There are more than 10.5 million bass fishermen in North America. And they have one main goal in mind: To catch that big largemouth bass.
With that said, you’re probably reading this because you want to catch the big boy whether its the North American Largemouth or it’s cousin the Florida Largemouth Bass.
So, to become a good largemouth bass fisherman you want learn how the fish works. Because it makes a difference in how many bass you catch including size of the bass you catch.
Being for real here. You gotta learn how the fish works. Because its an art/ science to this sport. And that’s precisely why I created this compendium for largemouth bass enthusiasts.
It’s true that you will catch fish simply by wetting a line and waiting. That’s in itself is fishing. Pure and raw. But the pros do not leave the sport strictly to chance. They practice. They study. And they refine what they know from experience.
You may say you’re not a pro, but I can guarantee you that the information I’m giving you today was first learned by the pros when they were still green fisherman.
The Competent Angler
The big idea behind bass fishing is have a good understanding of what you’re doing. So if you want to catch a lot of big fish you want to become a competent angler.
Personally, when I first started fishing I didn’t have a concern for what I was doing. I would run out of the house, throw my gear in my truck, buy some minnows and roll out to the pond. Upon reaching the pond I’d throw my hooks out in the water with a minnow swimming around and start slaying them. I simply had a passion to catch bass. But what I learned as I got older, anyone can catch bass on minnows and earthworms. And by the way I still love knocking back Miller Lights and hooking hawgs off minnows, but when you really want to learn bass fishing you want to learn fishing with artificial lures.
Big disclaimer here. I’m not saying you need a ton of state of the art gear. I’m simply stating that this sport elevates in excitement once you learn how to slay fish with things that aren’t organic. Meaning, live bait works all day, dog. But can you make magic with lizard thrown thirty yards away from the boat?
On that note, let’s understand the largemouth bass from square one.
The Largemouth Bass
First, Largemouth Bass are mainly a North American game fish, you can find them in 48 states in America. They do extend into Canada and Mexico (including Cuba), but at the end of the day, if you’re in North America, you can generally find a lunker near you. Just find a pond.
Second, the largemouth bass eats almost anything it can get its mouth around. They feed off just about everything that’s organic and they’re not too picky as long as their food is living. So for the most part the largemouth bass is rather angler friendly. This means they will also strike artificial lures… if the stuff your throwing “looks alive”.
That said, the thrill I was talking about earlier can be captured on top of the water or on the bottom with fake fish foods. The only thing that matters however, is how the lure is presented to the fish. This is a huge factor and I will explain later.
Third, the largemouth bass can be a strong force to reckon with once you hook one. They are not as fistey as the small mouth bass, but the largemouth is very much a quick thinker. Meaning they’re well known to wrap your line on nearly anything that’s considered structure. So know that the largemouth is smart and although they are strong fish, they’re also good at shaking your efforts to catch them.
Therefore, to get better at largemouth bass fishing you need to study their behaviors. Once you focus on their behaviors, you’ll discover the traits and habits of the largemouth which make it a nasty little freshwater predator and how to catch the hawgs.
The Five Senses of the Largemouth
Largemouth have senses a lot like people. In total they have five.
The first is vision. Many authorities agree that these fish depend mainly on their vision. Whether they’re ducking predators or hunting food, their eyes are always on the move. Being that the fish head has two sides, their eyes can see all directions. Clearness of water dictates vision, but they can typically see for up to about 30 feet.
Crazy thing is– largemouth also see color. And if you pay attention, most baits in Bass Pro have red in them. Doesn’t necessarily mean you need to use a red lure, but lab tests have concluded that bass pick up on the color red quick.
Water has a tendency to filter color. And as a lure sinks there is less light to recognize the color red. This has an effect where a red lure looks almost gray to the fish versus black water at deeper depths.
Choosing a the right bait however; that’s on you really. I was always taught dark on dark water. But you really only know what they’re biting when your rotating rods. When you get serious with your fishing you’ll find yourself carrying about 5 rods. And that’s on a slow day.
The second thing a fish uses for sense is its lateral line. The lateral line is pretty special biologically speaking. It’s a row of pores that travel down the side of the fish. This row of pores stretches from gills to the end of the largemouth’s tail. What makes this fascinating is there are a network of nerve endings which extend into the largemouth’s pores and they can detect even the smallest amount of vibrations. When sensing vibration, the nerves then transmit a signal to the fish’s inner ear telling the fish something is near.
The fourth sense a fish uses is hearing. Although fish lack external ears like humans, they have an inner ear. This inner ear is a small framework of tiny bones. These tiny bones however can pick up slight noises. This pretty much answers the question on why you should use a rattle or chatter bait from time to time. These lures are your typical buzz baits and multiple spoon spinner baits.
The final two senses a fish uses to detect its surroundings is its smell and taste. Strangely enough, when you analyze a catfish and a largemouth bass on their smell and taste, the catfish’s senses are more developed. To put this in perspective, a catfish has nearly 140 folds in its nasal cavity. This nose passage with folds (smell receptors) on the largemouth is seven times smaller. That’s a big difference. And although science has no real indication of what this means, I tend to believe that your garlic scents and other spray-on attractants do not have an impact on your success at the lake. At the end of the day, largemouth can smell, but it’s a stretch to think odors attract their attention. These things live on the bottom of a lake. They’ve seen and smelled a lot of nasty stuff.
What Fish Eat
After a fish is born (of an egg), it starts its diet of zooplankton. As the fish grows it drills down on larger prey. That said, a largmouth bass loves digging into insects. However, by the time a fish grows to about seven to eight inches, it’s mauling small fish.
Small fish become the staple of the diet as a fish ages. But like I stated earlier, these jokers will pounce just about anything you throw at them. So you have an arsenal of lures that you can throw at a fish if you get right down to it. To name a few organic snacks that largemouth love: crayfish, lizards, leeches, snails, small snakes, turtles, salamanders, frogs, worms and even mice. I can go as far say I’ve seen a chipmunk get murdered on a log one day when I was seven. What a site that was.
The point I’m making is — these summ-bishes eat erry’thing.
This also goes to say, the largemouth bass is special because it’s mouth is, ummm… rather large. So opposed the small mouth bass, these guys can get up to 20 pounds as a Florida Largemouth.
So a good takeaway is– to catch big fish throw big bate.
And lastly, the bonus math is this- a largemouth bass, if it cannot nail its pray and swallow it whole, the fish will methodically grip and manipulate its prey with its mouth until its meal is devoured. They eat other fish headfirst so the spiny of their prey runs to with the grain of their intestines.
The ideal temperature for feeding is about 80 Fahrenheit. They eat in the upper 60’s too, but largemouth bass like to move around in the 80’s. You’ll catch them in temperatures above and below that range, but they like good shade in the heat and barely budge in the 50’s. Do not discount colder temperature fishing though. Around late fall largemouth eat again and they eat hard. I caught my biggest fish in the month of September exiting the summer season. So what I mean is keep fishing all year. Big fish have to eat and grow so its a chance you can catch a big largemouth when it gets colder.
The Growth Rate of Largemouth
Bass growth-rates vary. In one lake the fish reach 15 inches and a couple pounds in one year . In a pond far off they grow half that amount.
The degree of variance is hinged four main factors:
1. The Length of the Season– the growing months are for about five months in total. They feed all year, slow down in their winter stasis then begin to get active in the Spring. This change in water temperature unlocks their growth spurt and sparse winter meals start expanding the body. Once water temperatures reach 60 degrees that get more active and from their on out the fish is growing on a daily basis. Once temperatures increase to around 80 degrees the largemouth is in a more active state and it will begin to eat as much as possible. Food is digested more regularly and the fish’s scales start to increase in size as well.
It’s also worth noting that the southern region of the US has a longer length of growing season. So The Florida largemouth gets massive. This doesn’t mean the South has larger fish weight-wise or average life expectancy. In fact, northern bass live longer, at an average of 16 years while southern bass average about 10 years of age. The longer life span of the northern bass can be linked to why tournament fish are larger up North than the South.
2. The second impact on growth rate is hinged on genetics of the bass. Without a doubt the Florida strain of largemouth grows a lot faster than the typical North American bass. However, there are also differences in growth rates among all subspecies of largemouth. It’s not rocket science really; different bodies of water are not populated with the same species of bass. And as you jump from pond to lake to river, all of your largemouth are not one hundred percent the same. Therefore, genetics plays a key role in growth rate of the fish.
3. This leads to the third thing we consider when determine growth of a bass; water fertility. I have a personal story where I know first hand that fishing off golf courses that have high levels of nitrogen runoffs in the lake produce very large fish. With that said, highly fertile water produces largemouth bass growth exponentially. Mainly because planktons are abundant in fertile waters and these waters produce larger baitfish and overall enhance the overall size of an aquatic food chain.
4. Fourth, when talking about aquatic food chains, your Predator versus Prey ratio determines fish size as well. On that note, if you have a lake with lots of big bass, as years progress the fish will not be as large. This is simple science at its best because this means that your larger bass are depleting the bait fish reserves. Most pros understand that when a body of water harnesses a lot of big fish, over the course of time one of two things will occur; large fish will stay large until they die and the average fish will remain average until this happens. Second, too many large bass will overrun a pond as they die off they pond will reduce in overall fish population. That’s a hinderance to good fishing and why it’s necessary to have your local wildlife departments measure the growth rates and fish densities of your pond.
5. The next thing to consider about how large your bass are is your male to female ratio. We’re not talking the size of the female and male bass, though. Quite honestly, they get to be about the same size. My first wall-hanger was a female and she to tipped the scale at 8 pounds plus. So with difference in sex there really is no real conclusion to males growing larger than females. More seasoned anglers know, however, that females caught pre-spawn weigh-in rather heavy for the obvious reason; momma fish carrying their young weigh more. And this does have an impact on tournaments if you were wondering.
Largemouth Bass Spawning
When you start breaking down how the largemouth bass spawn, you can look at the activity in three stages. The bass’ behavior directly correlates to where you will track them down.
When the temperature starts to rise, let’s say around 40 degrees; bass start to shake off their winter stasis. They start to get more active. That said, one their first moves is to head toward banks. Warm banks and flats make for a largemouth to hangout. They also like reeds in shallow points of the lake. These weeded areas and even boat harbors are nice zones to lay eggs. As the temperature increases these shallow holes get warm and the momma fish relies on this warmth to incubate her young eggs. Equally as important, warm reeded and structured environments make it easier for largemouth to monitor their breeding grounds. Predators have a hard time invading small spaces. On the other hand, when cold fronts come through and water temperature drops, the largemouth retreat to deeper waters.
The pre-spawn is an exciting time to fish and is often considered on if the best periods to catch largemouth. Prespawn triggers voracious eating and sluggish fish tend to get amped up.
The activity of largemouth spawning is hinged on two factors: the temperature of the water and length of each day. Once the temperature reaches about 60 degrees, male bass begin to fan nests of eggs that rest in shallow waters. They fan these eggs using their tails. Fanning prevents stagnant water from surrounding the eggs.
Good to note that although on a random early spring day where the temperature increase, the rise in tempeature does not mean that the fish will start to spawn. The biological clock of the largemouth dictates spawning which is always controlled by the length of day. Warmer weather does advance the spam, but what the spawn is hinged on is day light.
If spawning was based on the temperature of water by itself there would be serious consequences. In the first stages of spring, baby fish would emerge too early making the small frys vulnerable to early spring cold weather fronts that could decimate plankton and other organic food supplies. That said, the newborn fish would starve to death. And in return, the year’s new class of fish would be non-existent.
To prevent situations like fluctuating weather conditions that could destroy the fish babies, largemouth typically nest in areas that provide cover. And it’s within these sheltered areas the male bass begin to fan away silt from the body of water’s muddy bottoms. They do this to prepare the female largemouth bass an area to lay her eggs in an area that usually has a more gravel based bottom. After the male preps her area, the momma fish moves into the cleared area and deposits her eggs.
It’s rather common that largemouths construct their nests near their prespawn habitats. They don’t like to stray away too far. Generally speaking, the fish moves into even more shallow waters during the spawn. Places you’ll usually spot largemouth bass during the spawn are: sand gravel bars, lily pads, shallow water docks off lake shores and reedy silted areas that contain structure such as cat tail grass. Bodies of water that are man made you’ll find largemouth spawning close to tree roots, piles of brush and more wooded areas of the lake.
In rivers, which aren’t my cup of tea, most spawning activity takes place in channels that shoot off to the side. And like most waters, largemouth stick to the more wooded structures.
Once the water temperature rises to the high 60’s the majority of the spawn has already passed. Then the male largemouth bass hangs out with the fry guarding the nest until the baby fish exit the area.
The Post Spawn
During the post spawn the female checks out for a while to recover from the spawn. They are for the most part exhausted and the female largemouth typically retreats to deeper waters with heavy structure. For the rest of the warmer months the female bass will recuperate and will not eat regularly. That said, female largemouth are well known for being difficult when it comes to catching them in the summer months. The female bass usually live a more isolated type of lifestyle during the summer and they tend to hide themselves under deep structure. In addition, their eating patterns are not as steady as the male largemouth bass so its a huge win to catch one post spawn.
Spawn Time Frames
In the Norrhern regions of the United States, the spawn lasts roughly two to three weeks. Scientifically speaking, the waters up North warm up faster compared to the rest of the earth. Due to the rapid rise of temperature, the largemouth spawning duration is compressed towards the end of June. Two weeks max and always on the money.
The southern regions of the United States, however are a little different. In places looking like Florida, Texas and Louisiana, bass can spawn as early as the month of January.
Since I personally live in the South East, in Virginia, we typically see spawning activity as early as late March and early April.
The take away is, the further South you go in the U.S., the longer the period that largemouth bass spawn. The closer you get up North the shorter the spawn season due to water temperatures rapidly rising come spring.