What Do Bass Eat? Bass Feeding Habits Explained
When you’re looking to catch a boat load of bass, knowing what bait to use is usually a good idea (stating the obvious, we know). You need to know what they love eating...what they can't resist biting.
The habitat in which the bass live can often dictate their diet, which can vary quite a lot due to geographic location, seasons, and even the type of bass. But generally, all types of bass eat similar types of food.
This is our guide to help you learn a little more about their diet, so that next time you'ere out on the water, you know what bait to cast...
When Do Bass Feed?
Bass generally feed throughout the year. However, the seasons and the weather can have an effect on how frequently or actively they will feed. For example, they will often not feed at all during the spawn but they may attack prey to defend their nests during this time.
Similarly, in winter, they usually don’t need to feed as often. This is because their metabolism slows down to allow them to conserve energy when there may be less food available to them.
Because bass tend not to feed while they are spawning, they will usually feed aggressively both before and after the spawn - known as pre-spawn and post-spawn.
The pre-spawn can be a good time for fishing, as the bass will often be making their way to the shallow spawning areas and feeding heavily in preparation. During the post-spawn, the bass will again start actively feeding.
Sunrise and sunset can be some of the times when you might find bass feeding more frequently, particularly during the warmer months, when the shallows may be too warm for bass in the middle of the day.
What Do Largemouth Bass Eat?
Crawfish, also known as crayfish or crawdads, can be found all over the world, with the United States being home to a variety of crawfish species.
They live in almost any type of water, from lakes and ponds to rivers, streams and swamps so they can be a good source of food for bass in a range of habitats and geographic locations.
Crawfish can usually be found on the bottom of the water, often around rocks or logs, so this can be a good bait to use if you’re fishing along the bottom, both in deep and shallow water. They can also be a good choice for pre-spawn fishing, as crawfish tend to be what bass are looking for at this time of year.
Largemouth bass will often eat a variety of smaller fish, including shad, bluegill, minnows. The type of small fish they will eat will usually depend on whatever is available to them at the time.
If you can, check what baitfish can be found in a particular lake or river before you cast your line.
Insects can often be a source of food for largemouth bass, with larger insects usually being preferable for larger bass. These can include a variety of bugs and aquatic insects, such as large mayflies or even crickets and grasshoppers.
The time of year may play a part in how successful insect lures will be, as it may be a good idea to coincide your insect lure techniques with when there are plenty of insects flying around near the water. This can be during spring and summer in many places.
Largemouth bass seem to love eating frogs, which can make fishing with frog lures a great idea, particularly during the summer months when frogs tend to be more active. However, depending on your location, bass might eat frogs all year.
Frog lures can be especially effective where there are lily pads or thick vegetation mats; habitats where you would naturally find frogs. But you can fish with them just about anywhere that’s close to the banks.
What Do Smallmouth Bass Eat?
Like largemouth bass, smallmouth bass will generally eat whatever food is available to them. Minnows can be a good source of food but they can also be found to eat other small fish such as shad and perch.
Video: Bass Eating Minnows
You may find that some of the smaller fish that smallmouth feed on tend to be found closer to the bottom. This can mean that smallmouth can also be found closer to the bottom if they’re feeding on these fish in large lakes.
Smallmouth bass will often take advantage of the additional food during insect season, eating bugs such as cicadas, beetles and other insects that happen to end up in or near the water.
Fly fishing with insect lures can often be a good way to catch smallmouth bass, as they will often bite anything if they think it’s alive.
Just like with largemouth bass, crawfish can be a significant source of food for smallmouth bass.
Artificial crawfish lures can be a good choice for fishing for smallmouth during the spring and fall when they can usually be found feeding closer to the shallows.
Lizards and frogs can form part of the diet of smallmouth bass, depending on the location and the time of year. Frog lures can be useful topwater baits to use when smallmouth bass are feeding closer to the surface.
What About Baby (Young) Bass?
Baby bass, both largemouth and smallmouth, tend to feed on insects and small aquatic insects, with largemouth moving on to larger prey once they grow to about 8 inches in length.
Young largemouth will often also eat crustaceans and small fish, and young smallmouth bass may prefer to feast on plankton in their early stages.
The more they eat, the faster they will likely grow, which also means that some of the baby bass may grow at a faster rate than others. This can even lead to the larger babies eating some of the smaller ones. Similarly, some adult bass may also eat baby bass if they get the chance.
What Bait Should I Use To Catch Bass?
Because bass will often eat just about anything, you may find that your bait doesn’t always need to resemble their natural prey. However, some lures that do resemble prey or mimic the behaviors of natural prey can be useful.
Crawfish (yet again!)
Crawfish lures can be a great choice of bait for bass fishing, as they can generally be used all year round, even in winter. They can be used as jig trailers or used on their own and can be used when fishing along the bottom or near rocky cover or structure.
Video: Catching Winter Bass On Crawfish Imitating Lures
Jig lures can also be a good year round option for bass fishing because of their versatility. They can be fished in a range of conditions, from open water to shallow cover. Skirted jigs can create movement that can attract bass and you can also add trailers to them to make them even more appealing.
While bass may not encounter many worms naturally, worm lures can be an ideal choice for catching bass. They can be rigged in different ways in order to change up the presentation and they can be good to use for finesse techniques.
Crankbaits can be an effective choice for catching bass year round, as they can be fished at various depths and speeds depending on the conditions and seasons.
These types of lures can often imitate baitfish, being able to wobble and flash to draw attention.
Knowing what bass can give you a bit of a heads up when it comes to choosing your bass bait. However, you may find that even though bass will eat one thing, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they won’t try to eat something new, as they will often take what they can get when it comes to food.
Let us know below if you’ve had any successful fishing trips with surprising bait or tell us what lures work best in your favorite fishing spot. Keep other bass anglers in the know by sharing this guide with them.