Understanding Bass Behavior

Bass Fishing for Beginners - Part 1

Meet the Author

Jonathan is an avid tournament bass fisherman. He currently fishes on the Penn State Bass Fishing team. He has placed in the top 15 in multiple FLW BFL tournaments as a co-angler. He competed on the United States Youth Fly Fishing Team, where he placed 11th in the world and was a part of two world championship team gold medals. Jonathan serves as an ANGLR expert to help the ANGLR community constantly improve.

Chapter 1 - Bass Behavior for Beginners

Jump to Chapter: Top | Introduction | How Bass Behave | What Bass Eat | Best Time of Day |

Intro to Bass Behavior for Beginners

One of the hardest things in the sport of bass fishing is overcoming the fact that bass change not only on a daily basis, but also by the minute. Anyone who has ever fished for bass and been on a hot bite has experienced this change. One minute you’re crushing fish and then all of a sudden the bite just shuts off.

This isn’t just an accident, this is what happens when the fish change their behavior. That being said, we’ve all been on a slow bite and then, for seemingly no reason at all, they turn on. This is one of the biggest differences that the sport of bass fishing has when compared to any other sport. This constantly changing aspect of the game makes it harder for us as anglers, as we have to attempt to adapt with the fish.

There are ways to stay on top of the fish though, the hardest thing to do is to keep an open mind. People get too caught up in fishing the past history they have, instead of fishing the conditions. Understanding that will help you stay on top of the fish. But to find ways to stay on them, first you need to understand how bass behave.

Chapter 2 - How Bass Behave

Jump to Chapter: Top | Introduction | How Bass Behave | What Bass Eat | Best Time of Day |

How The Weather Affects Bass

The first thing to understand is that bass are a warm water species, so in layman’s terms, they prefer warmer water. The term warm can be a relative term however, during different times of the year the fish are going to relate to different temperatures. This means in the spring, fall, and even the winter, the fish will be hunting warmer water.

Whereas in the summer, the fish will be looking for cooler water. The reason behind this being, when the water gets too hot, it isn’t able to hold enough oxygen for fish to survive. Thus, a thermocline is born… we’ll save talking about that for a later date!

Overall, this is why fishermen love the spring and fall seasons the most, because the bass come up shallow chasing that warmer water and this makes them easier to catch.

Now, let’s talk about weather changes. The only really good weather change is a warm one, this will help get the fish’s metabolisms going faster, making them eat more. On cooling trends, it tends to put the fish into what we call “a bad mood”. This cooler water slows their metabolisms down and yes, it makes our jobs as anglers a lot harder. There are ways to overcome this though.

Bass Instincts… Use These To Your Advantage

Let’s say you roll up to your favorite lake and the fish are not cooperating, meaning you couldn’t buy a bite. What do you do? You either slow down and go smaller, or you go bigger and go for that reaction bite. Fish have built in instincts to eat something that is wounded, that’s how they are wired. That’s why jerkbaits are one of the most effective baits on the market, and the same reason you seem to always catch a fish after your crankbait bounces off of a rock. That erratic movement triggers those fish, whereas if it came past them at a steady pace, they probably wouldn’t even move an inch towards it. When it makes that erratic movement, it triggers their primal instinct to jump all over that easy meal.

Now, the other option is to downsize and finesse those finicky bass. A smaller, slow moving bait can be just the ticket into getting those fish to eat. That smaller bait is an easier meal, it’s crawling across the bottom or moving so slow that they have a ton of time to think about it. So, next time you hit a tough bite, keep these tips and ideas in mind and you just might be surprised.

Chapter 3 - What Bass Eat

Jump to Chapter: Top | Introduction | How Bass Behave | What Bass Eat | Best Time of Day |

What Bass Eat

Possibly the biggest question most people ask themselves when they first roll up to a new lake, “What should I throw?”
This can be an easy question and it can be a difficult one, it all depends on the mood of the bass. However, finding out the forage in the lake can be relatively easy, and that will make finding out what to throw that much easier.

First, with very few exceptions, all lakes have crayfish, everywhere you go in the country bass are going to eat crayfish. This is why jigs perform so well anywhere and everywhere. This goes the same with bluegill, most everywhere you find bass, there will be some species of brim or Bluegill.

You also really need to consider, are there some type of shad or other baitfish in this body of water? If you are pond fishing, don’t bother with shad. All you need to worry about is the bluegill, that is the primary forage in most ponds.

That being said, bass will eat almost anything they can get in their mouths. I have witnessed bass eating small squirrels, chipmunks, snakes, birds, other bass, mice, frogs, etc. They are opportunistic, predatory feeders and will take a shot at anything that they can fit into their mouth, and sometimes even what they can’t get it into their mouth.

Now it may sound like we’re simply referring to largemouth bass, but we’re not. Smallmouth bass share very similar if not identical eating behavior as largemouth.

Chapter 4 - Best Time of Day to Fish

Jump to Chapter: Top | Introduction | How Bass Behave | What Bass Eat | Best Time of Day |

Best Time of Day to Fish

When is the best time of the day to fish? That will bring out the best and worst in most anglers with each one telling you the best, and most of the time, the funniest reasons or scientific justifications that they know.

To truly understand the “Best Time of Day to Fish”, you need to understand it’s more of a day to day scenario. By using moon phase, seasonality, water temperature, water clarity, rising or falling waters, tidal conditions, cold fronts, stormy weather, rain, shad spawn, and many, many more conditions… you can see where we’re going with this.

Writers and biologists will even publish charts and graphs in most magazines or the internet that will suggest the best time to fish.  

For most scenarios, the general consensus in the bass fishing community is that the morning and the evening produce the best times to fish. Why you might ask? It all comes down to the conditions. As stated above, those conditions play a huge roll in the best time of day to fish, but so does the light.

With low light conditions, bass begin to venture away from their hiding spots from the high sun, midday staging areas in search of forage. Those low light conditions lead them to search a lot harder for their food instead of sitting around cover or structure and waiting for it to come to them. That is why the morning and evening are known as the best time of day to fish, because the fish become more active!