If you want to catch more largemouth bass, it makes sense to spend some time exploring how they actually eat.
Most of us have a basic understanding along these lines:
“Bass suck stuff up, and if they don’t like it they spit it right back out.“
We’ve seen panfish do this while bobber fishing. They’re not shy at all when it comes to what they suck up, taste, spit and repeat. Their table manners are as questionable as Uncle Oliver’s.
There are several ways that bass will eat food.
The most common – and arguably the most exciting method – is to rush towards their prey and engulf it.
This is how we see them hit spinnerbaits, crankbaits, and everyone’s favorite: topwater baits.
This is how largemouth bass attack fast moving objects, or larger prey.
Largemouth bass will inhale smaller, slower moving objects – especially if it seems like they are unable to escape. They will approach slowly, flare their gills, and suck ’em on up in the blink of an eye.
If the bass senses a problem – it reverses the action, quickly blowing the object out.
The act of inhaling and exhaling is so rapid at times that the human eye has trouble tracking it.
If you’re a masochist like me, take a second to imagine how many strikes you’ve missed because you never even felt a tiny tap.
Actually no, don’t.
You’ll turn to the bottle.
Don’t you put that evil on me Ricky Bobby!
The Reaction Strike
Bass also have a reputation for striking by reflex. The Reaction Strike. Many pro anglers have made their bones by heavily leaning on the idea of “getting the fish to react”. To strike even when they “don’t want to.”
However, there are many biologists that believe that bass don’t strike what they don’t want to hit. That said, there are studies that claim bass will strike baits moving rapidly because they don’t take the time to decide one way or another.
Certainly bass don’t have free will, they’re not making conscious decisions, but the claim is that they don’t simply react – they hit with intention.
We Can’t Force Bass to Strike
There is no magic bullet, so it makes sense to try a variety of presentations on your next outing. See if the bass will react, or if they will chase and smash a moving bait, or if they insist you give them time to inspect the offering before moving in and engulfing it.
Think about what other steps you can take to increase the odds of the fish hanging on. I almost never use plastics without salt. Occasionally, I’ll use plastics without scent – but I just purchased some Dr. Juice to test on my jig skirts and scentless plastics.
I’ll report back with my results.
As a Minimalist Fisherman, remember this: we want to be deliberate with what we take on our boat or in our backpack. We don’t want to become collectors, or walking bait shops, but we do need a few different options.
I’ll often take two rods: one for power presentations like topwaters, swim jigs or cranks. I’ll work these lures to see if the bass will react, which means a faster day of fishing. My second rod will be set up in a way that I can test multiple finesse presentations. Jigworms, stickbaits, tubes, small jigs or little swimbaits.
Bass are not stupid. In order to grow and thrive they need balance between their energy expenditure and their food intake. They can’t afford to waste energy on fruitless strikes, and on average strikes from 18 inches away are 60-80% effective. Heavy cover and long distances lower these odds – but if you keep everything mentioned here in mind the next time you hit the water, you’ll have more success.
Tight Lines & Godspeed, Patriots.
Thank you Readers!
Thanks for visiting! I’m going to keep doing everything possible to keep the helpful content coming, and FREE FOR EVERYONE… but I need your help. Please chip in by making a small monthly contribution to keep this site alive & growing. $4.96 will buy a sweet Pack ‘o Dingers, and with it, I promise to catch many bass in your honor. Thanks. You are a gentleman & a scholar! -AJ
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Really enjoying your emails.
I use Zman Plastics and it is amazing how many bass I’ve gotten to the boat that were NOT hooked, just hangin’ on. And the number of 2nd and 3rd hits from the same fish using them is truly amazing.
Hey good morning Brother Ron – thank you for the kind words! Very appreciated. I’m getting ready to head out to go throw a new kind of Z-Man plastic in the creek here shortly. I agree with you. I’ve seen smaller fish come up hanging onto the stretchy material for dear life – no hook necessary. I think it helps the baits work even better on the next cast, too. They get tattered up and more salt comes to the surface… have you noticed some of the Z-Man products don’t contain salt though?
Yup…but they still catch fish. I’ve bass fished for 60 years. When Rapala first came out it was so amazing to have bass come up and smash it on top. No noise, just the movement. My biggest NE bass (7.5) came on a blue Rapala twitched on top. But my two biggest bass down in TX came on a Gitzit and a Giant TRD. Both were just shy of 10 pounds. ONe of these days I’ll find a double digit…I hope. REally do like your blog/articles. Very interesting, educational, and entertaining.
Hey there Ron – great to hear from you – I can only imagine how exciting it was to use those floating Raps right when they came on the scene. I’ve never found a double-digit bass. Far from it actually. I’m in IL currently but relocating next year. South. Thank you so much for the kind words and for taking the time to read a bit of what I wrote – and you mentioned Gitzit – your close-to-ten-pounders came on a tube and that Big TRD?
Hope you’re having a great weekend – talk soon. -AJ
Yessir. First one was actually 9 3/4. I even went to town the next day and bought a 10 pound bag of sugar to double check the scale. Sadly, the bag of sugar weighed exactly 10 pounds! That was on a 3″ coffee brown gitzit. The second was 9 1/2 and was on a Real Giant TRD. They were about 7 years apart.
Hey there Brother Ron – thanks for the info – those sound like absolute monsters. I hope one day to catch ’em that big. Also big kudos for your honesty on the almost-ten-pounder… that says a lot about the quality of your character. I mean that. Have a great week and talk soon! – AJ
An alien science to me, but interesting to know.
Haha, you keep on checkin’ in from time to time Mr. Mitch – eventually we’re going to plant the seed that sparks an interest – enough interest to get you to pick up a pole, wander out into the wilderness and poke around looking for fish while talking to God. I think He likes when we do that. Have a great week!
Great tips on catching those lunkers!