How Do Largemouth Bass Feed?

How do Largemouth Bass Feed

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.

Bluegill Panfish Wisconsin
Say please, thank you, and always use a napkin, buster.

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.

WHAM!

This is how we see them hit spinnerbaits, crankbaits, and everyone’s favorite: topwater baits.

SPLASH!

TMF Short #2 Manns's 1-Minus Crankbait Largemouth
Gettin’ it done with a Mann’s Baby 1-Minus crankbait.

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.

Eagle Claw Pro-V Finesse Jig
A Killer Combo: Eagle Claw Pro-V Finesse Jig with half of a Zoom Zlinky

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.

Grandpa's Ancient Tackle Collection
It’s not about limiting yourself, but striving for quality over quantity.

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.

Cold Weather Largemouth Email

“When will those bass come back shallow?!”
It’s an age old question for us bank fishermen. When did they move out… and when will they come back? Soon I hope…

* Stars & Bars Fishing is dedicated to in-the-field videos, putting the techniques we write about to work. Episodes>

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