How Largemouth Bass Feed

How Largemouth Bass Feed

The largemouth bass is distinctly different than the brook trout. As we discussed earlier, the brook trout was at one time the most popular gamefish in the United States. So targeting bass required the anglers of the day take a very different approach. Let’s look at some of the differences between bass and trout – specifically, how they feed.

If we understand how they eat, we stand a better chance of catching them (once we’ve found them).

Stream trout are adapted to life in current. While this may require more energy (unless nice, calm eddies and resting areas can be found) the benefit is that the current brings the fish food. The constant use of energy requires a steady supply to replenish what is used up – and this must be done efficiency. Trout can’t afford large, wide searches for food or make poor use of the food that flows towards them. Therefore they will often spend hours feeding from a current break, looking for insects primarily. Large insect hatches are a very reliable source of food for the trout, especially those that are small to medium sized.

A Beautiful Specimen: The Brook Trout
A Beautiful Specimen: The Brook Trout

Not all floating items are edible however, so trout rely on keen eyesight and the ability to identify “food” from “not food”. Because of this trout feed selectively, often “locking on” to a specific food type and becoming picky – sometimes only eating a single type of insect. They will eat insect after insect, but ignore something like a frog. That frog could provide much more nutrition in a single meal than the giant handful of insects that will take the trout hours to catch…

… if you’ve ever fished for bass, you know where this is going…

Largemouth bass are distinctly different. They have huge mouths and large bellies, and this allows them to take advantage of many types of prey. Largemouth can seize and digest food that will fit in the width of their mouth. This means that the supply of food available to largemouth is much more flexible and broad: snakes, ducks, bats, turtles, frogs, dragonflies, crayfish and mice are all fair game.

Careful... your crayfish claws are showing...
Careful… your crayfish claws are showing…

If streamlined baitfish are available, bass will often target them over spiny-finned broad-bodied sunfish (remember, the largemouth bass is actually a sunfish), but chances are they will not eat one exclusively. Bass are opportunistic feeders.

Largemouth Bass Eating a Largemouth Bass
This may not have been the best opportunity

Overall bass are far less finicky about what they eat – however, they will usually avoid carrion. Bass are much more experimental with their food, while trout on the other hand don’t enjoy the same luxury. This is one of the reasons why bass lures come in such a variety of shapes, colors and actions.

Just have a look at our list of the Top 10 Swim Jigs, or the Top 5 Swim Jig Trailers to get an idea of what we mean!

Bass key in on vibrations and patterns of movement that suggest vulnerability to attack.

Reaper tail largemouth bass
Reaper tail largemouth bass taken from shore in Wisconsin, in a backwater area.

As bass move from location to location, their feeding habits change based on the available food, but when fishing for these green monsters, baits need only look alive and vulnerable. They must be presented within the strike zone, which will vary from day to day depending on the current conditions – but overall, fishing for bass is more forgiving.

Fishing for trout requires the exact imitation of the food they are eating. Getting this specific for bass only enhances your chances of a remarkable day on the water – but even novice anglers can do well fishing (around fish) with baits that look alive and vulnerable, even if that bait is not an exact imitation of their primary food source.

That doesn’t mean fishing for bass is easy, but it does mean it is different.

In many bodies of water, the dominant forage is small baitfish and crayfish when they are available. These meals are highly nutritious and readily available. Frogs too. As we mentioned earlier, a single frog can hold far more calories and energy for a bass than a handful of insects – insects that would require much more energy to catch.

Experienced bass may exhibit more selectivity, ignoring animals that they know are hard to catch, or dangerous. Some bass have been conditioned to different lures or presentation types. For example, in highly pressured waters where most anglers use rattling baits, experimentation with silent crankbaits can prove to be extremely fruitful. Pay attention to what is going on in the body of water you fish. Talk to other anglers and try to minimize the amount of negative cues you are giving off.

When they zig, you zag.

Bass will always be ready to snap up an easy meal – even if it looks like nothing they have ever eaten before. This is one of the qualities that makes fishing for bass so exciting and enjoyable. You can catch some fish while you continue to fine-tune your presentations to match the hatch.

AJ Hauser PB Largemouth Bass 2020

Now get out there and start experimenting.

Tight lines!

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