If you had to rank all of the species of fish on popularity, there’s no doubt that bass would be at the top of the list.
Anglers love that they provide an active fishing session every time thanks to their aggressive nature, and because they’re more versatile in the bait they go after, you don’t have to think very hard to attract one.
What do bass eat?
The best bait to land a bass will depend on the type of bass it is, the season, and where its habitat is. Usually, they will eat insects and fish, but can also eat mice, birds, and frogs once they’re big enough, and they prefer to choose something that requires minimal energy to catch.
The key to becoming a prosperous bass hunter is knowing what food to lure them in with, and that’s where we can assist. This guide will help you answer the age-old question of ‘what do bass eat’ and what factors you need to consider to ensure you choose the best bait to make your next expedition a success.
The Different Types of Bass
As one of the most popular types of fish for anglers to target, you’ll be pleased to know there’s no shortage of bass around.
With black bass being the most targeted and plentiful in the US, these are the most important types of them that you’ll need to get acquainted with.
The biggest name in the bass family is the Largemouth, and it’s an aggressive fighter that makes for an active fishing expedition.
The Largemouth is incredibly cunning and rarely goes for the same bait twice if it takes the form of a lure. Although they look boring and without much color, they put up the type of fight that every angler dreams of.
The Smallmouth bass is slightly lesser known than the Largemouth, but many would consider them the tastier catch.
They’re also aggressive and a whole lot of fun to try and catch, but you’ll find them in colder waters and with a much stronger current, so mix it up if you’re looking to land one of these smallies.
Although considered the less common of the black bass group, spotted bass or ‘spotties’ are often confused for their Largemouth brethren. You’ll usually find these fish in a warmer climate and with a current, so they sit somewhere in between the other two popular types.
It’s also important to note that in addition to the type of bass, the size of these fish will also impact what they eat. A fry, that measures under two inches, won’t have the same kind of predatory behavior while they’re still small, and will instead go for easy meals like plankton and insect larvae.
Behaviors of Bass
Before we can dive into the food choices of bass and what bait would you need to lure them with, we need to understand their behavior.
Any living thing’s predatory behavior will dictate the type of food it goes for and help you choose the right bait, and bass usually follows one of these three patterns when looking for a meal:
The larger specimens of bass will hunt in shallow waters, but always undercover, and wait for baitfish to come by. They might also use this opportunity to eat forage if it’s available to them.
Bass like to hide out in the shadows and choose homes with heavy vegetation and brush piles that they can stay behind, and that will attract certain types of forage. When their chosen prey swims by, they ambush them and catch them by surprise.
In a school, bass has been known to attack a group of smaller baitfish together. their preferred method of attack is using rapid strikes to break up the group and stun them, so they can swim back through and eat the ones that have been stunned or are vulnerable.
Bass Diets Based on Species
Smallmouth and Largemouth bass share a fairly close diet, and they’re opportunistic feeders that take whatever’s available to them.
A Largemouth bass usually prefers to eat crawfish, insects, frogs, and other small fish, whereas a Smallmouth will target minnows, insects, crawfish, and other amphibians.
A bass’ diet is usually limited to whatever they can find which is why they enjoy such a varied array of foods. Researchers have found everything from small insects to baby birds and ducks in the stomachs of bass, and they have even been known to eat another bass if required for their survival.
This means that an angler has a lot of options for catching bass, regardless of the type they’re going for. If you’re after a specific bass though, you’ll be better off changing the location that you fish from rather than the bait, as they’re not entirely picky about what it is they take.
A larger-sized bass will also eat more than a smaller one, which indicates that they might go for larger prey. If you’re hoping to land something on the taller end of the scale, mixing up your bait to something fitting for a fish of this size is the best approach.
Bass Diets Based on Habitat
Another one of the features that make bass such a popular fish is that they’re plentiful, and you can be guaranteed to find them swimming in almost every state. If you enjoy fishing in freshwater in one of the lower 48 states, and even in Canada, you’ll be thrilled to know that bass inhabits these areas.
The location of bass doesn’t necessarily change what they go after, as they’re still opportunistic feeders. However, it will pay to investigate the local wildlife to see what’s in the area and what these fish are eating, and if you can match that, you’ll be in with a better chance at catching one.
Bass are known for living in deep and shallow water which further adds to their appeal and makes them easier to find. Depending on the time of year, you might find better luck in one part than the other, so timing is everything.
According to the experts, if you’ve spent a couple of hours without success landing a bass, you simply need to move a little further away and try your luck there instead. Because they’re so plentiful, the location doesn’t necessarily matter, as long as you can tempt them with bait that mimics whatever they’re eating in that location, you’ll eventually land a bass for yourself.
Does The Season Matter?
A changing season means changing feeding habits for bass, so you need to be ready to switch things up as the weather transitions. These feeding habits are usually dictated by mating habits, just like everything else in the animal kingdom, which are different through spring and summer than they are in winter and fall.
In early Spring, most largemouth bass will start spawning, and during this time they’re ravenous, eating as much shad and crayfish as possible to prepare for what’s ahead. Even when they’re guarding their nest after spawning, throwing any type of bait near the edge of water will be met with aggression, and you may just land a catch that way.
As the weather heats up, the bass is ready to eat again and will be prepared to take just about any bait you give them. When the temperature starts to drop again in early fall, they’ll also be incredibly hungry as they prepare for winter, so it’s another smart time to go hunting for bass, provided you stick to shallow water.
During winter, they’re less active as they try to preserve energy, and they also shift to deeper water where they can eat the easier baitfish that are close by. If you’re able to place some bait in front of them, they may just grab it, but make sure you go in the middle of the day where it’s warmer, otherwise they’ll be in hiding.
The Best Live Bait Options for Bass
An experienced bass angler will tell you that you can’t fool these fish twice, and trying to tempt them with artificial bait more than once simply won’t work.
The best approach is to go the live bait route, and these are some of the preferred choices for landing your next bass.
If there’s one thing that bass like to eat, it’s baitfish, and if you can use some of them to lure your next catch in, you’ll find it pretty easy.
To get some of this live bait, you’ll only need a cast net, but it takes some work to keep them alive from there. If you can manage though, you’ll soon see that bass find it impossible to resist them.
Bluegills can be caught fairly easily with a cast net, or you can get some at the bait shop, and they can be kept alive and wriggling with minimal effort.
Whatever method you use to acquire them, you’ll find the bass love them, and they have all of the right traits to attract these fish.
One of the biggest selling points of the crawfish for live bait is that these crustaceans generally stay alive even after being hooked, as long as you put the hook into the right spot.
If you can find the sweet spot and keep them alive, you’ll get a piece of bait that thrashes around, vibrates, and makes a lot of sounds, luring in the predator-style bass that might be swimming in the area.
Frogs and Mice
A larger bass isn’t afraid of going for something heftier, including frogs, snakes, mice, and birds.
If you’re not really into hooking one of these animals, we don’t blame you, but there are artificial baits and flies you can use that look like the real deal.
Anything that’s going to make a commotion on top of the water helps, and if you go for a bigger bait, you might just land a bigger bass.
Catching Bass the Simple Way
They say the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach, and the same goes for catching bass.
This beloved fish is on the top of most anglers’ lists thanks to the fight they put up, so make sure you’ve packed some of their favorites for a successful expedition.
The key to landing the fish you want is getting a better understanding of them, including where they live and what they eat.
When it comes to bass, there’s a lot to learn, so check out some commonly asked questions about these fish to find out more.
Where Are Largemouth Bass Found?
A Largemouth bass can be found in most types of water, including lakes, creeks, rivers, ponds, swamps, and even estuaries. They like to hang out in clear, vegetated waters and usually where there is a firm bottom made of sand, gravel, or mud.
How Big Does a Bass Get?
The largest recorded length of a Largemouth bass is 38.2 inches, however, these fish usually reach around 15.7 inches at maturity. A Smallmouth bass is slightly smaller, with adult sizes reaching between 12 and 16 inches, and the largest recorded specimen being 27.2 inches in length.
What Is the Taste Difference Between Smallmouth and Largemouth Bass?
Most people have a preference when it comes to the taste of a Smallmouth or Largemouth bass, and the former is the most popular. A Smallmouth bass is generally considered cleaner tasting and even a bit sweet, with the Largemouth bass having a fishier taste and often described as watery.