Largemouth bass are, without question, the most popular species that anglers target in the United States and across the world. These fish are so predatory and exciting to fish for that once you have experienced it, you are going to want to do it again.
But, what do largemouth bass eat? By understanding what these fish eat, you can start to tailor your fishing tactics to catch bigger and more largemouth bass than ever.
Largemouth bass are not fussy eaters and they will pretty much eat anything they can fit in their mouths. This includes worms, crayfish, frogs, leeches, shad, shiners, bluegill, crappie, minnows, leeches, mice, small birds, and even snakes.
Being such aggressive predators, largemouth bass will eat anything in and on the water. This can make working out what the best bait or lure to use for largemouth bass is a little tricky.
So, let’s look at these fish in more detail and the best baits and lures to catch them with.
Table of Contents
- What do Largemouth Bass Eat
- What Largemouth Bass Eat by the Season
- What are the Best Baits for Largemouth Bass?
- What are the Best Lures for Largemouth Bass?
- Winding Up
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What do Largemouth Bass Eat
Largemouth bass do not discriminate from one prey to the next, which means the list of what they eat in the wild is long.
Here it is:
- Zooplankton (juvenile bass)
- Flying insects
- Yellow Perch
- Smaller bass
As you can see, largemouth bass have a large and varied diet. Their mouths are so big that they can inhale a lot of different prey items with ease, like small ducks even!
Their diet, of course, changes with age and will change with their habitat too. Young bass will eat smaller prey that they can fit in their mouths like zooplankton and while big bass will eat bigger fish.
If you are fishing for largemouth bass in Lake Naivasha in Kenya (they do live there), their diet will be a bit different from the one above which is based more on US bass habitats. So be sure to adapt what you think bass are eating to where you are fishing.
What Largemouth Bass Eat by the Season
Knowing what largemouth bass eat is one thing, but knowing how their feeding behaviors and diets change from season to season is another.
This is valuable information for any bass angler as you can pick the right bait or lure for each season much faster, and catch more bass because of it.
What do Largemouth Bass Eat in the Summer
When summer arrives the largemouth bass have already spawned and they are ready to gorge to their heart’s content. This is excellent timing as summer sees a lot of natural prey come to life in the lakes and rivers, so the bass have a lot to hunt for.
In early summer, bass will primarily target small fish like bluegills, shad, and golden shiners and will do so in the shallows. Once the water heats up, the bass move their attention to frogs in mid-summer.
This is when frogs hatch and are abundant, and the bass take advantage of this and scoff as many of them as they can.
Towards the end of summer, when the water is warmer, the bass will move to deeper water, where the cooler temperatures are more comfortable for them. This is when they will begin focussing on eating up the large schools of shad that are abundant at this time of year.
What do Largemouth Bass Eat in the Fall
During the fall months, the water temperature cools down which brings the bass into a feeding frenzy.
The largemouth bass know that winter is coming and they eat as much as they can so they can put on enough fat to survive the colder months.
In the fall, the bass will feed mainly on small fish like shad, bluegill, shiners, yellow perch, and any other small fish they can find.
The bass will also feed in all the different depths from chasing fish in shallows to sitting deep ambushing the schools of shad.
This is an excellent time of year to fish for largemouth bass as they are overly aggressive and you can find them all over the lake or river.
What do Largemouth Bass Eat in the Winter
When the water temperatures drop in winter, a largemouth bass’ behavior changes. In colder water, a bass has to spend a lot of energy maintaining their body temperature which means they are less active and less aggressive.
Their metabolism literally slows down to make it through winter, so they don’t need to eat as much during the cold months.
This doesn’t mean that they stop eating, but the bass will eat a lot less and in a lazy way. Their food still consists of small fish like shad, shiners, yellow perch, and bluegill, but they won’t expend much effort in catching them.
This means that winter is a challenging time to fish for bass as they are more selective and less hungry. Choose warmer days when their metabolism increases and you will have a better chance.
What do Largemouth Bass Eat in Spring
Largemouth bass tend to spawn in mid to late spring and they need to put on some weight before this happens.
This means in early spring, when the water warms up, they become very aggressive as they haven’t eaten much over winter and they need to gain some weight for spawning.
In early spring, bass will be in the shallows chasing bluegills, yellow perch, shad, minnows, and any other small fish that are around. This is also a time of year when they will target crayfish a lot too!
When it is time to spawn, both a male and female will sit above their nest in the shallows and protect it with their life. This is when feeding slows down for bass, but they become hyper-aggressive about their nests. If anything tries to swim close to their nest, they will attack it.
When fishing during spawning season, pulling lures through an area of nests will have a lot of bass attacking your lure.
How do Seasons Affect Feeding Habits?
As you will have noticed, largemouth bass change their feeding behavior across the seasons. What are the core reasons for these changes?
Water temperature and spawning are the key factors that affect largemouth bass and other predatory fish behaviors too.
When the water is too hot, or too cold, bass will slow their metabolism down and become less active in order to regulate their body temperatures. This means they feed less often and less aggressively during hot summer days and over the cold winter months.
Spawning takes a lot of energy, before the spawn bass need to eat a lot so they have enough sustenance to spawn successfully. Post spawning, bass have used a lot of their energy, and need to top it up, and do so by feeding a lot.
How do You Use This when You are Fishing?
By understanding the factors that affect largemouth bass behavior, you can tailor how you fish to match.
On a hot summer’s day, the bass will go deep to find cooler water and feed less aggressively. Deep baits and lures fished slowly will work better than shallow lures and baits fished quickly.
This is just one example, and if you can use this logic on any given fishing day, you will become a much more successful bass angler.
What do Largemouth Bass Like to Eat the Most?
While largemouth bass will take most meals that they can fit in their large mouths, they will always choose to feed on the easiest prey source.
This is usually the most abundant food source at any given time of the year. Generally speaking, small bait fish like shad, bluegill, yellow perch, shiners, and suckers are a largemouth bass’ favorite food.
But, this switches to crayfish in early spring and frogs in mid-summer, and this is when these food sources are more abundant than any others.
What are the Best Baits for Largemouth Bass?
Now that we know what largemouth bass eat in their natural habitat and how that changes across the seasons, let’s apply this to finding the best baits to catch them with.
Live baiting for largemouth bass is a very effective way of catching them. The best live baits are small fish, especially bluegills, shiners, suckers, shad, and minnows. Live crayfish, worms, and leeches are also very effective live baits too.
You can also use all of these baits as dead baits too but you are going to have to give your dead bait a bit of movement and action when you fish them.
What are the Best Lures for Largemouth Bass?
There are hundreds if not thousands of different bass lures on the market. We can’t discuss all of them so we are going to hone in on the different categories of lures that are best for largemouth bass.
Crankbaits are shaped and painted like a small bait fish or crayfish. They come with a plastic lip on the front of the lure that catches the water and causes the lure to five and swim with a fishy action.
Bass love these lures as they imitate their natural prey excellently. These are also a versatile lure for bass anglers and you can find shallow diving crankbaits and deep diving crankbaits in a range of colors and rattles.
This means, with a good range of crankbaits, you can fish deep or shallow to match the seasons and weather conditions.
Jigs are a lure with a heavy headed hook and a skirt that surrounds it. The weight of the head allows you to fish these lures at different depths to match the situation, from deep to shallow.
You can also fish jigs slow or fast, and the pulsating action of the skirt around the movement of the lure makes bass very aggressive.
You can buy jigs in various sizes, weights, and colors too meaning you can always match what the bass are hungry for the most.
Spinnerbaits are a classic bass lure. They come with a kind of jig with a skirt to which is attached some metal wire with spinning metal blades on them.
The blades spin as you wind in the lure. When this happens, they catch and reflect light into the water and churn the water making a lot of noise. When bass hear the noise, catch the reflections, and spot the jig, it is hard for them not to eat a spinnerbait.
These are also versatile baits that can be fished deep and shallow, plus they are great for prospecting as they can attract bass from a distance.
Soft plastics are molded into bass prey like crayfish, frogs, worms, salamanders, and small fish. You then attach them to a weighted or weightless hook, making them into a jig on speed.
The soft nature of these lures gives them a very natural action in the water and they look very life-like. Plus, you can fish them at different depths using different weighted hooks.
Another advantage to these lures being soft is that when a bass attacks one, it is soft and feels real in its mouth compared to other lures. This means, if it misses it, it will probably come back again!
About Lure Colors and Sizes
Now that we know the types of lures you need to have for bass fishing, let’s look at size and color.
When it comes to size, a range from large to small is important so you can match the size of the prey the bass are feeding on most. Be sure to have different weighted lures so that you can also fish at different depths.
Lure color is also important and a large range is also important. Be sure to have bright, natural, and dark lures.
When the water is clear, natural-looking lures are most effective. On dark days, dark lures are easier for bass to see. When the water is dirty, bright lures and dark lures are easier for bass to spot through the murky water.
How much do largemouth bass eat?
Largemouth bass can eat up to ⅓ of its body weight every day. Whether they manage this depends on the habitat they are living in. If food is abundant then chances are, a bass will manage to eat ⅓ of its body weight every day.
How often do largemouth bass eat?
How often a largemouth bass eats depends on how easily it meets its quota of ⅓ of its body weight.
A big bass might eat a fish ⅓ of its body weight in the morning and won’t feed until the next day. A different bass might be feeding on small minnows, and may have to feed 20 times in a day in order to eat enough to meet its quota.
Do largemouth bass eat bluegill?
Yes, largemouth bass love to eat bluegill, to the point that some anglers think that bluegills might be a bass’ favorite food and a prey required for bass to grow to trophy sizes.
If the lake you are fishing for largemouth bass in has bluegills, then use them as bait or a lure that matches, as bass love to eat them!
What do baby largemouth bass eat?
Baby largemouth bass start their life eating zooplankton and once they are large enough will move on to small nymphs and insects.
Eventually, they will be big enough to eat tiny bait fish and worms, and as they grow start feeding on large and large prey.
Do bass eat other smaller bass?
Yes, bass are cannibalistic and won’t worry about eating smaller largemouth bass so long as it fits in their mouth.
How big of a fish can largemouth bass eat?
Largemouth bass can eat a fish that is about half of its length. This is the maximum size that their mouth and digestive system can handle. This means big bass will eat big baits, and small bass, small baits.
What time of day do largemouth bass eat the most?
Bass have excellent eyesight in low light conditions and they use this to their advantage.
During low light hours in the early morning and late evening around sunset and sunrise are a bass’ favorite time to feed, as they have a distinct advantage over their prey.
When it is very bright and sunny, bass will retreat to deeper areas or areas with cover to give them the low-light conditions they prefer.
How do largemouth bass hunt their prey?
Largemouth bass are ambush hunters more than anything else. This means they like to lay in wait around areas like lily pads, sunken trees, overhung banks, and weedy bottoms.
They will wait, camouflaged and hiding in these areas until their prey swims past. When their prey swims past, it jumps out from nowhere and inhales them. This is a very energy-efficient way of feeding compared to chasing bait fish around a lake.
But, bass will sometimes chase bait fish in the shallows and this happens when they are most aggressive during pre-spawn, post-spawn, and in the fall before water.
So, what do largemouth bass eat? You now know the answer. They are not fussy fish but they do prefer small bait fish, frogs, and crayfish depending on the season.
Remember to change your tactics as seasons change, think about water temperature and depth, and you will end up catching more bass than ever.
If you have any questions or some great bass stories, we want to hear about them. Just drop a comment in the comments section below!