By: Leo Watson
The bass has one major weakness ---- it's never ending quest for
food. Its appetite is one reason anglers pursue this highly popular
gamefish. A bass grows fast and large due in part to its foraging
habits. This habit makes it susceptible to anglers like us.
While a baby bassí mouth is developed during the first few hours
after it emerges tail first from the egg, the yolk sack sustains
it. About the second or third day of its life the yolk sack has
been absorbed and the fingerling is ready for the world.
The size of the prey consumed by the bass increases as the fish
grows, though the relative size decreases. The types of forage also
changes. A transition in food habit occurs. The principal food for
bass less than 2 inches long is plankton and tiny crustaceans (zooplankton
and water fleas). These small bass seem to feed endlessly. After
4 to 6 weeks, aquatic and terrestrial insects, (nymph and larvae
forms) become the bassí diet until it reaches about four inches
At about 10 weeks old, the diet of the fingerling bass consists
mostly of tiny forage fish as well as small crayfish and grass shrimp.
Within six months they have at usually attained a length of 6 or
7 inches and are eating anything they can get into their mouth including
smaller bass. When they reach about a pound in size forage fish,
frogs and crayfish have become a substantial part of their diet.
When a bass reaches 2 to 5 pounds, it has matured into a very efficient
predator. Besides smaller forage fish, the bassí diet may consist
of ducklings, water snakes, field mice, baby alligators, birds or
small insects that fall into the water.
I have seen some large bass tackle very big forage fish. A largemouth
can supposedly swallow a slab sided bluegill that is about one third
its own length. I have seen bedding bass inhale bluegills of incredible
sizes as compared to the bass. Keeping this in mind when you get
to the tackle box could pay bog dividends.
Digestive rates very with several factors that are keyed to the
bassí metabolism. Bass will and do strike baits even with a full
stomach. Many of us have caught bass that were spitting up food
and yet still attacked our offering. Pay close attention to what
types of forage they are spitting up. This can be very crucial for
Water temperature affects the metabolism of the cold blooded bass.
As winter sets in, dropping water temperatures into the 40ís, the
bassí metabolic rate and its digestive rate slow down. Food requirements
also slow as the water cools. Bass feed as infrequently as once
every two weeks in extremely cold water. It takes about two days
for a bass to completely digest most forage during warm weather
and a lot longer in cold temperatures.
You will commonly find three types of feeding behavior in bass.
They are methodical inhalation, competitive inspiration and reflex
reaction. The first two are hunger driven, while the last is simply
a response to the newly found prey.
Bass always compete with each other for available forage. This
is especially true during years of low forage due to poor spawning.
For the bass, less forage fish means survival of the fittest. These
bass have very little thought for safety when they are on a feeding
binge. This competition will work in the anglers favor. If you catch
one bass chances are given these circumstances that you can catch
more from the same spot.
A bassí sex also plays a part in its feeding habits. The larger
female feeds more actively than the males. But there are times when
male bass are more susceptible to capture, especially during the
spawn when they are guarding the nest, even though they seldom feed
during this part of the spawn. I have experienced this first hand.
In 1999 while fishing with one of my sponsors (who is a very good
angler in his own right) I caught 11 bass off of spawning beds in
11 consecutive casts. All of these bass were males and all were
protecting their recently hatched fry. While all 11 were fairly
easy to catch you still had to make a very accurate cast right in
front of their nose to get this reaction strike. I will cover this
more in depth in later articles.
In closing this article the information contained within will help
you better understand the bass. With your ever growing knowledge
of the senses and feeding behavior of the bass this will help you
put more bass in your boat. As always if you have any questions
please do not hesitate to ask me through this web site. Keep checking
back on this site for my next article.
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