What Do Bass Eat?

The largemouth bass is America’s most beloved sportfish, by a mile. I don’t know any angler who doesn’t love to catch them.

This is something that lures companies also know and offer fishermen a wide range of options. Although the old saying that lures are designed to catch fish more than fishermen may seem a bit extreme, it is true that the more you understand the habits of bass the better you can choose the right lure to catch them.

Largemouth Basics

The largemouth is called by science by the Latin Micropterus, which places it in the same group as bluegill and sunfishes like bluegill. The largemouth is easy to recognize: their largemouth, gold-shaded olive-green upper body, mil-white belly, and dark green lateral lines are all easy indicators.

Largemouth can grow to almost 30 inches in length and weigh as much as 25 pounds. They live up to 16 years old!

They reach maturity in a matter of months, thanks to their voracious appetite.

What does a Bass Eat? A look at the Bass Diet

Immature bass is attracted to aquatic invertebrates such as shrimp, larvae, and insects. However, they will also chase baitfish like shad.

As they age, their diet will include shad, crawfish, and panfish such as crappie, bluegill, and pumpkinseed. They will also eat snakes, frogs and birds, bats and mice, as well as any other animals that they can fit into their tiny mouths.

Best Live Bait For Bass

Crawfish, especially pre-spawn, are an important prey item.

John Odenkirk is a Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries fisheries biologist who regularly examines bass stomach contents to gain a better understanding of their diets in any given body of water.

These are the results

It gets eaten if it is wet enough to be swallowed by the bass.

Anything below half of a bass’s length, even immature, is acceptable. This applies to all species, not just their own.

However, this doesn’t mean they have no preferences. Fred Cross, a Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission biologist finds more threadfin sharks in bass stomachs than any other species.

The largemouth bass is likely to eat threadfin shad if they’re available. He explains that they are more common in bass stomachs than any other food. “Shad are soft-rayed fish. This means that their fans don’t spin as well as a bluegill’s. Soft-rayed fish can be swallowed easily.”

Largemouths love to eat threadfin shad in the summer.

Largemouth can hunt in open water but are limited by weeds and aquatic vegetation.

This may seem paradoxical considering how many basses are caught in heavy cover. However, wildlife biologists warn that largemouth bass will soon over-hunt lakes and ponds for food items, causing them to starve.

Seasonal Variations

You can find the complete list of lure options for each season in our article Best Time to Fish For Bass: Catching Largemouth by Season.

Females are preparing for the spawn by consuming high-nutrient, high-fat foods. If you have plenty of crawfish they will be looking for it.

Pre-spawn bass may be giving up on your lures, so try switching to colors, shapes, and actions that resemble crawfish. You’ll see a change in your luck.

Bomber Lures Model A is one of my favorite lures. It comes in colors and patterns that resemble crawfish.

Bomber AmazonUs/PRBTT, Sporting_Goods, Size_Name/Color_Name

Strike King’s Red Eye Shad, “Delta Red”, gets largemouths excited, especially if it is run near the bottom and into rocks or logs. To keep it from getting hung up, you may have to clip one of its hooks. But if they see it as a fleeing crabfish, they will be unable to resist!

Strike King REYESD34-450 Red Eyed Shad, Delta Red, 0.065

I love to throw a 3/8 ounce Z-Man Original ChatterBait along with a Zoom Z-Craw Trailer.

Bass will change to fish such as bluegill and shad depending on the amount of summer sun. Also, keep in mind snakes, lizards, and frogs as common prey.

It is rarely a bad idea to pitch a frog-like Lunkerhunt’s Lunker Frog.

Lunkerhunt Lunker Frog, Bull Frog - Fishing Lure with Realistic Design, Legs Extend and Retract in Use, Great for Bass and Pike, Freshwater Lure with Hollow Body, Weighs  1/2  oz, 2.25

It is much more productive to use the probable structure with Strike King Red Eye Shads in “Gizzard Shad”, and “Green Shad” than it is to work alone.

Red Eyed Shad/Green Gizzard

Fall is the season for bass fishing panfish, shad, and minnows in the shallows. For me, it’s prime spinnerbait time.

Designs such as the Booyah Double Willow or the Strike King Finesse KVD are truly unique.

BOOYAH Blade Spinner-Bait Bass Fishing Lure, Gold Shiner, Double Willow (1/2 oz)Strike King KVD Spinnerbait/TN Shad, FSB38CW-517SG

Chatterbaits are my favorite tool for harvesting fall weeds. The 3/8 Ounce Z-Man Original ChatterBait and a Lake Fork Trophy Lures Live Magic Shad Trailer are my two favorites.

Z-MAN Chatter Bait, 1/2 oz, Green Pumpkin PurpleLake Fork Trophy Lures Live Magic Shad

Bass anglers find winter a difficult season, as largemouth turn down deep and become sleepy and slow.

They are still prey to shad so you should consider that when choosing a lure.

Spoons such as Strike King’s Sexy Spoon mimic a dying shad, and they work well in a variety of situations.

Strike King Sexy Spoon 5.5 / Sexy Shad, 0.12

I also enjoy 1/4-ounce jigheads tipped with a slow and big bait like a soft bait. This allows me to recycle my post-spawn options with colors that are more suitable for deeper water. I like a fluttering tail because I am often darkened, and I don’t want to be overlooked. My favorite is the Zoom Super Fluke.

Zoom Bait Salty Super Fluke Bait-Pack of 10 (Black, 5-Inch)

Last Thoughts

It may be tempting to minimize the importance of choosing the right lure for largemouth bass, even though they aren’t fussy eaters.

Many big basses, including trophy bass, have been caught on everything, from live minnows to spinners and rattle traps to worms. There isn’t a lure that hasn’t caught the attention of largemouths. I have caught many on almost every lure in my tackle box.

Nevertheless, I believe the pros are experts in their field and can choose the best lure for the right conditions.

We hope you found this article helpful. If not, we would love to hear about it!

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Lewis Mark is a vastly experienced fly fisher. His encyclopedic knowledge of fly tying has led to start blog on fishing. He also review Fishing equipment based on his knowledge and experience.