. Now do you see how much better/different the whole side profile looks? The fin positioning, and those splits made alot of difference.....