Understanding what bass eat helps you, as a bass angler, pick the right baits and lures.
Whether you want to hook largemouth or smallmouth bass, understanding what do bass eat increases the likelihood you’ll find one on the end of your hook.
In general, the thing you should know is that big bass eat anything, but understanding each type of bass is something all anglers need to understand. You should know that largemouth and smallmouth bass each different things at times.
Some bass love small insects, while others eat larger prey. A few species even eat anything – even each other!
Bass fish can be found throughout North America and the United States in rivers, lakes, and ponds; they are considered to be a popular game fish. They are also known as black bass or simply sea bass which is their preferred name when taken from saltwater habitats. On the other hand, freshwater subspecies of this sunfish family are referred to as largemouth bass, smallmouth bass or spotted bass depending on where they’re caught.
It’s important to understand eat species really is different.
So, let’s take a look at what do bass eat to help bass anglers pick the best bass baits and lures.
When Do Bass Eat?
Bass typically bite more in the early mornings and late evenings because the reduced light conditions give them a hunting advantage over their preys. That’s why early morning and evenings are considered the best time to bass fish. They do feed in between these times as well; it’s important to remember that they are opportunistic feeders.
Weather conditions and water temperature play a factor in when bass eat as well. Hotter temperatures and the bass may feed in deeper waters. A cool overcast day they may be feeding in shallow water.
What Do Bass Eat: A Look at The Bass Species
I want you to understand the bass diet, and the best way to do that is to take a look at the different species since their diets vary slightly.
What Do Largemouth Bass Eat?
Largemouth bass fishing is the most popular for bass fishermen!
Large mouth bass are crafty hunters and will go after a variety of prey. They hunt aggressively – an apex predator in many waters – and eat almost indiscriminately. They hunt for food on every level on the water – top, bottom, and everywhere in between.
They’re smart; professional anglers are convinced, if you lose one on a bait, you may need to switch your bait to attempt to hook it again.
Young largemouth bass tend to feed everything, such as:
- Small Aquatic Bugs
- Small fish
- Other Bass
- Baby Ducks
- Small Alligators
Adult largemouth bass move onto to larger fish and prey once grow to about 8 inches in length. They’ll feed on the same things as smaller ones maybe on a larger scale. They’ll also eat frogs, lizards, blue gill, bigger bait fish, basically anything they can fit in those wide mouths of their’s!
What Do Largemouth Bass Eat in Spring & Summer?
Bass go through a phase before they spawn where they move from deeper to more sallow/warmer waters into their bedding area. Along with insects, dragonflies, and other small aquatic life, they will feed on shad and crawfish.
These two baits are packed with nutrients and helps them prepare for the fasting period females go through while they sit on their nests.
FYI: Males often patrol the nests for predators, so throwing a plastic worm or jig around a nest could definitely cause you to get a strike from a very territorial male or hyper protective female largemouth bass!
In the summer after the spawn, bass regain their appetites and start feeding heavy after a long fasting period. Just about everything is on their menu, shad, crawfish, bluegill, frogs, lizards, small water snakes. Its literally a buffet for them!
What Do Largemouth Bass Eat In Fall & Winter?
Bass keep eating while the water temperature starts to drop.
Early fall is still a great time to fish because bass are trying to fatten up for the winter months. They’re still munching on insects, small bluegills, crawfish, frogs, shad, and live bait fish.
Once it changes to colder water, they move to deeper waters, typically near a structure. They become lethargic, and, when the opportunity presents itself, they eat what comes within range.
What Do Smallmouth Bass Eat?
Next to the largemouth bass, smallmouth bass are a very popular bass for hobby fishing and sport fishing. These fish are not as big as largemouth, but for some means they are more of a challenge and put up a fight. Generally they can be found in rivers and streams, as well as some lakes and ponds.
Related: 13 Bass Fishing Tips for Ponds You Need to Know
Like largemouth bass, small mouth bass will generally eat whatever food is available to them. They will feed on:
- Shad Fish
- Yellow Perch
However, one difference is that, when you have baby smallmouth bass, they feed on plankton and insect larvae. Baby bass grow quickly, and at that point, they start to hunt for crayfish.
What Do Smallmouth Bass Eat In Spring & Summer?
Just like the largemouth bass, smallmouth bass are preparing themselves to spawn in the spring. Smallmouth bass feed on crawfish, minnows, smaller bait fish, insects, basically anything they can find.
They move to shallow warmer water to nest, and they behave just as territorial and protective of their nests as largemouth bass.
After the spawn, water temperatures are rising, and smallies typically will head to deeper water, especially during the hottest part of the day. Weed beds, rock beds, sunken debris, points, and break lines are some of their favorite places, and they seem to like cooler water temperatures.
What do Smallmouth Bass Eat In Fall & Winter?
Smallmouth bass are still feeding heavily in the fall an winter.
In the early fall, they start to move back to their typical hiding spots just like largemouth bass. In late October through December, we find smallies in some pretty cool places; most of them tuck away and under some structures, right where it drops off into deeper waters.
I’ve heard of people catching them under bridges and piers on winter nights when everything is frozen over! Those fish won’t be moving much at all until the water starts warming up again.
No matter what time of year or what size your artificial lures are, don’t forget about crawfish baits and plastics!
Other Species of Bass
Largemouth and smallmouth bass are the most common, but they aren’t the only species you may fish. Let’s take a look at some of the other species and what they eat.
White bass like other bass species are carnivores and often fun to catch. Most white bass will not grow to be much longer than a foot in length. They feed on worms, minnows, and smaller bait fish like shad.
With being smaller in size ,their prey species available to them is limited. They can not match the huge appetites of largemouth bass.
These bass resemble a largemouth bass in color, but the way to tell them apart is spotted bass have a smaller mouth than largemouth bass. The prefer cool and warm streams and reservoirs with rocky bottoms. They often feed on smaller bait fish, worms, crustaceans, golden shiners, and crawfish.
These smaller bass have somewhat similar characteristics of white bass. You can tell by they’re body shape. White bass are more round, while striped bass are more slender.
A couple other ways are striped bass have strong, clear horizontal stripes that reach all the way to the tail. White bass have much more faint stripes, and only one of them normally reaches the tail.
Then, there is the tongue – white and striped bass both have raised, sandpaper-like tooth patches on their tongues. The difference is that white bass only have a single patch, while Stripers have a double one.
They feed on shad, bluegill, worms, crayfish. A good way to fish for them is using a silver spoon, or chrome crank bait.
Not truly a bass, rock bass are actually in the sunfish family. They feed on insects, small crustaceans, crayfish, worms, and smaller fish. They don’t get very big and often will be prey to bigger fish including bigger bass.
Understanding The Hunting Behaviors Of Bass
Bass are known for being it any type of structure, seedbeds, rock beds, brush piles, and dead trees in the water. This allows them some protection from predators but also allows them to ambush prey. When a unsuspected bait fish swims by. The bass lashes out from its hiding spot to attack. What helps out is that baitfish are also drawn to the same structures as bass.
Often larger lone bass will take a hunting approach when searching for food. They’ll slowly swim around shallow water where structure is present, or suspend themselves in the water column. Very still, but completely aware of their surroundings. In search of prey. They will attack when given the opportunity.
If bass are together in a school. They can use the chasing technique for eating prey. They’ll locate a school of baitfish and attack them all at once, as the baitfish disperse. They’ll leave behind some dead or stunned ones. So the bass can then swing back a second time and forage on them.
How Much Do Bass Eat?
A bass can eat around 1/3 to 2/3rds of its body weight every day.
A bass needs to eat around 10 pounds of fish to gain 1 pound of weight. Larger bass species will obviously need more to eat than a smaller species.
Bass can and have been caught on a variety of different baits. Knowing what they eat, they’re hunting behaviors, and where they tend to linger can be a huge advantage to you when you’re out on the water.
Knowing what do bass eat helps bass fishermen pick the best baits and lures. It helps ensure you will be successful and land a big bass each time you head out on the water.
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