The age old question for every angler is, “What do Bass eat?”. The reason why we ask this is of course, we want to catch them! But also because we don’t wan to go waste our time and money on something that the fish is never going to want to bite, so why waste the time. I think its important to have a general idea of what fish eat because if we didn’t, we could go out and spend money on tons of baits that just never work. Now, you don’t have to know about every fish diet, and you don’t have to memorize everything a fish might eat, but you do want to have a general understanding.
Largemouth bass are a predator fish, and they can get quite big over the years. They love warm water and hiding around trees and rocks lurking in the shadows for prey. They mainly eat smaller fish like shad and minnows, but I have seen them eat bigger fish like trout that got stocked in my lakes. They will also eat frogs, swimming rats and mice, insects and even birds! I have seen bass get upwards of 13 pounds with huge mouths on them, and once I saw one attack a duck. They like things that look hurt, or struggling because its going to be an easy kill, and a free meal, so that’s why different baits act different ways. Bass are smart and you cant just go out everyday with the same bait and expect it to work. One day shad plastics might work, and the next day nine inch worms work, so if you are getting any bites after an hour, try something a little different, or different colours. Most of the time if you are in a popular fishing spot that gets a lot of activity, bass will find the pattern and wont bite on the same stuff twice in a row.
What Time Do Bass Eat?
When I first started fishing for bass, one of my first questions was what time do they eat. To answer this question we have to take a look at their eyes, and how they are designed. A bass has very big eyes that protrude out the side of their head, and have a large lens so they have a much larger viewing ability. They also have melanin in the back of their eye which helps their eyes work in bright light and dim light. Bass have photopic vision during the day and scotopic vision at night, so in the day they can see better color and depth perception, and in the dark, their eyes can take in more light so they can see better. Most of us fish at Dawn and at Dusk because the bass has the upper hand on its prey because it can see better than them. I have seen where shad boil on top of the water around dusk and can see tons of bass chasing them.
Can they see in the dark?
Anyone who has fished has always wanted to try night fishing. When I lived in a community that had lakes full of bass, my neighbor and I really wanted to go out at night and see if we could catch some. If you read the previous paragraph, I briefly went into the biology for the eye of a bass. Because of the melanin that a bass has in the back of their eye, they can take low light and see. It has been said that bass feed more heavily at night, so this is the perfect time for an angler to catch them. On top of them feeding more, there are going to be a lot less people out fishing for them usually, so you will have the upper hand. I would suggest using a darker bait to start and go to different colors from there. One thing to keep in mind is that you might run into a lot of insects at night, so bring bug spray or some sort of repellent.
They Can Hear You
We know that bass can see well in both daylight and night because of their eyes, but can they really hear us under water. Its not like you pull a bass out and see big ears on the side of its head, so you know they heard your bait hit the water. Bass actually find and attack its prey by both sight and sound in the water. Bass have ears inside their head and not on the outside like humans, so their whole body acts like a sounding board and can hear things very far away. This is great because they will hear a plop of a frog hitting the water, or a small shad jumping, but also means they will hear your lure, or plastic hit the water if they aren’t near it. Keep in mind that since it can hear stuff hitting the water, it can also hear you talking or moving your tackle box around on the ground, and it can and will get scared off. They can also hear your trolling motor, and gear from a boat, so be nice and easy, and try not to scare them off or spook them into running for cover in the weeds.
What About The Smell?
We have all seen the gels and sprays that you can put on your lures and plastics to catch the big one, or scented worms that smell like rotting cat food, but really, can bass smell things like that? Yes, bass can smell, however that part of their brain is not as big as the sight and sound portions that we talked about above. Bass rely on sight and sound more than anything when feeding, but they do have nostrils on each side of their head, and they can smell under water better than a human can smelling air. Smell lingers more in water and doesn’t dissipate like it would in air, so bass can smell in much smaller quantities than a human. In darker water, or when its muddy and murky, a bass will have to rely on its sense of smell because it cant see the prey swimming as well.
Every year bass come up to spawn for a new generation of bass to catch, and I had always wondered if they eat when they do it, and if I can catch them while they are doing it. The answer to those questions is both yes and no. When spring hits and the water starts to get warmer bass will come up to shallow water about two weeks before the spawn and will eat a ton to get ready for eggs. This is going to be a very high protein diet like craw-fish and other small things, so a brush hog or lure that looks like a salamander will work great. Now, when they start to nest they male will come up and start to clear the area for the female, and then the female will move in to lay her eggs. During the spawn, bass will more likely try to chase off your bait first instead of eat it, but if you keep throwing your bait out there, they are going to try and kill it, and that’s when you will catch them. They are not so much hungry as they are trying to protect the eggs and their nest, so you will still catch fish, but its going to be out of safety for the nest and not hunger, so be prepared to throw your bait in the same spot a few times to make them mad enough to want to kill your bait and not eat it.
Why Do They Eat My Baits?
So, why do fish eat our baits, and lures? Well, this is for a variety of reasons consisting of hunger and anger. When fishing for a bass, its always good to fish with a bait that looks like something they eat on a regular basis, like shad, salamanders, craw-fish, and other worms and insects. When fishing with these types of baits, its good to change techniques sometimes so it doesnt look like you are just dragging a worm through the water. Twitch the bait a little bit and make it look like its injured, so a bass might think its easy prey for them, or make it look realistic enough through the water that it really catches the eye of the bass and make it want to attack. When spawning, you will have to give the bass more time to want to kill whatever you are throwing instead of wanting to eat it. Bass want to eat baits because they are hungry or angry, and not just because its there.
What About Miracle Baits?
We have all seen the infomercials about miracle baits, and heck, I have tried a couple of them out there. Why not right? If it helps me land a monster bass, $19.95 isn’t such a bad price to pay for a miracle bait, but the real question is, do they work as advertised. In my opinion, any bait might work if it looks and acts like what a bass wants to eat. I can remember the bait I tried was on a late night infomercial about a lure that looked like a little shad and actually had three different pieces so when you were reeling it in, it sort of swam like one. I used it for a couple of weeks and caught nothing, but then one night when I saw shad boiling on the top of the water, I threw it out and it actually worked! The reason it hadn’t in the past weeks is because they weren’t chasing the shad, so of course they were not going to go after it. My suggestion is to look at these “Miracle Baits” with a cautious eye, and not to believe everything you see and hear, but if you find one that looks good to you, try it! Just look at what the bass might be going after, and mimic it, so you don’t think you wasted your money.
Change With The Seasons
When you think about the seasons we live in, spring, summer, fall and winter, I can almost picture the different types of foods I eat and what times I eat, and they change with the season. Spring and summer might be filled with picnics and bbq’s outside because its warmer, and we also might eat a little later because it stays light longer. In the fall and winter, we might eat a little earlier because it gets dark sooner, and will most likely switch to food that we can make in the kitchen that is nice and hot because its so cold outside. Bass are cold blooded, so they like the warmer water, and they change with different seasons. In the spring and summer bass come up to spawn and swim around in the warm water, but when it starts getting too hot, they will move to more deeper water. When its colder the bass metabolism slows so it doesn’t have to eat as much, and in the summer, they eat a lot because their metabolism is faster and they are burning more energy. They also need a steady supply of oxygen, so they will find the right depth that can give them that.
Bass eat just about anything that is smaller than them, including rats, mice, craw-fish, salamanders, insects, and even small birds. They can see very well, smell, and even hear things in the water, so all of this is going to play a big role in catching them. Even the seasons and spawning will affect when and how you can catch a bass, so try and keep an eye on what time of day, what time of year, and what you are throwing out there for them to eat, and try to make your bait look like the real thing, or something that is hurt, and you should have no problem landing them.