Largemouth Bass: Ultimate Guide
Did you know that there are about 800 freshwater fish species in North American waters? Out of all these, Largemouth Bass (also known as Micropterus salmoides) just so happen to be the most popular among anglers. A five-year survey conducted by the U.S Census Bureau, in conjunction with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), found that combined, anglers spend about 170 million days each year fishing for bass.
Because there are much bigger fish in these waters and certainly some that are much easier to catch, it’s rather peculiar that anglers spend so much time and money trying to land a largemouth. What is about Largemouth Bass that makes them so popular, and how can you get in on the act?
I’m going to take a quick dive into some of the most important facts about Largemouth Bass, explore some useful angling tips that you can use on your next outing, and see what alternatives there are to this exceptionally popular fish.
Why Fish for Largemouth Bass?
Let’s start with the obvious reason: they are good eating! Adult Largemouth Bass have white meat that offers a firm yet tender texture. The one thing that stands out about this fish is that it has a particularly fishy smell, making them unsuitable for indoor cooking. However, if you choose to cook one, you have an assortment of cooking styles at your disposal. You can grill it, pan fry it, or even bake it.
Here is a video giving you some quick tips on how to catch, clean, and cook Largemouth Bass:
Most anglers fish for Largemouth bass because they tend to be a little easier to catch than most other fish, although some species such as the Sunfish are much easier to catch. The thing about adult bass is that they are ravenous fish that will strike at pretty much everything that you throw in the water.
One reason why bass taste so fishy is that they eat almost everything from bird fledglings to Bluegills, crawdads, insects, and even snakes. That gives you an excellent array of potential bait that the Largemouth will almost certainly strike at once you put it in the water.
Interesting Facts About Largemouth Bass
Adult Largemouth Bass are both territorial and solitary fish. They tend to be the apex predators in their immediate habitat. However, you can find several adult basses assembled in any location that has an abundance of food. Typically, adult bass will hide in underwater debris such as sunken tree roots, limbs, vegetation, logs, rocks, and such to strike at their prey from the shadows.
Although they are generally freshwater fish, bass can thrive in brackish water (a mixture of fresh and saltwater). They like warm, quiet, and calm waters but can be very adaptable to other conditions. They prefer to feed on other small fish, crayfish, frogs, insects, and so on. If you want to catch Largemouth Bass, your best bet would be to head to a river, a lake, a pond, a stream, or a reservoir where they have been known to be found.
That being said, here are some other interesting facts about Largemouth Bass:
- Largemouth Bass are also known as Florida Bass, Bigmouth Bass, Green Bass, Southern Largemouth, Green Trout, Widemouth Bass, or the Northern Largemouth.
- This species of fish, like most others, tend to do better in the wild than in captivity.
- Extremely young members of this fish species are called “fry” and tend to be under 2 inches. These tend to primarily feed on insect larvae and zooplankton. They only become active predators once they get past the 2-inch mark.
- The average lifespan of bass is estimated to be around 16 years, but they have been known to live well past that and up to 20 years.
- Female bass are generally bigger than males; that’s why anglers are often advised to catch and release really big bass because these are the females that propagate the species.
- This fish has an incredibly attuned sense of smell that they use to hunt for their prey; they can track down prey by zeroing in on their scent trails.
- When hooked, bass has been known to breach the water’s surface and even get airborne to break free. That is why you need the best and strongest fishing lines when angling for bass.
- Largemouth are highly aggressive fish that tend to strike at almost anything they consider alive within their habitat.
- The males are responsible for preparing a nest within which the female will lay the eggs. They often build this nest about five feet below the waterline. Once the nest is ready, the female will then lay anything from 2,000 to about 40,000 eggs that the male will guard for about a week. Once the eggs hatch, the babies will stay in this nest for another week or so.
- The hatched “fry” will stay in a school referred to as a “broom swarm” for about a month. The father closely guards this brood swarm. It is one of the rarest occasions within which you will find several adult males collaborating and swimming together instead of being solitary predators.
- Largemouth Bass tend to grow to about 15 inches, with the average weight standing at around 12 pounds, although most anglers consider a 5-pound Bass quite large. However, the largest bass ever caught was just over 22 pounds. Incidentally, bass never really stop growing. The older the specific fish, the bigger it will be.
- Bass don’t have many natural predators, with the most notable being the Northern Pike, Walleye, and Muskie.
- The best time to fish for bass is early on in the day and late evening as they tend to be more active during these hours because of light intensity.
Tips for Catching Largemouth Bass
There is no straight forward answer to the question: “how do I catch more bass?” There are, however, some fishing tips that will help you increase your chances of success when you go angling for this type of fish.
Here are a few tips from professional anglers that may help you catch more Largemouth on your next outing:
Find Bass by Finding Cover
As mentioned, adult bass like to hide in underwater cover and debris such as boat docks, wood, lily pads, roots, and so on. This is mostly so that they can surprise their prey by striking from the shadows. It’s also where you should look if you want to catch Largemouth.
By putting your lure where the fish are most likely to be (underwater covers), you increase your chances of landing a big one. Although there are incidences where Largemouth roam in open water, they are much easier to find and catch when you find cover.
“Match the Hatch” to Attract Bass
Every avid angler knows that one of the best ways to improve your chances of success is to learn what the target fish in the waters you are fishing like to eat. As mentioned, bass have a very wide palette ranging from baitfish such as Bluegills to insects and even the odd bird fledgling or baby ducks.
You first must find out what the bass in the waters you want to fish have a taste for so you can match your lure to their preferred prey, hence “matching the hatch.” Do they like eating shad? If so, make your lure a silver-colored swimbait or crankbait.
Understand the Local Weather and How It Impacts Bass
It’s important to learn how weather conditions affect the behavior of whatever species of fish you are angling for at any given time. When it comes to bass, this species of fish like cool, calm waters; this means that they are more likely to come out and play on cloudy days, making them that much easier to catch.
You also need to match the weather with the kind of fishing techniques that attract bass. Using moving baits such as spinnerbaits is a good way to attract strikes from Largemouth on overcast days. On sunny days, bass tend to go back to what they know, take cover, and wait for their meal to come to them.
These days use the first tip on this list by finding cover and, therefore, bass. Then use bottom bouncing bait such as jigs to attract strikes from the lazy fish within those covers.
You also need to be mindful of the water temperature when fishing for bass. You will see more success in cooler waters when you throw out slower moving bait, and the opposite is true in warmer waters.
Should you fish for bass while they are nesting? This is an important question that needs to be addressed because bass reproduction is very important.
Both smallmouth and largemouth bass have more complex reproductive behaviors than many other freshwater fish. When the water temperature starts to increase, spawning is triggered – generally between the Spring and early Summer months of May to June. This varies depending on geographic location – more Northern regions will have later spawning periods (can extend into July).
After the eggs are deposited into the nest by the female, the male will protect the eggs for the next few weeks. During this time, the male fish will drive away any intruders from the eggs, including other freshwater predators or lures. This also means the male fish won’t eat while protecting his eggs.
So why is it important to know this? Because if you are fishing for bass during this period, the eggs will lose the male fish protecting them, which most likely means the offspring are lost. If the eggs are abandoned, another male fish will not take over. From a biological perspective, harvesting bass during this period does not benefit anyone.
If you’re a ‘catch and release’ angler, then this is still important to know. Even removing the male fish from its eggs for a brief period of time will negatively affect the spawn.
Make sure you do your research and understand the fish you’re going out to catch in order to do it as effectively and responsibly as possible.