Every bass fisherman has asked themselves or someone else, “What do Bass Eat?”. We ask this question for an obvious reason, if we know what they eat, we can more easily catch them.
Even if we enjoy being outdoors and appreciate the time spent with nature, we would still rather not waste our time with little chance of catching a Bass.
It’s important to have a basic understanding of the feeding habits of the fish we’re looking to catch, this will save us time and money in the long run and increase the fun factor as we’ll get more bites in return.
We don’t have to be an expert on fish feeding habits, nor do we need to know what every fish likes to eat, but having a basic understanding will put us ahead of the pack and could dramatically increase our chances of success.
Largemouth bass are known as predator fish, which means they hunt and eat other fish, bugs, insects and pretty much anything else they can wrap their mouth around.
Given enough time, food and a suitable environment, Largemouth bass can grow to a significant size. They are best suited to warmer waters with plenty of hiding places where they can ambush their prey. They will naturally eat smaller fish such as minnows and shad, but given the opportunity, they will quite happily take on larger fish such as trout.
They don’t only eat fish and will eat mice, rats, frogs, insects and even small birds. I have personally seen a very large 14 pound or more Bass attack a duck!
Bass will prefer to hunt and eat things that seem to be hurt or struggling in the water, as these are generally easier kills with less energy expended to secure a meal. It’s due the varied diet of bass that we have so many bait options and they all play in different ways when in the water.
Despite how they look, bass are pretty smart, so going out with the same bait every single day is likely to result in diminishing returns. The fish will learn to avoid what you’re offering them in very little time.
When you’re out fishing you might find that a plastic minnow works wonders, however, the very next day you’ll only get a bite if you’re using a 9″ worm. At a basic level, this means if you’re having no luck with one method after an hour, try something different and see if that produces the results you’re looking for. B
ass in popular fishing spots are less likely to perform well to common fishing methods, this is when you should try and mix things up a bit.
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When do Bass Eat?
If you want to maximize your chances of catching a bass, then you need to understand the time of day they like to eat.
To better understand the answer to this question it’s a good idea to take a look at how bass eyes are designed.
A bass is characterized by very large eyes that protrude slightly from the side of their heads, they have a single large lens that allows for a lot of light to be captured from a wide viewing angle. Coating the back of their eyes is melanin which helps them see better both in bright conditions and when little light is available.
During the day Bass have what is classed as photopic vision and at night they have scotopic, which basically means that during daylight hours they will see better colors and depth perception, and at night their eyes will adjust to take in more light at the expense of depth and color.
Most experienced anglers will fish at either dusk or dawn, this is when Bass are actively hunting prey due to their visual advantage they have over prey. If you go out often enough you’ll come across plenty of occasions where shad are being pushed to the service at dusk by hunting bass.
Can Bass See in the Dark?
There’s something magical about fishing at night, it’s an experience that’s completely different to fishing during daylight hours. We’ve already established that bass has a distinct advantage over their prey when it comes to low light conditions due to their unique eye biology. But does that directly translate into anglers being able to fish at night for bass?
The short answer is yes. Bass are frequently more active at night where conditions suit their hunting style, this means that night anglers are going to have an increased amount of success if they are well prepared and have the right bait.
In addition to increased activity, you’re probably going to find less competition from fellow anglers at night, so you should be able more easily position yourself in a prime spot.
In my experience and contrary to intuition, a darker bait is better suited to night time fishing. if you’re not having any luck with darker baits, feel free to switch to another color and see what the response from the fish is like.
It’s worth bearing in mind that fish are not the only thing that prefers nighttime, you’ll probably find a significant increase in insects, so top up on repellant or invest in a face net.
Quietly Does It
We now know that bass has exceptional eyesight and are able to see well both in light and dark conditions, but what about their hearing?
If you manage to catch a bass, you’ll probably find that there aren’t any obvious signs of ears, at least not the same as mammals ears. But, if you have any experience at all, you’ve probably had experience of bass being drawn to bait hitting the water, so what does this mean?
Bass actually locate and attack prey based on both sound and sight. Bass ears are located inside their head without any obvious outward signs that they have any at all, but the upside of this is that their whole body can act as a sort of sounding board, helping them locate prey in a 360-degree radius.
This allows Bass to locate a frog plopping into the water, small fish jumping, and they will also hear your lure as it moves through to water or when it breaks the surface. This also has a downside, if they can hear things hitting the water, then they can probably hear you moving around or talking.
Even these small sounds can be enough the scar fish away. This is doubly important if you’re on a boat as everything is amplified slightly due to the boat hull, motors, gear and moving around can easily spook wary fish, causing them to swim for cover.
Can Bass Smell Bait?
We’ve all come across the various sprays and gels that can be added to lures in order to entice the fish to bite, or maybe you’ve seen the plastic worms that smell like decomposing cat food. The question is, can bass really smell and detect these things?
Bass has a sense of smell, however, the area of their brain that’s responsible for smell is not as large as the areas responsible for site and sound.
This basically means that bass will primarily rely on sight and sound to detect prey, with smell being a secondary method. In certain situations smelly bait is likely an advantage, for example, if the water is murky, then bass may rely upon smells to locate a potential food source. It’s likely that bass can smell better underwater than humans can above water, which is largely due to how smell permeates water.
A smell will linger far longer underwater than it will in the air, it won’t dissipate as easily and in still bodies of water the smells are likely to stay around for quite some time.
Once a year bass will come up from the depths to spawn, creating a whole new generation of mini bass that will hopefully grow into monster fish for us to catch.
But, can you catch Bass when they’re in the middle of the act and are they actively feeding during this period?
The answer is not a straightforward one, unfortunately. When spring finally comes around and the waters start to warm up, Bass will move into shallower waters and begin eating as much food as they can in order to prepare themselves for egg production.
High protein food such as craw-fish are going to be the preferred prey, so you’ll probably have a decent amount of luck using a lure that looks like a salamander or brush hog. When they being to nest the male will first move into an area to clear it out for the female, the female will then move in to lay her eggs.
During this time bass will be very aggressive towards anything they think might threaten their eggs and nest, which you can use to your advantage. Casting your bait into a nesting area multiple times may be enough to provoke bass to attack your lure.
Why do Bass Eat my Bait
So, why are baits and lure effective at catching fish? Baits and lures work primarily for three reasons, anger, hunger and curiosity.
When trying to catch any sort of fish, using a lure or bait that looks and acts like something that is part of their staple diet is a decent method of securing a bite.
For bass, this might consist of salamander, shad, insects, worms or crawfish. When using these types of bait it’ important to try and make the bait look natural or injured. Twitching the rod as you retrieve your lure and can give the bait the characteristics of something injured, but experiment with a variety of methods to see what works best for the fish you’re trying to catch.
When bass are in spawning season you might have to be more persistent in a particular area, this is due to the bass more likely to attack lures based on protecting a nest rather than out of anger. If you can act as a persistent threat then you’re more likely to cause the bass to strike.
Do Miracle Baits Work?
We’ve all seen the adverts for miracle baits, and it’s difficult not the be drawn in by the amazing claims they make. If it helps me land a huge bass, then $19.95 is a very reasonable amount of money to pay, right? We really need to ask ourselves, do miracle baits actually work as described?
In my experience with miracle baits, they work as much as any other bait will work. The real key to using miracle baits or any other baits is making sure it’s what the Bass are looking for. I’ve used a miracle bait that was advertised late at night, the bait itself looked the part, it was a pretty convincing shad and it was made of three movable parts, this means when it moved through the water it looked like a shad swimming.
Despite the lure looking the part, I had no luck using it over a period of two weeks. Then one evening I saw shad near the surface of the water being chased by something, I threw my lure out and I had a strike on the first cast.
The lesson here is that the lure didn’t work because the Bass weren’t hunting shad during most of my fishing trips, as soon as they were, my lure worked.
I would suggest considering miracle baits, but just bear in mind that you need to be aware of the basses behavior and try to mimic the prey they’re looking for. Any bait can work if you think about how you’re using it and spend more on lure won’t necessarily provide any more catches.
Season Changes Affect What Bass Eat
You’ve probably noticed yourself that the food available to us tend to change with the seasons, summer, fall, winter and spring.
This is part of the natural cycle of growing things and it might be more pronounced in colder climates where there are significant temperature changes between winter and summer.
Spring and summer might be filled with outdoor foods, picnics, and barbecues with more fruit, salads and lighter food types. We may also eat later at night due to the longer daylight hours. In the winter we might be inclined to eat earlier as it gets dark earlier, we might also eat foods that are more filling and warmer.
Just like humans, bass eating habits change with changes of the seasons. Like all fish, bass are cold-blooded, so temperature has a big influence on how they behave and what they eat. When it’s spring, bass are more likely to be found in shallower water, but when it get’s too hot they will retreat into the depths. When the surrounding water begins to chill the metabolism of bass will begin to slow, meaning they don’t need to eat as much and they are generally more sluggish.
Knowing how the temperature effects fish will allow you to better judge where they’re located and how ferocious their appetite is likely to be.
Bass will try to eat almost anything that is smaller than they are, including mice, rats, insects, craw-fish, birds, other fish, and salamanders. They have fantastic eyesight, sense of hearing and can smell things pretty well.
All of these make bass an accomplished hunter and should influence how you go about catching them. As the seasons and weather changes, your tactics and baits should change to meet the bass needs at that time. Mimic the behavior of their favorite foodstuff and you might find the fish you catch increase by a significant amount, just bear in mind that there isn’t one ‘best bait’, instead think about what you’re doing and you should have no problems catching monster fish when out fishing.