What Do Largemouth Bass Eat?

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Largemouth Bass Diet

The largemouth bass (or Micropterus salmoides) can be found across much of the United States and Northern Mexico. It’s a carnivorous freshwater game fish and is one of the most popular fish to catch.

In this guide, we’re going to cover the eating habits of the largemouth bass, and what baits you’re most likely to catch one with. First of all, let’s find out a little bit more about the fish itself.

An Introduction to the Largemouth Bass

Because the largemouth is one of the most widely fished basses in the United States, there is a wealth of information about them. Whole books have been written about this fish, so we won’t go into too much detail here. Suffice to say, there’s plenty of details out there if you want to learn even more about them.

These fish are an olive-green to greenish gray color and are marked by a series of dark blotches along each of their flanks. These blotches are commonly in the form of jagged horizontal strikes and make the fish extremely distinctive and easy to spot.

Largemouth Bass Fishing

The female largemouth bass usually grows to be much larger than the male of the species, but they both grow to a decent size. On average, largemouth bass will live to be between ten and sixteen years old.

This species is the largest of the black basses and this is the reason why they’re so popular to fish. The maximum recorded overall length of the largemouth bass is 29.5 in (75 cm) and they have been known to reach a maximum (unofficial) weight of 25 pounds 1 ounce (11.4 kg).

Because it can be found all across the continent, there are many different regional names for the largemouth bass. Here’s a list of the most common names you’re likely to hear it called:

  • Widemouth bass
  • Bigmouth bass
  • Black bass
  • Bucketmouth,
  • Largies
  • Potter’s fish
  • Florida bass
  • Florida largemouth
  • Green bass
  • Green trout
  • Gilsdorf bass
  • Oswego bass
  • Southern largemouth
  • Northern largemouth
  • LMB

Juvenile Largemouth Bass Diet

The younger largemouths have a less varied diet, as they’re more likely to be eaten by larger fish, so take fewer risks. The regular diet of a juvenile largemouth bass consists of:

Small Bait Fish

One of the best ways to catch a juvenile largemouth bass is by using small bait fish they would naturally eat. Fish like anchovies, gudgeon, ballyhoo, minnows, and scad are perfect for this. You can catch these fish yourself, or simply purchase them from a local store.

Bait Fishing

Scuds

Scuds (or from the Amphipoda family) are a type of malacostracan crustacean. They range in size from 1 to 340 millimetres (0.039 to 13 in) and are ideal for catching smaller juvenile largemouth bass. There are over 9,900 amphipod species in existence, with 1,900 of them (including scuds) living in fresh water, so they’re extremely plentiful.

Small Shrimp

Small shrimp are super easy to get hold of and are a really easy bait to use when catching younger largemouth bass. They can be used when dead or alive, and fresh or frozen – so they’re very versatile.

Worms

Pretty much any fish will go for worms and they’ve become a staple of fishing. You can very cheaply buy a large number of worms for very little money, so they’re a great inexpensive way to enjoy your hobby.

Fishing Worms

Insects

As with any fish, the juvenile largemouth bass is always attracted to insects. You can use actual insects, or buy artificial lures that are built to resemble them. These are the natural food source for many insects, so they’re the ideal bait to use.

Adult Largemouth Bass Diet

Adult largemouths are generally the apex predator within their habitat and eat an enormous variety of food (including the animals already listed above). They use their senses of hearing, sight, vibration, and smell to seize their prey and usually strike from a hiding spot.

Here are some of the most common animals which adult largemouths will try to eat:

Smaller Fish

Largemouth basses eat smaller fish in their natural environment, so these are ideal to use when catching them. You can use fish such as bluegill, banded killifish, shad, yellow perch, ciscoes, shiners, and sunfish. They will also consume the younger members of larger fish species, like catfish, trout, walleye, white bass, striped bass, and will actually even eat smaller black bass.

As with many bait fish, these species can all usually be purchased from a local fishing supply store or caught yourself. Catching your own bait fish can be a great way to save a little bit of money while fishing.

Snails

In their natural environment, largemouth bass will commonly eat invertebrates like snails, so they’re a good choice to use as bait. Many people try and remove the shell of the snail before attaching them to the hook, but you don’t actually have to if you don’t want to. They’re easy to store and fairly low maintenance unless you’re squeamish.

Crawfish

The largemouth bass loves eating crawfish. You can hook a crawfish in the tail and use it as live bait if you want, or simply attach them once they’re already dead. Many people consider live crawfish to be one of the best baits you can use to catch largemouth bass.

You’ll see why crawfish are such a well-loved bait the moment you begin using it. The largemouth bass goes absolutely crazy for this bait and you may even find it hard to ever try anything else again once you give it a go!

Frogs

As they’re ferocious predators, the largemouth loves to hunt down active creatures that move around a lot like frogs. They’re perfect to use as bait, as the bass just can’t bring themselves to ignore their movement.

The artificial lure version of a frog is a very popular type of bait because of how well they mimic the movement of real frogs. If you’re looking to invest in a new artificial lure, you might want to consider trying out one of these.

Snakes

In their natural environment, largemouth bass will consume smaller species of snakes. However, we’d strongly advise against using them as bait. Instead, opt for the much safer and more effective artificial snake lures you can find at any decent fishing supply store.

Many people feel cruel using larger animals like snakes as bait and it’s completely understandable. You’ll still get the same movements from an artificial lure and it comes without harming a real snake (or them causing harm to you), so they’re a great choice.

Salamanders

Bass go crazy for salamanders of any size, small or large. They are instinctually drawn to salamanders because of the complex movements they make and the bright colors that they come in.

As with many of the other options listed here, you can opt to use artificial lure versions of these animals if you have any moral quandaries about using live bait like this.

Other Animals

It might be surprising to you to hear just how varied the diet of the largemouth bass is. These apex predators will even devour bats, small water birds, some mammals, and baby alligators. They’re truly carnivorous and will hunt almost anything down, regardless of size.

Obviously, you won’t be able to use these animals as live bait, but artificial lures can prove to be a strong substitute. In many cases, the artificial versions can even be more effective at helping you to catch largemouth bass.

Now that you know what type of animals these magnificent fish hunt for in their natural environment, let’s find out a little more about their habits and how they operate.

Feeding Habits of the Largemouth Bass

Let’s dive into the feeding habits of the largemouth bass a little more, so you can have a better understanding of these amazing creatures.

When they’re newly-hatched, the largemouth bass will feed heavily on smaller crustaceans and other zooplankton in their natural habitat. Once the bass reaches around 2 inches in length, their appetite will generally change and they will consume more insects and smaller fish than themselves.

The adult bass has an extremely varied diet (as we have covered above) and will pretty much prey on anything that it can swallow. Because of their large mouth (the source of their name) and flexible stomach, they can hunt down and eat prey that’s nearly half its own length!

Summer Bass Fishing

They really are ferocious predators and many people are surprised at just how vicious these fish can be when hunting. The largemouth bass ranks extremely high in the overall aquatic food chain. Any bass over 10 inches will have very little competition and few enemies

As the water temperature of their habitat warms up, the metabolism of the largemouth bass will increase and they will feed much more often. This is why it’s a great idea to fish for them in warm weather.

We’re almost at the end of our guide, but first, let’s take a look at how you can get better at fishing for the largemouth bass.

Tips on Fishing for Largemouth Bass

Although they are abnormally voracious predators, the largemouth bass doesn’t actually hunt and eat 24/7. We don’t know every single habit of their feeding, but there are some constants that can make fishing for them much easier and more predictable.

You will commonly find that bass feed around dawn and at dusk. They will also frequently go on a feeding spree just before the approach of a storm. In some situations, a feeding frenzy is triggered by the presence of schools of bait-fish near the surface of a lake. Because of this, it’s a good idea to fish for them where there is plenty of other fish.

Pro Tip: Learn more about bass fishing in a pond here.

As with many fish, the largemouth bass doesn’t always need to be feeding for you to catch them. They have very strong territorial instincts (other than hunger) which will cause them to strike out at live bait and artificial lures.

They could merely be curious about your bait, or they could have an aggressive reaction to the sudden movements. They could also strike if your bait is near a spawning nest and they wish to defend their young.

If you’re looking for hot spots for catching largemouth bass, you’re best searching around sharp drop-offs. Submerged stream channels are the ideal location to find large groups of largemouth bass and will definitely give you the best chance at bagging a trophy fish.

When they are attacking larger prey, the largemouth bass will usually turn around the animal and swallow it headfirst. So if you’re using bait such as large shiners, frogs, or salamanders you should make sure to give the fish ample time before reeling in and setting the hook.

If you’re using smaller bait or lures you need to act immediately upon the strike, as the bass will inhale smaller food by opening its mouth extremely quickly and sucking in water (and the bait). It then simple expels the water through its gills and will either swallow or expels the bait.

Conclusion

After reading about how aggressive they are in their hunt, and how territorial they can be, it should come as no surprise that they are one of the most popular game fish to hunt across the whole of the United States.

Fishing for largemouth bass can be a very fruitful endeavor if done correctly, because of the enormous amount of potential bait which can be used and the increased likelihood of snagging a largemouth because it’s defending its territory or presumes your bait is an attacker.

As with any type of fishing, the most important part of the whole process is having fun and enjoying your hobby. Don’t worry if you fail at catching the largemouth bass on your first try. Sometimes, it’s just not your day.

Follow some of the tips we’ve listed here, and use the bait we’ve recommended, and you’ll be in with a much better chance next time you get out on the water!

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