What Do Bass Eat? Everything You Need to Know
How do you get better at fishing? If you are an angler, knowing what the diet of the game you are trying to catch, is a good place to start. If you ever wondered what do bass eat, then you are at the right place.
We will give you a comprehensive guide about what a bass’s diet consists of, their eating habits, and more – everything from their behavior, seasonal diets, diets by species, and also their diets through different ages.
To top it all off, we will also touch on choosing the best bait for bass. Fishing and the experience of it has always been close to our hearts. Having a ton of experience in the field is one thing. Teaching the lessons from said experience is another.
So, buckle up and keep on reading to up your angler game when it comes to catching fish.
What are The Basses?
Bass is the name of a variety of fish species across North America. These can be either freshwater or saltwater fish. Coincidentally, they are also some of the most common fish for anglers.
However, not all species are popular for fishing. Variants like the spotted bass, largemouth bass, and smallmouth bass are amongst the most popular game fish in the west.
Places like South Africa, you can find these marine creatures in lakes and ponds, making it quite the popular choice for anglers in the region as well. You would ideally use live bait like worms and crayfish to catch them. Lures will also work swimmingly – no pun intended.
Keep on reading for a deeper dive into the diet of this popular game fish.
Also, don’t forget to know about How to fish for trout? here.
Behavior of Basses
Let us jump into the behavior of these fish. If you are going to be successful within catching these, it pays off to know their behaviors and instincts. Bass fish have all common senses you can imagine, like sight, hearing, smell, taste. There is also another additional one – lateral line.
The lateral line that runs across the bass its sides stretches from its gills to tail. This is to alert the fish for any sort of vibration in the surrounding water. Quite a cool fact, if you ask us. Fishes are fascinating, are they not?
Think of this sense as an aid to the fish’s hearing. When answering the question, what to bass eat? Here is one of the ways they hunt for prey. It can use low-frequency vibrations to detect its prey. What is more interesting is that the senses are so fine-tuned, it can distinguish the type of vibration.
It will not be confused vibrations, say from a boat paddle with vibrations and water movement from a prey. Apart from hunting, the vibrations can also alert the fish of predators.
Depending on the vibration, the distance, and direction, it can tell how close or far the predator is and the direction it is moving. When visibility is low, these senses for sensing vibrations in the water come in handy.
Basses are primarily sight feeders – this will play a role in the bait and luring for catching these fish later on. But given a reasonable range, the lateral lines across its body is shockingly accurate.
Apart from these senses, there are personality traits these fishes have. They are naturally:
Curiosity killed the bass. Wait, is that now how the saying goes? Maybe not, but it is true, though. Basses are an extremely curious species. Smallmouth basses are especially keen on checking out any new movement or items that might drop in on the water. This is one of the main reasons they get caught on lures when checking out an item.
Bass fishes are predators. Their instinct is tuned to find prey and distinguish the behavior of its prey so it can catch them. Lures designed to mimic movements and characteristics to mimic that of the natural prey of bass will work more often than not.
The territorial nature of bass leads to them biting on hooks and lures that it fines annoying. However, this is mostly for their aggressive behavior as well.
They Sometimes Follow Hooked Fish (but not always)
Many anglers have had the experienced of bass following fish they have hooked. One angler describes he had hooked a mackerel, and a couple of basses followed it as he bought the caught mackerel to the surface.
If this happens, you put more bait and go fishing again, in hopes of catching those basses on the hook.
If you are asking yourself what do bass eat, you should know bass are predatory fish and will hunt for food. You can use this behavior to have them bite on bait or lures. Large bass will hunt for smaller fish and crayfish. If they find cover in shallow water, they will often hunt for food. They are incredibly aware of their surroundings, and this makes them terrific hunters.
Bass are also known to be ambushers. They have an incredibly fast sticking speed. In places with dense cover, you can see bass hiding undercover and waiting patiently for prey fish to swim by.
Groups of bass will hunt other groups of baitfish as well. They hit baitfishes to stun them. Baitfishes that are dying stunned and separated from the group and preyed on by basses.
This is more of a rare occurrence, but have been reported. Sometimes you will find basses hunting in groups. If you happen to be in the right place at the right time, your chances of catching are increased by quite a lot.
Apart from these, bass fishes sometimes eat weird things. Anglers have found rags, lugworms inside bass fishes they caught.
Basses are indeed very clever fish. They learn from past experiences and can learn to associate certain things to certain dangers and/or rewards. This means exactly what you think it does.
It can learn that if a boat is swimming past, and it sees a minnow, those can be used to hook them. They learn from the environment around them.
They can learn to increase their hunting chances. They can spot minnows that may be injured, so it can hunt them easily, for example. Young bass mature and learn survival instinct quite fast as well.
What Do Bass Eat?
Seasonal Diet of bass
Bass diet will change and adapt depending on the seasons of the year and what is available to eat. This can be quite tricky when finding the perfect bait that resembles most closely to the bass’s natural diet. Their diets can be influenced by seasonal changes.
Diet During Fall and Winter Seasons
The cool water during the fall causes a large migration to the back of the creek channels. Planktons are abundant, and shads venture to those areas in search of food.
Large feeder creek in lakes seemingly becomes abundant with shads and also basses that are trying to feed on them. Bass will be in a feeding frenzy during this time since shads are so abundant.
So much so, they will take a bit of anything that looks like a shad. Crankbaits, spinnerbaits, all these are great options to entice bass to bite down. As the water temperatures decrease during the winter, the scenario is still good for the bass and for you.
Shads become slow and easy targets for bass. During the winter, anywhere you are to find shads, chances are you will find bass as well. You can make use of sinking baits. These mimic the sinking of a dying shad, which encourages bass to attach.
What Do Bass Eat In Summer And Spring?
During the spring season, basses go through three stages. During the start of spring, bass metabolism is high, and they eat more during this time. Some fish that survived the winter cold makes it a bit harder for bass to find prey.
During these times, fish such as bluegill, other breams, shads, and minnows are prime targets.
During pre-spawn, bass can be seen feeding aggressively. This is because bass does not feed at all during spawning for 10 to 14 periods. Crayfishes are prime sources of food during this time.
Crayfish are high in protein. Basses target these prey because of the high protein content of crayfish, which helps females’ basses with egg development. You can use this to use bait that mimics the look and behaviors or crayfish to increase the chances of your catch.
While in spawn, basses will get extremely cautious and defensive. They are more like to defend and scare other fishes away rather than hunt for food. You can use a lure that looks like fish that hunt bass eggs for most returns.
Fish like breams, bluegill, or even crayfish attack bass nests. Even small turtles can be seen attacking bass’s nest during this time. A bass will fight fishes off the first time but will not kill them for food.
Bass diet by species
A bass’s diet will also depend on the species. Largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, and striped bass are some of the popular ones anglers look forward to catching. You can differentiate between the fish by their mouths and color.
While largemouth bass upper jaw will reach past the eye, smallmouth bass has upper jaws just falling short or in-line with the eyes.
What do Largemouth Bass Eat?
Largemouth bass grows much bigger than smallmouth bass. This can influence their diet. These species can grow up to 12 Lbs. You can find these fish in warm waters and murky waters with loads of cover.
These fish are very good hunters. Thanks to their strike speed, they can hunt for different types of prey. Their diet usually consists of insects, frogs, small aquatic birds, and crayfish.
There some items largemouth bass will not feed on. Walleye, muskier, depending on the size, is not on the menu for these fish. Smaller largemouth fish are known as fry. They are usually under 2 inches and feed on insect larvae or zooplankton.
What Do Smallmouth Bass Eat?
Smallmouth bass, as the name suggests, are smaller in size. As mentioned before, you can easily distinguish a smallmouth bass by the size of their mouths. The upper jaw is more in-line with their eyes and even sometimes falls short.
Smallmouth can grow to be around 8 Lbs. smallmouths also do not have a break that separates the gills. Whereas largemouth bass has this feature. Just like largemouth basses, smallmouth basses also like covers but can also be found in clearer waters.
They are mostly native to the river basins of Mississippi or the Great Lakes. However, you can find them on the north side of the US and even Canada due to the illegal introduction of this species.
Smallmouth bass diet is dictated mostly by their surroundings. As they grow older and bigger, they turn to predators. In cooler waters, you can find smallmouth feeding on crayfish. Sculpin makes up a part of their diets as well.
Other fish and minnows are on the menu as well. There are a couple of factors that influence the diet of the fish. Things like the size of the bass, size of prey, seasons, and even the availability of food can have an impact.
For example, cicadas are a treat for these aquatic creative, given they are abundant.
Smaller smallmouth bass usually sticks to eating zooplankton, crustaceans, and small insects. During warmer times, shads are the main source of food for smallmouth bass.
Diet Of Striped bass
You can find striped bass along the Atlantic coasts of North America. For recreational purposes, striped bass has been introduced to inland fisheries found all across the US.
Striped basses are more picky eaters compared to others, but they are known to feed on a range of fish. They are known to usually to stick to a single type of food at specific times. However, their diet usually consists of anchovy, croakers, rock eels, shad, sculpins, crayfish, shrimps, and even worms.
River herrings, blueback herrings are also a part of its diet. Striped bass has gotten so abundant at one point. These prey were faced with a lot of pressure. Striped basses are caught mostly for sport fishing and can grow up to 10 to 12 inches on average. The largest striped bass recorded came just under 82 lbs.
The tendency of these fish to stick to a certain food at different times can make it tricky to pin down exactly what they would go for when it comes to bait.
Diet of White Bass
White bass gets its name from the distinct color it has. They possess a silver-like tone, and some can have hints of pale green with dark stripes running across its length.
You can mostly find these fish in large rivers and reservoirs. During the mating seasons in spring, you can sure to find some in shallower waters. Such as creeks and streams.
As most bass species, white bass is visual feeders and carnivorous. They are known to bite onto live bait quite frequently. Large white bass feed on other fish. They also eat zooplankton, water fleas, and small crustaceans. Minnows and live worms also work great as bait.
Diet of bass through different ages
As we have hinted earlier, the diet of bass will change depending on their life stage and size.
Diet of Young Bass
The young bass diet consists of small insects and minnows. They will usually hang around their hatched area. Young bass will also eat tadpoles and zooplankton. As baby basses grow, they will slowly move to larger prey.
Prey such as worms and larger insects become a part of their diet as basses grow to be around 6 inches. But bass can grow up to 12 inches. What do bass eat then?
Diet of Old Bass
Mature and older bass diets consist of food such as other small fish and larger insects. You will frequently find old basses feeding on crayfish, bluegills, and shads. Shiners and perch are also on the menu if they are available. Adult shads and even smaller bass are also eaten by old basses when they grow up to around 4 lbs.
That not all of it, though. Larger basses are also known to eat on feed on frogs, other critters if they are unfortunate enough to fall on the water, and even some snakes.
What Do Bass Eat in Ponds?
In ponds, the diet of basses is similar. Bass would go for anything it can find in a pond, especially if a pond is full of vegetation that attracts smaller fish. Depending on the size, basses in a pond will typically eat insects, crayfish, smaller fish.
Larger bass fish will even go for snakes, baby birds, and even bluegills or breams. You can make your pond more suitable for bass growth by planting pond weeds and some vegetation. Fish around 5 to 7 inches are on top of the menu for bass.
Choosing the best bass bait
If you are going to be successful in catching bass, apart from knowing what do bass eat, you also need to know the best baits for bass. There are a couple of baits you can use. Let us touch on some of the most effective ones.
Crayfish are some of the best baits for bass. Since basses are natural predators and hunters, live and healthy crayfishes would lure in a bass quite easily. Soft plastic baits are indeed some of the best, not just for basses but also for a wide range of other fish.
Bluegills are one of bass preys. Bluegills will work most of the time, and adult larger bass will bite on bluegill resembling jig almost all the time. Bluegills are surely one of the best live baits you can use.
There is a reason why jigs are one of the most popular ways of catching fish. They simply work. Effective and easy to use. Jigs are best if you want a versatile way of catching basses, be it deep water or shallow water. Skirted jigs work best for bass.
Crankbaits come close to the effectiveness compared to jigs. Although they may not be the most effective, they can certainly hold their own. To get the most out of your crankbait, be sure to change and adapt them to the water conditions and seasons.
Baitfish come in handy to work as live bait. Especially the ones that slowly fall to the bottom work great. You can find a lure that mimics the behavior and is sure to attract a ton of bass to your lure.
If you do not want to deal with live worms, plastic worm lures also work pretty well. Due to the aggressive and predatory nature of basses, they would bite into plastic worms, which are great bait. Plus, they are easy to use and maintain, as well. So, it is a win-win.
If you are trying to fish for bass along the surface of the water, few baits work as well as topwater frogs. When bass attack prey on the surface, they do so by aggressively charging from the bottom.
If the prey happens to be bait, the aggressive attack hooks the bass quite firmly. Using a topwater frog bait is certainly a reliable way to fish for bass on the surface of the water. You can also use these topwater frogs as bait to fish for them in dim light conditions as well.
Now that you know what do bass eat, your chances of catching bass should be higher. Fishing is a fun and relaxing experience, and you can only get better at it. So, what are you waiting for? Get your fishing rod and bait ready and start fishing.