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How To Hold And Handle A Bass

Mark Armstrong
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Bass fishing can be a relaxing and rewarding activity but how does that big bass feel once you’ve reeled it in? Are you holding it correctly or safely? Chances are, you’ve seen lots of images of people holding their prized bass but in many instances the way the fish is being held can be damaging to the fish.

So how do you hold a bass? In order to show you the best and safest way to do this, we have put together this guide, so your next fishing trip will be a lot more comfortable for that bass you plan on catching.

How To Handle and Hold a Bass - PinterestPin

Do Bass Have Teeth?

Answer: Yes! Sharp Teeth!

Yes, bass do have teeth (Largemouth bass, at least). However, while their teeth are nothing like the teeth on a shark, they are pretty sharp and can scrape or cut your thumb (bass thumb) and hand when you’re holding one, as your thumb will usually be inside its mouth.

The teeth on a bass are small but razor sharp, like needles, and they face inwards into their jaw. This is because the teeth are designed to hold their prey while they attempt to move it further back into their mouths to another section with small teeth that crushes their food so they can swallow it.

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Don’t Keep It Out The Water Too Long

When you’re holding a bass, you may not always realize they have teeth, as they’re not always noticeable and you won’t always feel them. But if you are keeping the fish out of the water for longer than it might appreciate, then it can begin to get a little annoyed and can start twisting and trying to escape.

When it starts to writhe around, this is when you will probably start to feel those teeth on your thumb, so make sure you have a firm grip and get it back in the water as soon as possible.

How To Hold A Bass

Largemouth BassPin

Holding a bass might seem like an easy task, especially if you’ve been fishing for a few years, but you may not be holding it correctly. And holding it the wrong way can significantly affect the fish by causing damage that could potentially kill it.

When a bass is held at an angle greater than 10 degrees it puts a lot of pressure on the jaw of the fish and this can cause the jaw to dislocate, which can then result in the fish not being able to properly close its mouth. This can affect the fish’s ability to hunt for food, meaning it will probably die because it can’t eat properly.

The safest way to hold all bass is to hold them vertically. However, with a big bass you may find it is safer to hold it horizontally with one hand supporting the fish underneath its body.

Horizontal holding is also safe, as long as you have supported the weight of the fish under its body. Holding a bass at an angle is not recommended for large fish, but we will go over each of the three different ways in a little more detail.

Vertical Hold

Largemouth Black Bass - Hold VerticalPin

The safest way to hold a bass is to hold it vertically, so that its tail is directly underneath its mouth. This means that there is no pressure on the bass’s jaw from the weight of its body.

To hold it vertically, you would place your thumb inside the mouth of the bass to grip its bottom lip, or dentary. The rest of your fingers would go underneath the lip.

Remember to keep a firm hold of the fish so that it doesn’t wriggle out of your hands, as dropping it is never a good idea, and could cause even more damage to the bass than an incorrect holding technique.

Horizontal Hold

You may prefer a horizontal hold if you’re wanting a picture with your prized bass. To do this you would use the same grip technique that you would use if you’re holding the fish vertically. So, with your thumb in its mouth, grab its lower lip and keep a firm grasp.

Start by holding the fish safely in a vertical position and then take your other hand and place it underneath the body of the fish towards its tail, or caudal, fin. There’s usually space just behind the bass’s anal fin where you can place your hand to support the weight of the body.

Fisherman with a Small Mouth Bass - Hold HorizontalPin

You don’t need to have a firm grip on the body; just enough to provide a little support, so that the weight of the fish is distributed evenly across its body.

This can be a good way to hold all weights and sizes of bass, and can be an ideal way to hold larger and heavier bass, as it avoids putting unnecessary stress on the fish’s jaw.

Angled Holding

Holding a fish by its jaw and causing its body to be at an angle greater than 10 degrees from horizontal is when the damage to the fish’s jaw can occur.

The only time you should hold a bass at an angle like this is if the fish is particularly small, as the fish’s jaw shouldn’t suffer the same overload of pressure that a heavier and larger fish would suffer if it was held in this way.

Video: How To Hold A Bass The Right Way

Slippery: Slime Protection

Bass are covered in a protective layer of slime, or mucoprotein, which helps to stop them suffering from diseases and infections. The slime coating is essential for the health of the fish.

Be careful not to handle the fish too much, as this can cause the protective layer to come off. Dropping the fish can also affect this coating, so always make sure your grip is firm to avoid this.


Now that you know the right and wrong ways to hold a bass you’ll be able to enjoy your next fishing trip even more, knowing that you’re not going to be harming the fish in any way or putting any undue stress on your prized catch’s jaw.

By holding fish correctly and safely, you can extend the life of the fish, which will hopefully result in more successful bass fishing trips in the future. Just remember to support the body and keep a firm grip of the fish’s lower lip.

If you’ve enjoyed reading our guide or have any comments to share, please let us know. And if you want to help your fellow anglers learn the safest holding techniques, feel free to share this with them.

2 thoughts on “How To Hold And Handle A Bass”

  1. The part about the slime is incorrect by the way. You could wipe it all off and not affect fish. Also, nobody knows for sure what slime is actually for. But that’s cool that you gave your opinion on the protection from disease theory.


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